Are you one of those people that have heard over and over that travelling solo is the bomb? It is true that travelling alone has so many benefits and it is something that I truly believe everyone must do at least once in her lifetime, but trust me when I say that solo travel isn’t always a bed of roses.
There is an ugly side to travelling alone, but unfortunately these are the untold stories that you never hear about. Well, we are going to change that right now! Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for travelling solo, after-all I’ve been going it alone for 12 years now, but before you hit the road you need to be aware of the things that can (and do) go wrong. I have collaborated with experienced solo travellers from around the globe who have shared their real life stories that you seldom hear about the ugly side of travelling solo.
Spiked Again and Again
Story by Lana of Wallflower in Wonderland
The first time I was spiked was a few months after my 19th birthday, in Bali. I’d heard stories about ‘Balinese moonshine’ (Arak), but never thought I would encounter it myself. I was having an amazing night, singing my heart out and dancing on the bar tables with some pals I’d just made at my hostel. The next thing I knew, my legs turned to jelly, my vision blurred, and I fell off the bar table. Then nothing. I can’t remember leaving the club in Kuta, or my journey home.
The next time was only a few weeks later, in the Philippines. Our hostel had organized a night out for us in El Nido town. Having lived in that hostel for 10 days, I felt safe with the fellow solo travellers that I had gotten to know quite well. About an hour in or so, a man offered me a drink, and I told him that I’d already ordered myself one. My lemonade and vodka arrived, but it wasn’t right. Suddenly I was in the same situation as in Kuta, crawling because I couldn’t stand up, and my vision just blurs of colours.
It happened again in Thailand, but this time, from people I trusted. It wasn’t until I’d been spiked, that one of our friends from our hostel told us that the barman at this bar will put drugs in your drinks if they know you like alcohol and to smoke. A vodka and red bull bucket down, I knew this was me. I suddenly felt sick and ran to the toilet to make myself throw up. We’d spent every night for the past 8 days coming to this particular bar, and the thought that someone who I thought was my friend had drugged me was horrific. A friend offered me a smoke to ‘calm me down’, and when it started to bubble, I realised I had been spiked once again, but with heroin.
Stranded in Africa on New Year’s Eve
Story by Linda of Muy Linda Travels
As a young, solo female traveller I was rescued from a wild New Years’ Eve party in Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve never forgotten the kindness of the taxi driver who took me home that night and, more than 25 years later, I still feel exceptionally grateful. Anything could have happened…..
South Africa is an amazing place to visit but it’s notoriously unsafe with extreme poverty and a high crime rate. I was young and excited to be going to a New Year’s Eve beach party. I teamed up with some guys I’d just met at the hostel and we caught a cheap, shared minibus taxi to the waterfront. But when we arrived it was mayhem. A crowd of young black people had gathered and they were chasing each other, yelling, throwing rotten fruit, and marking each other with black shoe polish.
Soon enough we were under attack too. We escaped into a restaurant and during dinner, I was shocked when an egg smashed against the window right beside me.
I didn’t feel safe and wanted to leave. The other guys wanted to stay and took off leaving me behind. I looked for a minibus but most of the drivers had joined the party. So I started walking and eventually flagged down a taxi cab.
Driving along I noticed the taxi fare was rapidly increasing and my heart sank as I realized I hadn’t brought enough cash with me. I told the driver to stop when my money ran out but instead he drove me all the way back to the hostel.
This act of kindness kept me safe in a notoriously unsafe place and I still feel very grateful!
Story by Samantha of Undiscovered Path Home
Several years ago, I took my dream trip to the Philippines. The first part of the trip would be partly solo as my travel companion Hanna would go diving and I would explore Coron solo. I’d only really traveled solo in the U.S. for Broadway show trips, and I was excited for the freedom.
First stop? Twin Lagoon. I wanted the best photo, so I swam to a lookout spot where other people were taking photos. In hindsight, the sharp rocks should have deterred me. But still, I climbed up the rock and took some photos.
On the way down, I slipped and fell. I used my knee to break the fall, and it didn’t seem painful. Crisis averted, I thought. Only when I started to swim did I notice the trail of blood. I immediately started to panic when I saw the wound on my knee, several inches deep. By sheer luck, two surgeons happened to be on my tour and confirmed I would need stitches. My worst fears were coming true: I was alone in a foreign country, with no idea what to do, and no one to help me.
Thankfully, the woman who owned the tour picked me up on a speed boat and took me back to the hospital. She comforted me while I cried and kept telling her: “I don’t know what to do. I’m totally alone.” I never felt so terrified. She held my hand when they stitched me up and even covered the costs, despite the fact that the accident was my fault.
When I got back to my Airbnb, the elderly Airbnb owner brought me food each day and helped me get around. To this day, I can say I’ve never met such kind people as I did in the Philippines.
Couchsurfing Gone Wrong
Story by Kez of K-in-Motion
After booking a flight to Cambodia, I hopped on Couchsurfing (CS) to find a local host. I soon received an offer. It was from a host with no references, as he’d only just signed up. I remembered that I’d once been new to the platform and people had still hosted me. Everyone deserves a chance, right?
