My Experiences Traveling Alone As a Black Woman

Both the negative and positive interactions changed me for the better

Black woman in her 20s with braided hair and glasses looking up at signs on a Tokyo street

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We’re celebrating the joy of solo travel. Let us inspire your next adventure with features about why 2021 is the ultimate year for a solo trip and how traveling alone can actually come with amazing perks. Then, read personal features from writers who have traversed the globe alone, from hiking the Appalachian Trail, to riding rollercoasters, and finding themselves while discovering new places. Whether you’ve ever taken a solo trip or you’re considering it, learn why a trip for one should be on your bucket list.

As a single Black American woman living abroad, I have traveled to almost 50 countries, and a majority I visited alone—and I'm not an anomaly. I am a part of a growing group of Black people traveling the world for leisure. In 2019 alone, Black U.S. leisure travelers spent a whopping $129.6 billion on domestic and international travel according to "The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities, and Priorities," a report produced by MMGY Global, and that kind of purchasing power is likely to keep growing.

However, while more of us are traveling, many are concerned about their safety. In fact, safety is top of mind for Black people in the U.S. and Canada. More than 70 percent of study respondents from those two countries say that safety has a huge influence when choosing a destination. Black travelers tend to do their due diligence in researching destinations that are safe for them or where they will feel well-respected and "free" to travel to alone. We use online travel communities like iluv2globetrot and Nomadness Travel Tribe on Facebook to inquire about the top places to visit. Blogs and news websites are browsed at length in preparation for our solo adventures.

Nevertheless, no matter how much research and preparation before a trip, that doesn’t always prevent unfortunate experiences, as I can attest to from my own personal experiences. Many Black women report an assumption that they are prostitutes during their travels around the globe, as Jessica Nabongo noted during her expedition to become the first Black woman to visit every country in the world.

Blogger and travel influencer Gloria Atanmo recalled this happening to her dozens of times and cites it as one of the worst parts of traveling alone as a Black woman. I can personally relate, as this has happened to me during my solo adventures as well. It’s never fun to be stopped by immigration on your way to an island destination, such as Seychelles, and to be assumed that you are going there to solicit men at upscale resorts.

An additional difficult experience I can recall traveling as a solo Black woman was when I lived in Germany for a year while studying for my master's degree in international humanitarian aid. Overall, I had a great experience living in the country. However, while staying in a hostel in Dusseldorf, I had the most unpleasant experience with a racist couple staying in the same room. It was one of the first times that I had seen someone openly wear a Nazi swastika as a badge of honor on their clothing, all while making snide remarks under their breath and chuckling at me.

There were also numerous uncomfortable experiences when I lived and traveled alone in South Korea during my time as an English teacher there. Again, the good experiences over my three and a half years in South Korea surely outnumber the bad, but those experiences of the heavy stares by older Koreans and people declining to sit next to me on the bus have stuck with me. While it was difficult, especially with that being my first time living abroad and traveling throughout East Asia solo, it helped me build a thick skin in the process. Now when I get long stares, I tell myself, "Oh, they’ve just never seen someone with beautiful chocolate skin before in real life,” and brush it off.

Horror stories aside, there have also been varied occasions where traveling solo has made me and other BIPOC stronger. I have gained a lot of self-confidence after traveling alone to almost 50 countries covering areas of South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. I’ve hit almost every continent in the world on my own and have gained thick skin in the process. I’ve been revered and compared to Beyonce and Michelle Obama in Cambodia and Turkey. I'm not the only one who feels more confident after so much traveling, either. As solo globetrotter Charnelle noted in an interview with Travel Noire, traveling solo as a Black woman has helped her gain an enormous boost in her self-confidence.

My Favorite Places to Travel as a Black Woman

While some BIPOC have had not-so-pleasant experiences traveling to certain places solo, there are plenty of destinations that are open and welcoming to people from various backgrounds. Of course, no two people will have the same experience, and there are so many factors at play when it comes to negative or positive experiences abroad. That said, these are some of my suggested destinations if you're in the trip-planning phase.

Ghana

In 2019 Ghana celebrated the “Year of Return,” marking the 400th anniversary of the Pan-African slave trade. Like many members of the diaspora, I took up the country's call for Black descendants to come for a visit "home" to the continent for reconnection. I felt extremely safe during my trip to Ghana. It was incredible to see firsthand just how welcoming Ghanaian citizens were during my solo trip throughout the country visiting Accra, Kumasi, and Cape Coast.

Iceland

According to the 2020 Global Peace Index, Iceland is the safest place to travel globally. Small crimes such as theft are few and far between there, making it a great place for a solo traveler to visit. I felt extremely safe during my time there and enjoyed the laid-back attitude of Icelandic people. I also was pleasantly surprised to find hip-hop music playing in every restaurant and museum I visited during my time in Reykjavik. One of the main concerns for a solo traveler to Iceland is the driving conditions due to the extreme weather conditions. It is best to use a tour guide or agency if visiting on your own so that you don't have to deal with unpaved, icy, or muddy roads.

Oman

Oman has been ranked the fifth safest country in the world to visit. Crime is extremely low, and the people are incredibly kind, no matter what your ethnic background is as a visitor. I have lived in the stunning country for more than seven years for a reason, and my entire time here, I have felt extremely safe and protected as a single Black woman living in the region. There are plenty of things to do and places to visit during a visit to the welcoming country, which has been stepping up its promotion for visitors to come from various backgrounds. 

Japan

Japan has a mix of cosmopolitan cities such as Tokyo or Osaka and smaller, more rural cities like Nara and Nikko. It’s pretty safe and comfortable for anyone to visit either rural towns or big cities due to Japan’s safety index with low crime levels, making it a top pick for solo travelers. Similar to Iceland, they have a deep appreciation of hip hop and reggae culture, which, for me, makes it an exciting destination to visit.

Canada

Canada is a great destination to visit as a solo Black traveler. Both Toronto and Montreal have bustling Afro-Caribbean culture scenes, and minorities thrive throughout the country. Both cities are home to various foods from around the world, making for a foodies’ paradise. The annual Montreal Jazz Festival, featuring artists from various backgrounds, draws in music lovers from around the world.

Tips for the BIPOC Solo Traveler

  • Always research a destination beforehand, be it through social media groups, YouTube videos, applications, or word of mouth through friend networks.
  • Read hotel and bed & breakfast reviews online before making a booking keeping an eye on any mentions of discrimination.
  • Search for groups in the destination you’re considering visiting based on your ethnic background on social media like Facebook and Twitter, such as “Brothers and Sisters in Oman" (for Black travelers).
  • Give family and friends a copy of your itinerary, flight details, and accommodation reservation to follow up with you during your trip.
  • Stick to main tourist areas if you can. If you plan to go off the beaten path, try to make someone on the ground aware or use a guide for the excursion.
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. MMGYGlobal. "The Black Traveler: Insights, Opportunities & Priorities." 2020

  2. Global Peace Index. "Global Indexes Vision of Humanity." 2020

  3. Gulf News. "Oman ranked fifth safest country in the world." July 10, 2020.

  4. Numbeo. "Crime in Japan." 2021

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