What’s travel without tips and tricks to help make your own experience smoother? In this masterpiece, I will tell you all about my own personal black solo travel tips and tricks with the hope that they will be of use to you.
My own travel was made easier by the experiences of other black travelers. I believe it’s my turn now to pass along what I’ve learned and hope it will improve your black travel experience.
Understanding the Challenges
Traveling has its own fair share of challenges because it is after all an experience that involves you moving from your familiar surroundings to completely new ones. As you plan your travel, it’s important to expect challenges.
Even though you might not be able to predict the problems you will encounter, being mentally prepared beforehand will help reduce surprises.
Unique Experiences of Black Solo Travelers
Black solo travelers experience more challenges than any other group of people. You can expect your experiences to be filtered through your race. This might mean that for areas where other travelers have met friendly locals, you might encounter the opposite.
Here are some unique challenges you might face as a black traveler;
- Prevalent racial profiling. It’s not your fault – get over it.
- Unfriendliness that’s caused by racism and has nothing to do with your conduct.
- A lot of staring especially in some parts of Asia
- Blunt questions from locals that they wouldn’t ask a non-black person,
- Expect many people to want to touch you or your hair without asking for consent
While traveling, I quickly adopted the phrase ‘Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.I realized that my expectation of not encountering racism left me ill-prepared when I actually faced it.
One of my own unfortunate challenges was getting Airbnb. Some owners would refuse to book me because I was a black woman.
Some would let me book and write a negative review once I left. I have had to petition Airbnb several times for the hosts to prove their claims. It’s an unfortunate reality but one I had to learn the hard way. Maybe it was just me but you know what I mean, keep your guard up just in case.
Understanding Stereotypes and Bias
The thing with melanin in a racist world is that you will find some of the most ridiculous stereotypes you could ever imagine. For Africans, the most common stereotype we have is that we are dirty and have diseases.
It is pretty dehumanizing but such is the world. Black people tend to be associated with crime as well. If you’re a woman and alone – you’re a prostitute. It is important to remember that these stereotypes come from a place of racism.
This way you don’t waste time trying to explain yourself because most of the people perpetuating them don’t care to learn. It has very little to do with YOU.
It’s their bias – their stereotype. And it’s their problem, not yours. Shrug it off and move on. Focus on the travel and enjoy yourself.
When you are faced with bias or profiling of any kind, learning how to navigate can make a difference whether your trip will be ruined or not. Everything won’t always go your way and I learned that staying humble in the face of disrespect just invites more.
Traveling while black will give you vastly different social landscapes compared to non-black people. As an African traveler, the time I spend at the airport is not the same as the rest because the airline will find a way to conduct more checks on me. They will request documents and need me to justify why I am traveling to the destination country.
When this happens, remember that airline staff is just supposed to check you in. They have no business requesting documents other than travel documents from you.
Always learn the rules of the game and above all “Know Your Worth.”
Importance of Preparedness
Preparing well before you travel is an important factor in deciding whether your trip will be great or not.
Prior research is one of the most essential parts of preparing for your trip. Check out travel blogs such as Blackshome, Travel Noire, Soul Society, Black Girl Travel among other travel sites to get information that you need about various destinations.
For personal experiences from various people, try online forums such as Facebook, Quora, Reddit, Meetup among others.
Here you will find different stories and tips on how to navigate your particular destination. There are times when you need to know how to proceed in case anything goes wrong in a foreign country so check out some guides from governments or organizations such as CDC, UNWTO, Lonely Planet, etc..
Safety First: Tips for Black Solo Travelers
As you plan your travels, prioritizing your safety is a given. Travel poses risks especially if you are in a whole new country away from your friends, family and even state protection. Safety is an issue for all travelers but for black travelers, this becomes an even bigger issue.
There are many cases where a black traveler has been detained for absolutely no reason. The color of your skin can also make you highly visible and an easy target for muggers, robbers and pickpockets. Not to mention that violence tends to follow racism so you are always at risk.
However, don’t let this make you feel like you can’t travel. There is a reason black people travel despite all the world throws at us. You get to experience the true magic of the world. Here are some tips to help you be safer on your travels;
- Do your research on the safety situation of your destination, and avoid areas or activities that are known to be dangerous or problematic
- Keep your valuables and documents secure, and make copies or backups of them in case of loss or theft
- Stay in touch with your family or friends, and let them know your plans and whereabouts
- Be aware of your surroundings, and trust your instincts if something feels wrong or suspicious
- Dress appropriately and respectfully for the local culture and climate, and avoid drawing unwanted attention or offense
- Be friendly and polite, but also firm and clear when dealing with strangers or locals who may approach you for various reasons
- Know your rights and options, and seek help from authorities or organizations if you encounter any trouble or emergency
Overcoming Challenges: A Guide for Black Solo Travelers
Your travel can’t be defined by the challenges you faced. No, it shouldn’t.
