I visited India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines in just under a month. I'm an absolute foodie and, coming from Italy, I’ve always had a passion for cooking and exploring culture through cuisines. I also love marketing and I find it really interesting to see how the same brands advertise the same or similar products in different countries. It says so much about that country’s values and consumer habits. So, with the help of LJMU's Go Global fund, I decided to take a trip around different capitals and smaller towns throughout Southeast Asia to explore cuisines and speak to locals with the intention of learning as much as possible.
Travelling alone as a female is so much fun. If you know what you’re doing, it’s not at all as scary as you might think. Obviously, you need to plan your trip and be aware of your surroundings... personally, I always spent 30 minutes in the evening planning for the next day, looking at routes with public transport and thinking about things such as where I may potentially have no WiFi etc. The number one rule, for me, is to always know how to get back. It sounds intuitively obvious, but it's something you must plan for when you’re on the other side of the world - especially if you are a solo female traveller in an unfamiliar country.
How to stay safe
As I hadn’t been to these particular Southeast Asian countries before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. In terms of how to dress, I didn’t want to attract attention, so I tried to dress modestly during my travels - particularly in smaller towns and less cosmopolitan places - and I usually wore t-shirts and long skirts or trousers, which helped me to keep a low profile.
When it came to money, I carried both the local currency and US dollars; both are widely accepted in some countries in Southeast Asia. I also carried two debit cards with about £150 on them. Often, I left my main bankcard in a safe at the hostel and took the other cards with smaller amounts on. How much is 'enough' money? TripAdvisor usually have the answer to that and I'd recommend checking out their forums for advice from other travellers.
Whenever I'm in a new country, I make sure not to stay out too late and if I wanted to go out after dinner, I always checked transport would still be available for me to get back. Needless to say, I never got into a car or on a bike with locals who offered to take me back to my hostel. If you’re planning to visit Asia, check out 'Grab', the equivalent of Uber. It's very reliable.
During my Go Global travels, I stayed in mixed dorms at hostels and never faced any issues. However, if I were to go travelling solo again, I would pick female-only dorms to feel even more comfortable in my accommodation.
Solo travelling is a time of no compromises, it’s just you and your trip and that was my favourite part of my Go Global adventure. I assumed I would get lonely and potentially find myself regretting not going with a friend, but in reality I had a great time and I met many other solo travellers of all ages and nationalities who were really interesting people. How did my expectations compare to the reality? Actually, reality surpassed my expectations... I was worried I would get lonely, but I enjoyed spending time by myself and exploring all the places I wanted to visit at my own pace. I met good people everywhere I went and the locals were incredibly helpful throughout my stay wherever I visited. I spent a bit more money that what I had originally planned, but I was sort of expecting that, and fortunately I managed to complete my trip without having to worry about running out of finances.
Overall, I would definitely say there is nothing to fear for a female travelling solo and, in fact, I would say it’s not scary at all. However, I definitely couldn’t have done it without Google Maps offline – that was essential!
Find international opportunities at LJMU, and see the world just like Julia, by following @LJMUGlobalOpps - don't miss out on the amazing travelling experiences Go Global can offer you.