Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me… –Walt Whitman
There are various reasons, other than not finding anyone suitable for traveling with, why women are traveling solo more than ever these days. Perhaps, the biggest allure is the freedom, the empowerment and the ease of meeting new people while you are on your own.
Ecuador is a great place to start with your solo female travel in South America, people are friendly, the landscapes are awesome and the tourism infrastructure has absolutely improved in the past 5 years.
In ideal circumstances, we could all travel carelessly and freely; just grab our backpacks and favorite shoes and roam without a plan. A reality check soon reveals that being a solo traveler, (girl or boy) certainly requires some precautions and planning ahead.
Out of all the considerations, here’s a short list for what might be the essentials if you are planning to come to Ecuador as a solo female traveler.
Travel by day – Safety first
Ecuador is tourist friendly location, and security measures for tourism have increased immensely in the last 10 years. You will find metropolitan security guards at various times of the day, especially at nights in tourist spots. However, big cities or highly concurred sport (such as Quito, Guayaquil, Atacamaes or Montañita), some common sense precautions should be taken.
– Avoiding walking alone after dark in towns
– Hook up with a couple of companions or sign up to a guided hike rather than take a risk,
– Beware of how you talk too – especially when handling money
– Let hotel staff know where you are going and when you expect to be back
– Be aware of your surroundings and always listen to your girly intuitions. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, leave.
– Try to get in legal taxis ONLY (this depends on the city, but they must all have a municipally logo)
– Pickpocketing is a common thing in public transportation. Use pickpocket proof clothing and keep you backpack in front when of you if riding a bus.
Plan ahead of time – Ecuador has so many things to try and do, so CHOOSE!
This applies to both men and women, even if you are free soul and all, planning for trip is always a time and money saver. It does not need to be exhaustively detailed list, but rather some structured scheme. So…check for routes in Google Maps, read about Forums in Lonely Planet read blogs on the top places to visit in Ecuador or ask for your local travel agency to give you as many tips as possible.
Think of what your main interests are when traveling. Is it photography, then head for colonial spaces in the city, or for tradition filled environment (markets, local restaurants).
If you are more into culinary adventures – read blog posts or look for restaurants in the Trip Advisor section of Ecuador which might interest you. Ask the locals too, they might be your best guide, but make plan first.
A good thing to do is to plan your next day each dinner, this will also avoid a feeling of loneliness and awkwardness we often get when ere eat on our own. Ecuador is not a county were people, especially women eat on their own very often, however solo travelers are often seen with respect and admiration, use this in your favor when traveling-
Plan, plan and plan – but do remember Ecuador is known for its easy going and spontaneous nature, as not always things go as planned or are on time. This can be fun if you learn to flow with it, but keep in keep in mind your original plan and personal map.
How to deal with men when walking solo in the streets.
Minor inconveniences, such as the habit of whistling or making hissing or kissing noises at solo young women walking by can be managed easily by ignoring the perpetrators, or perhaps by a withering stare. Shouting back at them will not stop them at all and it will honestly only waste your time and energy. As adult women, we all know that when were are alone, men tend to behave more macho around us, so try not to be bothered with this, they are harmless, to be honest.
Pack lightly but efficiently
This will mostly depend on the places you’ll visit in Ecuador, have in mind that Ecuador has four geographic regions (Sierra, Coast, Rainforest and Insular – Galápagos) and that weather could be quite unpredictable – you can ask Quiteños about this. Here´s some advice on what is best for each region
If you are traveling across the Andean Sierra – bring a warm sweater (thermic clothing is ideal even for the city). Dress in layers, but try not to get too heavy. Comfortable walking shoes are essential.
In the Amazon, bring insect repellent, sunscreen, long pants, brimmed sunhat, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts as well as T-shirts and sandals. Avoid cotton, but look for lightweight clothing that breathes.
Galápagos – bring light clothes, comfy walking shoes, basic beach clothes. A warm sweater might also be useful. Here’s a useful link on what to pack for the Galapagos.
Visiting Galapagos on your own – A tour is always better
Unless you are coming through a volunteer program or alike, it is always money and time saving to choose a tour when traveling solo. There are certain spots in the islands that can only be accessed with a guide or using a motor yacht. Getting these kinds of services on your own is possible, but it will take you time and unnecessary extra expense. My recommendation is, go for an multi-day Galapagos Tour before you travel or go for a Galapagos cruise, usually if you plan ahead on time, you could join a group and save some money.
Well finally, the best advice is, go for it! … Ecuador is pretty safe and fun to travel alone as girl. Plan – but don’t turn into a control freak, be alert – but also relax and enjoy when necessary. Don’t act carelessly or expose yourself unnecessarily – but in the right circumstances and place, loosen up and just enjoy the freedom and empowerment on traveling on your own in such an amazing county as Ecuador.
So, any female solo-travelers out there? …What other tips could you offer?