Travel should be an adventure and the only way to treasure it is for the good to outweigh the bad. There are some things that are out of your control but there are some you can overcome.
Your interactions with people will be key in heightening your experience in a place.
As a black traveler, interacting well with locals will significantly improve your travel experience. Here are some tips to ensure you are able to properly navigate well through your day to day social interactions with other people;
- Be open-minded and curious, but also respectful and mindful of the cultural differences and norms that may exist in different places
- Be confident and comfortable in your own skin, but also humble and willing to learn from others
- Be proactive and sociable, but also selective and cautious about who you interact with and how you interact with them
- Be flexible and adaptable, but also assertive and honest about your preferences and boundaries
Despite all the discrimination, black travelers have had experiences that have crossed boundaries.
There’s a story about a solo black girl traveler who visited rural China and was met with so much warmth. Her host took great care of her and treated her like family. She told a story of how the old women in the village would share their ales of their childhood as she shared stories of Africa.
This is why we still travel despite the challenges. When people see you respect their culture, they reciprocate that respect in kind.
Embracing Local Culture
As a seasoned traveler, I realized nothing comes close to embracing the local culture of a place. Avoid the habit of some travelers of expecting your home in a foreign land. This is in the case of travelers getting disappointed that the privilege they wield isn’t respected.
I recently saw on TikTok, a story of a couple who went to South Korea and were disappointed that nobody allowed them to hitchhike. South Koreans don’t have a habit of picking strangers off the road and offering them free rides.
Before you visit a place, do your research. I would recommend reading from local travelers. Don’t learn about a place from the eyes of your fellow foreigner. Let the locals tell you what customs they practice.
Here are some useful tips to help you navigate local culture of your travel destinations;
- Learn some history and background of the place you are visiting, and appreciate its diversity and complexity
- Try some local food and drinks, and enjoy the flavors and traditions that they represent
- Participate in some local activities or events, such as festivals, markets, museums, or sports, and have fun while learning something new
- Respect the local customs and etiquette, such as greetings, dress codes, tipping, or gestures, and avoid any actions or words that may be rude or offensive
- Support the local economy and environment, such as by shopping locally, volunteering locally, or traveling sustainably
When I visited Malaysia, prior research of the local culture saved me from being rude. Did you know in Malaysia people don’t point with their index finger since it is considered terribly rude? If you need to point, you use your thumb. I had to practice a lot and I have actually learned to point at things less.
Top Destinations for Black Solo Travelers
Based on the universal black travel experience, there are destinations that will offer you some of the best travel you have ever had. This is especially good for first time travelers. It’s great if your first travel experience is as good as it gets.
Highlighting Inclusive Destinations
Here are some of the top destination for black solo travelers;
- London, UK: A cosmopolitan and multicultural city with a rich history and culture. You can visit iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Tower Bridge, or immerse yourself in the diverse neighborhoods such as Brixton, Camden, or Notting Hill.
- Ghana: A West African country that has been inviting people of African descent to visit and connect with their roots. Ghana has a vibrant and diverse culture, as well as a rich history and heritage. You can visit historical sites such as the Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were held before being shipped across the Atlantic, or the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, where the first president of Ghana is buried.
- Japan: A country that offers a unique and fascinating blend of tradition and modernity. You can experience the ancient culture of Japan by visiting temples, shrines, castles, and gardens, or witness the cutting-edge technology and innovation of Japan by exploring its cities, skyscrapers, bullet trains, and robots. Japan is also known for its hospitality and respect for visitors, and many black solo travelers have reported positive experiences there.
- Brazil: This country has the largest population of black people outside Africa. The capital city Rio De Janeiro has one of the largest multicultural populations in the world. Brazil is rich in culture, heritage and history. There are several festivals and sites you can visit during your stay here.
- Tulum, Mexico: Tulum is diverse and culture comes to life. Here you will meet people of all shades. Its beautiful beaches and well-preserved ruins make for one of the most breathtaking experiences. Black travelers have been able to fully immerse themselves in this city because of the diversity.
Places to Avoid
As much as I would love for the world to my oyster, profiling and discrimination can limit black travel. There are destinations black travelers wouldn’t advise you to visit. Although this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel to these countries or cities. It just means you should expect racism and profiling to be a part of your experience.
