5 Safety Tips for Female Solo Travelers in South America

Traveling throughout South America? Becca, a member of traveling with Remote Year Kahlo gives 5 tips on safety as a female traveler.

Becca of @halfhalftravel is currently traveling with her boyfriend Dan (the other half of @halfhalftravel) on Remote Year Kahlo, a 4-month program that travels through Peru, Colombia and Mexico. You can follow their story on Instagram and www.halfhalftravel.com.

Through my experiences of backpacking through South America alone in Costa Rica and Colombia, I’ve learned a lot about solo female travel in Latin America. People often ask me if I think South America is a safe place to travel, and if I feel that this region is pretty solid for solo female travel. First, while reading this article, please keep in mind that it’s crucial for anyone to employ standard safety measures when traveling alone, whether male or female!

I landed in Costa Rica alone at age 24, armed with some Spanish and found strength in numbers among those I met in hostels. I also went backpacking in Colombia with a friend in early 2016 and, in our final days, split apart so that he could go trekking and I could return to the U.S. to get back to work. In my days as a solo female traveler in Colombia, I felt confident and fairly safe in general.

Many people think South America presents immediate safety concerns, especially for women who are traveling on their own. In my experience of travel in Latin America, with trips spanning over six years and through 10 countries from Mexico to Argentina, I’ve never really felt menaced or in danger, mostly because of the precautions I’ve taken. Here are my best tips for backpacking through South America alone, from the Caribbean coasts to the salt flats of Bolivia.

1. Travel as a solo female within a group.

Solo travel for women doesn’t start and stop by being alone – I like to find travel groups or communities to use as a base off of which I can still be on my own. Remote work and travel programs like Remote Year provide community for women traveling long-term. On Remote Year, I’ve spent a month in Lima, Medellin, Bogota and Mexico City, with the flexibility to make my own travel decisions all while having the basis of community and friendship of a diverse array of new friends.

Another benefit to group travel are memberships to organizations like ISOS, which I was introduced to via Remote Year. Remote Year provides us with group membership to International SOS, one of the leading medical and travel assistance companies worldwide. ISOS has an app that we are all encouraged to download on our phones in case of emergency, and the group code is required in order to access all the services of emergency services, English-speaking doctors, and more.

The author, Becca Siegel of @halfhalftravel, at a group event outside Medellin, Colombia, with the RY Kahlo group.

2. Be aware of common scams for women in South America.

Common scams in Latin America range from people who may distract you in order to snatch your wallet or phone, to scams on dates. While I haven’t gone on dates in Latin America, I’ve surely been approached by or engaged in conversation with South Americans who ask if I have a boyfriend, how I learned my Spanish or if I like Colombian men, for example. In all these cases, it’s nice to be friendly, but to avoid getting too personal.

Among people I’ve met this year who’ve dated in South America, the most common scams occur on Tinder meetups when a local man or woman asks the foreign man or woman for money (usually “for school or university,” “for my visa” and “because I lost my job”) at the end of the date. It’s important to screen people well in order to find out their motive for meeting you, as you would at home, but with the mindset that some locals want to date travelers and expats for the underlying assumption that they have money, speak English and/or are letting their guards down because they want to adventure.

Join a group of traveling professionals receiving their own real-world education on a work and travel program

3. Take common sense precautions for solo female travel.

As a solo female traveler taking my first trip to Latin America in 2013, I was told by friends that I should wear a ring so that I looked married, to say I had a husband at home and to not talk to any men who asked me about myself. Overall, this was a bit dramatic, and I didn’t feel bothered by many men at all in Costa Rica or Colombia, in my next solo travel adventure.

The author, Becca Siegel of @halfhalftravel, in 2014 in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

4. Ignore stereotypes of solo female travel in Latin America.

Common stereotypes of solo female travelers in Latin America might involve assumptions that women who travel alone are looking for exotic love or that solo women are loners. By joining communities or groups, or meeting other solo travelers in hostels, you will more likely than not meet others on the same wavelength with similar interests and goals during their trips.

5. Learn some basic Spanish for traveling through South America alone.

My Spanish fluency has increased infinitely after traveling through South America. If you’re looking to improve your Spanish, there’s no better place to be than Latin America! If you’re looking to learn Spanish and are starting from square one, it pays to start with an app or a language partner before you take your first flight to a South or Central American destination.

Though I’ve been to Latin America 12 times now, I forget once I’m here that the average person does not speak much English. You’ll find that taxi drivers, people in most stores, vendors in markets and sometimes even hostel or hotel staff do not know English at all. To start preparing for your own safety, should you have a personal or health emergency, start learning Spanish and keep going!

Solo female travel in South America can be worthwhile for any woman seeking adventure. Travelling South America alone as a woman is rewarding, exciting and a unique experience. For women who are ready for a challenge, backpacking through South America alone is going to be a lot of fun.

The author, Becca Siegel of @halfhalftravel, in the world’s largest hammock, in Minca, Colombia, in 2016.

Becca of @halfhalftravel is currently traveling with her boyfriend Dan (the other half of @halfhalftravel) on Remote Year Kahlo, a 4-month program that travels through Peru, Colombia and Mexico. You can follow their story on Instagram and www.halfhalftravel.com.