When I arrived in Phnom Phen, he met me at the airport and we went into the city for a nice local meal. All was well until we got to his place and he showed me to HIS room. That was apparently where I was sleeping. He hadn’t indicated in any of our correspondence that there’d be room/bed sharing involved. I insisted that it was out of the question. He then said that he’d sleep in another room and let me have his room. I soon fell asleep and woke up some time later with him in the bed trying to touch me.
As you could imagine, I jumped out of that bed as quickly as humanly possible and asserted that he was totally out of line. Especially after I’d already made it clear earlier that I didn’t want to be in a bed with him. He replied with, “But you’re so attractive”, like that somehow gave him leave to touch me without my permission.
Needless to say, I left pretty fast once daylight came, with him trying to stop me and saying I was overreacting. I absolutely was not.
The icing on the cake: he messaged me after I left a well-deserved, bad reference for him, telling me I was ungrateful and had ruined CS for him. Victim blaming much?
This is not indicative of most CS experiences, but I’ve ensured I only stay with people with verifiable references ever since.
Ditched by the Tour Guide
Story by Joanna of The World In My Pocket
I was pretty excited to travel on my own for the first time after the pandemic. I missed my long backpacking trips. So, when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it and got myself on a 10 day trip to Egypt.
I didn’t have much time to plan my itinerary, as I got my flights on Wednesday evening and flew on Saturday lunchtime, so I booked all the tours I wanted to do, as well as a cruise on the Nile, on Viator.
My flight landed late in Cairo and by the time I arrived at my hotel, in Giza, it was already close to midnight. I went straight to bed, looking forward to my tour starting at 8 am, the following morning.
After breakfast, I went down to the lobby to wait for the guide to pick me up. I wanted 5, 10, 15 minutes, and there was no sign of them. I tried calling them, as well as texting on Whatsapp, but my messages remained unanswered. I only had one day in Cairo and I started to panic that I won’t be able to see the Pyramids properly. Surely, I could walk around on my own, but I wanted the knowledge of a guide to tell me their history. As I kept trying to contact them, a man approached me and asked if I needed any help. I explained the situation, and he tried calling the tour guide as well, without any success. I waited for another 15 minutes or so, and then decided to accept that man’s offer to find me a guide for the day. We negotiated the price, and he found me a guide.
It turns out that my new guide was quite the photographer as well, so I didn’t only get a proper guided tour of the Pyramids, but some really nice photos as well.
Seduced in the Dominican
Story by Kelly of Just One Passport
In early 2020 I escaped for a much needed island break in Samana, Dominion Republic and was enjoying the ultimate relaxation, except when I attempted to enter my resort room my key never worked. After many trips to the front desk, a kind much younger gentleman exchanged my key and provided me with an extra one just in case one didn’t work. He escorted me back to my room to make sure I was able to get in. During my conversation he asked where my husband was. Stupid me….I told him I didn’t have one. Later that evening there was a knock on my door and he was standing there with a bucket of ice with Champagne with thankfully just one Champagne glass. I was more than a little leary, but at the time thought it was just a kind gesture by a hotel employee.
Valentine’s Day arrived and I had enjoyed an upscale solo dinner at the fine dining restaurant in the resort. Once again when I returned to my room, another knock on the door and I was surprised to see my “prince” standing at my door. This time he had Champagne (with 2 glasses) AND chocolate, and there was no way he was leaving the room. The groping started and that was more than I will willing to tolerate. It took a great deal of resistance and forceful talking on my part. When that tactic didn’t dissuade him I threatened to report him to his supervisor. That did it and he quietly left the room, never to be seen again for the rest of my stay.
I am definitely not a person to victim blame, but in my case I could only blame myself for being so stupid and trusting. After-all I am an extremely experienced solo traveller and well into my golden years…I should have known not to disclose the fact that I was travelling alone….#1 rule when travelling alone.
Food Poisoning in Bolivia
Story by Ellie of El On The Move
In June 2022, I had just completed a 4 day desert tour to the salt flats in Bolivia with friends I had met the week before. June in Bolivia is the height of winter and that combined with the high altitude meant that the temperatures could get as low as -10C in the night and the lodges had no heating, sleeping was uncomfortable. As my new friends were continuing on in Bolivia, I booked the transfer of a returning jeep to cross the border over to Chile. This route pretty much retraced my steps and was a 2 day 1 night journey.
The first stay of the journey started well. We left at 4pm and it was a 4 hour journey to the hostel we were staying in over night. I was in the jeep with 4 lovely Brazilians and 2 of them spoke English well. We had an early dinner and went to bed early as we needed to be on the road by 5am the next day.
The place we were staying had no heating so it was very cold getting to sleep. I woke at 2am I thought because of the cold but it turns out I had food poisoning. I was not in the best state as we got into the jeep at 5am to start the 3 hour journey to the border. I was very uncomfortable and to add to this, the weather took a turn for the worst and we ended up in a snow storm. I was extremely close to asking the driver to stop in the snow storm to go to the toilet on the side of the road. Luckily I made it to the breakfast spot which had a toilet.