Here are some countries which may pose challenges or potential issues;
- China: A country that has been criticized for its treatment of ethnic minorities and foreigners. Many black solo travelers have reported facing racism, discrimination, harassment, or curiosity in China. Some have been stared at, followed by crowds, asked to pose for pictures without consent, or denied service or accommodation. China also has strict rules and regulations for visitors, such as requiring visas, registering with local police stations, censoring internet access, and banning certain apps or websites.
- Russia: A country that has a history of racial violence and intolerance. Many black solo travelers have reported feeling unsafe or unwelcome in Russia. Some have been verbally abused, physically attacked, or targeted by police or extremists. Russia has political tensions with some Western countries and regions, such as Ukraine or Crimea. Russia also has harsh weather conditions in winter and requires visas for most visitors.
- India: A country that has a complex and diverse society with many social issues. Many black solo travelers have reported facing racism, discrimination, or prejudice in India. Some have been stared at, touched without permission, or called derogatory names. India also has problems with poverty, pollution, corruption, and crime. India has cultural differences and sensitivities that may require respect and adaptation, such as dress codes, etiquette, or religion.
Leveraging Online Resources and Communities
As you plan your solo travels, you don’t have to do everything alone.
Connecting with other black solo travelers can be beneficial for many reasons, such as sharing tips and advice, finding travel buddies or hosts, learning from others’ experiences, or making new friends.
There are many online communities and forums where black solo travelers can connect and interact with each other. I got a recommendation for a great Airbnb from a black traveler on twitter.
Online Resources for Black Solo Travelers
There are many online resources for black solo travelers. This is the one thing we do best as black people. We create communities and share resources to ensure that our fellow solo black travelers are able to travel the world with as little inconvenience as possible. Below, you will find sites which have some of the best black travel resources you will need for your solo travels;
- Black Travelers International – Here you will find resources on accommodations, travel guides and if you need it, they will even plan your trip for you. They have an active facebook group that’s a perfect place to connect with like-minded travelers.
- Ever thought about planning your entire trip around a festival in a city thousands of miles away from home? Well, Black Travelers International have resources dedicated to making that dream a reality.
- If you are a solo black traveler who loves adventure and luxury, Black & Abroad plans trips so unlike any other agency you could ever find.
- Black Travel Alliance is an association that helps improve black travel. Every year, the president Martinique Lewis compiles an Annual Report which informs black travelers of the changes in the travel industry in terms of diversity and access.
- Soul of America is a great resource for anyone planning to travel to America and the Caribbean and Mexico. Their travel guides offer some invaluable insights into the destinations as well.
- Travel Noire – This online magazine covers every aspect of black travel. It’s one of the best places to hear from black travelers when you want to be informed about your destinations.
Black Solo Travel Communities
As mentioned above, online travel communities provide you with a kinship in your solo travels. There are many communities that are active. The links above will connect you with so many other black solo travelers.
If you need more active online communities and forums, you check them on the sites below;
- Reddit: A social media platform that has various subreddits or groups dedicated to different topics or interests. Some of the subreddits that are relevant for black solo travelers are r/solotravel, r/travel noire, r/blackladies, r/blackfellas, etc. These subreddits allow users to post questions, stories, pictures, or links related to solo travel or black culture
- Facebook: A social media platform that has various groups or pages for different topics or interests. Some of the groups or pages that are relevant for black solo travelers are Black Travel Movement, Black Girl Travel Movement, Black Travelers Network, Black Travelers Connect, etc. These groups or pages allow users to join discussions, share experiences, ask for recommendations, or find travel partners
- Meetup: A social media platform that allows users to create or join groups based on their location or interest. Some of the groups that are relevant for black solo travelers are Black Travelers United, Black Solo Travelers Meetup Group, Black Women Who Travel Meetup Group, etc. These groups allow users to attend events, meet new people, or join trips organized by the group.
Personal Wellness and Self-care During Travel
Traveling by default should keep you fit. Especially if your trip involves lots of movement. However, it can change your normal routine and cause a strain to your physical health. So it’s important to be able to take good care of yourself while traveling.
Here are some tips to stay fit and take great care of yourself in your travels;
- Basic stretches
Try to incorporate some simple stretching exercises to your day. It can be early in the morning or late evening. This will ensure your muscles don’t get injured and also relax your body.
- Set aside time for spa and relaxation
If you can, try and find some spas near you. You will find massaging and many other relaxation activities in spas which will help your body feel great.
- Take morning or evening walks
Walks are one of the healthiest ways to keep yourself fit. It is also good for your mental health. You can plug in some music to enjoy as well.