10 Best Laptop-Friendly Cafes in New York City

If you’re hustling in The City That Never Sleeps, you’re going to want some coffee. Becca, a member of Remote Year Kahlo, dishes on her favorite laptop-friendly cafes in New York.

Becca of @halfhalftravel is currently traveling with her boyfriend Dan (the other half of @halfhalftravel) on Remote Year Kahlo, a 4-month program that travels through Peru, Colombia and Mexico. You can follow their story on Instagram and www.halfhalftravel.com.

Are you looking for the best cafes in NYC? Places where you can work uninterrupted and with solid Wi-Fi? While I do love cafes that have signs reading “No Wi-Fi here – Talk amongst yourselves!” the fact is that sometimes you have some work to do. Here’s a definitive list of my favorite cafes where sitting down with a laptop is not frowned upon, and where you can have a tasty cup of joe and delicious food while you work hard (or hardly work).

1. Freehold, Williamsburg

(45 S 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY)

Freehold is like an expansion of a cafe or bar that can be treated during the day like a coworking space, and turned into a more lively locale at night. Enter on South 3rd and you’ll find a compact cafe, but turn left when you walk in to find levels of chic seating, outdoor space, a loft level out back and excellent service. You might not want to leave, which is okay, because Freehold turns into a bar scene after dark.

2. The Bean

824 Broadway, New York, NY and other locations‍

With four downtown locations all between NYU and the East Village, The Bean is a popular place to sit down with your work, if you can find a seat! Come early to get a table to yourself, or stay late, because The Bean is open ‘til midnight, every day (how’s that for the City that Never Sleeps?)! Wi-Fi is free, and for snacking, they have an array of vegan treats in addition to some coffee specialties. In fact, the first time I heard ‘dirty chai’ was at The Bean on E. 12th & Broadway.

3. Vineapple

71 Pineapple St, Brooklyn, NY

What do you get when you combine the vines of Brooklyn Heights with Pineapple St.? Vineapple Cafe, of course! Come here with your laptop and be ready to drink some good coffee. The interior is cozy, with couches and low tables, and if you stop by between 4:00pm – 6:00pm you’ll find daily happy hour specials. This is a true neighborhood place, and worth crossing the river for.

4. Project Cozy

NoLiTa 9398 Broome St, New York, NY)

You won’t be alone if you come here with a laptop, and there are a bunch of spots to plug in your power cord. On the menu at Project Cozy are smoothies, coffee, tea and pastries, with a bunch of different places to sit (all have varying degrees of sunlight, from lots to none, depending on your preference).

5. Variety Coffee

261 7th Ave, New York, NY and more

There are five Variety Coffee locations in Chelsea, the East Side, Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and all have clean, trendy design elements and pride themselves on unique coffee roasts. Wi-Fi is free and there are plenty of outlets. All are neighborhood favorites.

6. Lincoln Station

409 Lincoln Pl, Brooklyn, NY

This favorite neighborhood cafe for residents of Prospect Heights has Wi-Fi, plenty of outlets, meals from breakfast to dinner and even take-out. Happy hour is Monday to Thursday from 5 to 8pm, and the coffee menu is simple, but dependable. People come here to get work done during the week, as it turns into a popular brunch spot (and lively, too, with outdoor seating in warm months!) on weekends.

7. Kos Kaffe Roasting House

251 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Wandering through Park Slope? Kos Kaffe is an inviting spot for food and coffee or tea, and while it looks more like a place to sit down with a meal, laptops are ok here. Keep in mind that on weekends, there are certain hours when people using laptops can only sit at bar tables and the big communal tables. The menu is unique, and coffee comes in huge mugs.

8. Manhattanville Coffee

142 Edgecombe Ave, New York, NY and Brooklyn

If you are up in Harlem or out in Crown Heights, you can pick from either location of Manhattanville Coffee. Once, while taking a walk with friends, I met the two owners, who are both passionate for having intimate cafes with friendly staff. Their food caters to a whole host of allergies, if you have any eating restrictions, and the staff don’t hesitate to take out a binder that lists the allergens and ingredients of most available dishes. Oh, and the coffee is good (they brew Intelligentsia Coffee), the Wi-Fi is fast and there’s lots of natural light.

9. Hungry Ghost Coffee

253 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY and others

Head to Hungry Ghost’s ‘big’ location on Flatbush Ave between Park Slope and Prospect Heights for a spacious and aesthetically-pleasing space where you can prop up your laptop and settle down to get work done. Now with seven (!!!) locations all over the city from Williamsburg to NYU Tisch, you can get ‘hungry’ in a few boroughs and count on their excellent espressos, healthy lunches and free Wi-Fi.

10. Think Coffee

123 4th Ave, New York, NY and others

Think Coffee’s 10 locations throughout Manhattan south of 42nd St. down to Tribeca (and one in Williamsburg) will keep you caffeinated and hard at work. There are tons of laptops here, and after your coffee, you can stick around for beer and wine at most of their cafes, which are all open til between 8 and 11:30 pm (Bleecker St. location).