At the breakfast stop we were told by our driver that the border was closed due to the weather so we would leave in 30 minutes. 30 minutes turned into 5 hours. It again was not heated and I was cold and not very well but happy to be near a toilet. We were then told the border was open again so made our way to the crossing to find it still closed. An hour later we passed all of the checks and finally entered Chile. It was a 45 minute drive down to San Pedro De Atacama. We were just 5 minutes away from our destination when we saw that the police had closed the road to stop people going the other way. However, the police had left with the gate closed. Another 30 minutes delay and I finally made it to my hotel. A long nap was needed!!
Chased in Rome
Story by Yesenia of The Sisters Who Voyage
Rome is beautiful and amazing, and anyone will tell you that it is easily one of the best cities to visit in Europe; from the delicious food, nightlife, and historical relevance, it’s easy to see why. However, while we did love our time in Rome and would return in a heartbeat, we will definitely be more cautious of our surroundings in the future. The reason? On our last night in Rome, we wanted to go out with a bang, so we spent the whole day out and about doing last-minute tourist activities and then went home and changed into nightwear for the lively night scene Rome was known to be home to. We were super excited because, during our month in Italy, we had yet to experience any real nightlife while traveling, so we made it a point to visit as many small clubs as possible while enjoying the wonderful city.
After exhausting our list of must things to do for our last night in Rome, we decided to call it a night and head back to our Airbnb to pack for the morning train. We began making our way back from the bustling city center to the Airbnb we were staying at near the Colosseum. We took our usual route back which weaved us through the nearby park as a shortcut, but soon realized this was not an option as the park gates closed at dusk. At this point, we started to worry. After all, we had no clue how to make our way back to the Airbnb because we had never taken another route. To add to our pile of luck, our phones had both died earlier in the night. We decided to take our chances and use our lackluster sense of direction to guide us home as we are utilizing familiar landmarks and buildings.
While maneuvering through unfamiliar territory at the peak of night, we noticed a group of men laughing and drunk, messing around in a nearby alleyway. We made sure not to draw attention to ourselves and tried to scuttle on by, but it was too late. The men had noticed us walking nearby and began speaking to each other in a secretive manner. At this point, we started to speed walk, but when we looked over, we realized the men were now following us and knew we were lost and alone tourists. After realizing this, I frantically searched in my bag for keys, pencils, and anything that could be used a self-defense weapon in case the worse happened and handed my younger sister the keys; meanwhile, I clutched our college pens for dear life.
After what felt like decades, the footsteps became more apparent, and at this point, we broke out in a full sprint. We were too afraid to look back while we ran across the neighborhood, hoping we would find a familiar sight and signaling that we were almost at our destination. Finally, we saw our building and rushed to get inside as fast as possible, and to our luck, the men had given up… After that night, we regrettably have been too afraid to venture off alone and enjoy nightlife sceneries in other cities, but we hope to one day get over this fear.
Missed Take-Off in Turkey
Story by Steph of A Nomads Passport
I am a passionate solo traveler and always will be, but that does not mean solo travel is always sunshine and roses. Sometimes, things do go very wrong, and that certainly was the case back in 2016 during my first solo (and overall) trip outside of Europe. I flew to Turkey on my own and had a great time, but then a great trip had an unpleasant end. I had a flight early the next morning, so I decided to stay up all night after packing my bags, and doing so would turn out to be one of my biggest travel mishaps.
Just before leaving my hotel room, I decided to jump onto the comfy bed one last time, before getting up and heading to the lobby. However, I fell asleep the second my head hit the mattress. I woke up three hours later and had to realize that there was no way I’d still get to the airport in time to miss my flight.
All logical thoughts left my mind and I felt incredibly alone. I was freaking out, and at one point I just thought I’d never be able to leave Turkey as I had no idea if I’d be able to find a flight back home. Up to that point, I had never planned a trip on the go, and especially no solo trip, so I felt like a fish out of the water.
At one point I decided to run down to the lobby as I did not know what else to do. I talked to the reception, but they could not help me, and I was in tears at that point. For the first time, I hated being a solo traveler and considered never traveling alone again. I was too far out of my comfort zone.
And then a kind stranger tapped on my shoulder and asked me what was wrong. I shared my story, and he used his phone to call the Turkish airline hotline for me. And when that did not help, he helped me find a new flight that was way cheaper than I expected. To this day, I am more than thankful that a kind stranger helped me out, and while I never want to be in that situation again, it was great to see that a stranger can be your best friend if you mess up while solo traveling.
The Ugly Side of Solo Travel – The Untold Stories
I hope you have enjoyed these stories told by experienced solo travellers and they have helped you to realize that there really can be an ugly side to solo travelling. There are certain precautions that can be taken and many things to know before going on your first solo trip that will help to reduce the number of issues that you encounter during your travels.
It is important to note that all of these ladies have taken many solo trips and most are smooth sailing, otherwise we wouldn’t keep travelling alone. The benefits of solo travel far out-weigh the ugly of travelling alone.
Travel Solo With Confidence & Stay Safe! 🙂
SAVE THE UNTOLD STORIES OF SOLO TRAVEL