- Set aside time to rest
The best time can be either morning or evenings. Remember you can sleep in during your travels. It is meant to be a vacation so be sure to rest. Evenings are also a great time to relax at your residence with wine, beer or tea in my case.
Maintaining Mental Health While Traveling
Your mental health is also a priority while you travel so make sure you only engage in activities that won’t trigger you. You can even choose destinations which are known to be great for mental reset.
Below are some tips to help you with your mental health;
- Know your triggers and avoid situations that might negatively impact you.
- Prepare a plan for stressful situations
- Talk to your mental health care person before you travel
- Take all your medications with you
- Find quiet and less crowded areas when you are overwhelmed
- Be patient with yourself when you feel overwhelmed.
Financing and Budgeting for Travel
This is one of the most important aspects when it comes to traveling.
Budgeting before your trip will save you money. I always want to enjoy my travel experience even after my trip so I tend to stay within my budget. The issue with going over budget is that you might have to confront financial issues when you get back from your trip.
Budgeting for Solo Travel
As you plan your trip, research the destination you are visiting. If you know the basic cost of things like coffee, you can estimate how much you need. Here are some tips to budget;
- If you can, save for your trip. It’s usually the best option because you won’t feel a dip in your finances when you travel.
- Find affordable options for just about anything! It’s actually possible. Whether it’s food, tours etc, there are always cheaper options. Budget traveling is pretty popular right now so you will be able to find great deals.
- Only carry limited extra cash. The mistake I made in my early travel days was spending more than I had budgeted because I always carried too much cash for emergencies.
- Go for shared accommodations if you can. There could be hostels or dorms in your destination. They are always much cheaper and save you lots of money.
- Sample street food since it also tends to be more affordable than restaurants.
Affordable Travel Destinations
The best way to budget for your trip is to find an affordable destination. Believe or not, some places are just too expensive to even budget for. So here are some countries you can start off with if you need some affordable destinations to travel to;
What makes most of these destinations cheaper is mainly the level of the economy so your dollar might buy you more than it could in let’s say Europe. They are also rich in culture and some of the best destinations for black travelers.
Developing a Solo Travel Mindset
It might not seem like solo travel is the thing for you but believe me, everyone can and should try it. It is actually advisable to travel solo.
You’ve probably heard the saying “Discover yourself”, right? Well, it’s true. Traveling solo is a kind of self-exploration. You learn more about yourself than you ever have in your life.
Building Confidence for Solo Travel
The world might seem really big for you to be venturing in alone but trust me, there’s so much warmth out there.
There are many people you will meet as a solo traveler who will change your life for the better. You will meet human beings who are so good and kind so much that it will restore your faith in humanity.
Solo travel also helps you become more confident in yourself. As you watch yourself navigating through unfamiliar spaces, you will gain respect in your entire self.
If you still feel nervous to try solo travel, read up on experiences by black solo travelers. Travel stories are always a great way to prepare and learn about solo travel before you get started.
Learning From Mistakes
Making mistakes as you travel is inevitable. Some can range from forgetting your passport to missing your flight or even losing your luggage. You could also be pickpocketing or overspending. Mistakes during travel are many and can happen any time. All of the above have happened to me while I traveled. When mistakes happen, learn to forgive yourself first.
When you travel solo, there is the tendency of believing you should be able to handle everything by yourself when it’s not always how it goes with travel. Take your time to learn from your mistakes and believe me, you will be better the next time.
Travel Gear and Essentials
You don’t want to miss anything when you prepare for your solo trip.
Packing Essentials for Solo Black Travelers
So here are a list of items you should make sure to pack for your journey;
- Suitcase or backpack with your clothing essentials like pants, shorts, shoes, towels, dresses etc.
- Debit or credit card
- Local currency – It’s usually best you convert before travel
- Mobile phone and charger
- Torch and batteries
- Painkillers or allergy medication if you have them
- Mosquito repellant if your trip requires it
- Medical card – ensure it has all your vaccinations
- Sun screen
Now, It’s Your Turn…
As you plan your travels, I hope this article will aid you and make your trip better in every way possible. Remember;
- Do lots of prior research on the destination and culture of the place
- Read up on other black travelers experiences and how they navigated through racial bias
- Be interactive with the locals
- Budget your trip well and always carry emergency cash
- Do some basic exercises to help with your physical health
- Learn your mental health triggers and visit less stressful areas
- Pack well and pack light
Traveling while black is a unique experience and you won’t ever really regret it. I can assure you that the good always outweighs the bad. The world is an incredible place that’s waiting for your exploration and once you are back home, you will want to book your next trip. I have been traveling since college and haven’t stopped. So I hope your own experiences bring a light into your life because it is true, travel truly heals.
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