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I am the first to admit that solo travel for women is not always easy. As wonderful as it is to have the freedom to do as you please, go where you please, and hang out with anyone you please there are always extra considerations to ensure personal safety.
But in general, travel is not always easy. Things can go wrong whether you are alone or not.
When I made the decision to travel to Iceland on my own it was not without hesitation. It was my first trip to any of the Scandinavian countries and I knew that deciding to travel to Iceland in the off season meant that it would be difficult to get around without a car.
Would I be brave enough to rent a car and drive around this wild and isolated island on my own? I thought not.
Despite the considerations to safety, I secretly LOVE travelling on my own. (Don’t tell my travel friends!)
I enjoy the freedom of deciding when and where I am going to go, of staying longer if I love a place or leaving if I don’t.
I enjoy the fact that you tend to meet more people when you travel alone. You are more likely to strike up a conversation with someone when you don’t already have travel companion by your side.
Having said that, there is nothing better than travelling for a few weeks alone, and then meeting up with friends for a while.
It turns out Iceland is the ideal place for women travelling on their own and particularly first time solo travellers. These are some of the reasons why:
Despite the fact that Icelanders had a tendency to assume that I was one of them and hence were constantly speaking to me in Icelandic, most people speak excellent English! Not having to worry about making yourself understood, or being misunderstood, is a load off your mind.
Iceland has a ridiculously low crime rate. You would be hard pressed to find a safer place to be. I walked around Reykjavik late at night without any qualms whatsoever. By comparison, I would not do that in my home city of Perth.
If you have the cash, there is an abundance of Day Tours to all of the most sought after destinations on the island. Day tours are perfect for solo travellers – they take the pressure off organising transport and are a great way to meet other travellers. They are pricey though.
I must admit, I am not a big fan of tours if there are alternative options so didn’t actually go on any of the day tours when I was in Iceland.
I opted for renting a car because I wanted the flexibility of going exactly where I wanted to go and to stay as long as I liked. I didn’t like the idea of only have 30 minutes at Gulfoss Falls for example.
I really didn’t think I would do this on my own. It was only a very last minute, I-don’t-want-to-go-on-day-tours tantrum that really made my mind up. Driving in Iceland is incredibly easy and it allows you the freedom to stop wherever you like and spend time in those out of the way places that the tours miss.
I ended up hiking up mountains, photographing behind waterfalls, and driving through blizzards….I never once felt anxious about doing this alone.
If you do drive alone, make sure check you the weather before you set out, tell someone where you are headed and try to take a cell phone with you.
Iceland is only a 2.5 hour flight from London, even less if you fly from Scotland as I did. Icelandair offer a free stopover to or from any European destination. A free trip to Iceland on your way to London? You really can’t beat that!
It’s not as cold as you think. Really!! And this is coming from an Aussie. The big thing about Iceland’s weather, or any place that far north, is that it is likely to change about a thousand times in a day.
You need to be prepared for all kinds of weather and keep an eye on daily reports, but apart from really extreme weather it shouldn’t hold you back.
If you are a first time solo traveller, Iceland is great place to start your travels – it’s safe, easy and one of the most amazing countries you will ever visit. Start planning
I wrote this article not long after my trip to Iceland last year with the intention of encouraging women to travel alone. In light of the tragic death of American woman, Sarai Sierra while she was travelling alone in Turkey recently, I felt that now would be a good time to publish it.
The backlash of this news has been incredible! Solo female travel is under scrutiny and has been labelled as “risky” and “foolish”: women have “no business travelling alone”. The implication is that this tragedy occurred because Sarai was travelling on her own.
I believe the matter is a far more complex than that. As long-time solo traveller, Jodi (Legal Nomads) suggests, the issue that is far more pertinent is one of violence against women in general.
Rather than get too involved in the debate, I decided instead to publish this article simply as a reminder of just how fabulous travelling alone can be.
Millions of women travel the world and return home safely with endless tales of their adventures. Measures to ensure your personal safety must be taken no matter where in the world you are. Even, and often more so, when you are home.
So, having said all that…see you in Iceland!