SAFETY TIPS FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLERS
Women face health and safety risks when travelling solo. These are our top tips on how to stay safe in a foreign country and enjoy the trip, if you are a solo female traveller
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Taylor Brandon
16 October 2020
Solo travelling has gained the attention of many adventurers across the globe. Wandering about different countries solo is a great way to explore destinations and the local culture. However, compared to men, solo female travellers are at statistically higher risk of violent acts against them. The United States State Department says: “When it comes to health and security, women travelers are more likely to be affected by religious and cultural beliefs of the foreign countries they visit. The truth is that women face greater obstacles, especially when traveling alone.”
Unfortunately, the world can be a scary place – from fully developed countries to destinations less recommended for solo women, danger can happen when you are alone and abroad. There are no dangerous destinations, just dangerous people. Yet, people with bad intentions can be found anywhere and there are many dangers to women who travel alone.
We take a moment to give a few pointers of how to travel as safely as possible. For those of you, who won’t let the fear of what might happen stop them from travelling, we here are some tips to keep you safer when you are abroad solo.
Take group tours. Guided trips are a great way to explore a destination in a safer way. When a local guide accompanies you, they usually speak the language and pave the way with certain level of protection.
Don’t walk alone at night. Make sure to reach your accommodation before sundown.
Watch what you drink. Never accept a drink that you haven’t seen poured in front of you or one offered by a “friendly” stranger.
Split your valuables. Don’t carry all of your cash in one place, divide your belongings and even carry two phones, if you can. In case you get robbed, you won’t lose everything and you’ll have a way to call for help.
Get yourself a doorstop and stay where you can lock the door. Wedge a rubber doorstop under the inside of your accommodation room door when you are in the room. It is much harder to push a door open this way. Also, never stay somewhere you cannot lock yourself away from strangers.
Look out for other solo female travellers. Introduce yourself to the women, who take on similar adventures as you. You will naturally look out for one another.
Make friends with locals. Many cultures respect elders so chatting to them might go a long way. Introduce yourself to food sellers, guards and other locals in the area and learn a few greetings in the native language. Increase your visibility by showing friendliness and make sure to mention how long you’ll be staying for.
Tip hotel staff. Especially in countries with high poverty rate, this tip can really benefit you. Yet, in any establishment tipping everyone from the maids to concierges, servers, desk and luggage staff will make you memorable and is likely to guarantee you rescue if you need it. In some cases, if you are in trouble outside, you can call the hotel for help and you might still get it.
Choose wisely. Book stays in Airbnb with Superhost status or hotels with 24-7 security.
Use apps to contact local law enforcement if needed. Examples include RedZone, Noonlight, MayDay, Chirpey and Tripwhistle which help you flag incidents and call for help.
Use your voice. If you feel threatened, scream and yell. Should you find yourself on a quieter street, make your way to a populated area as quickly as possible. Fall into the embrace or nearby random couples saying you’re happy to see them, if needed.
Stay alert especially during overnight travels by busses or trains. This rule also applies at any other time and setting as well. If someone acts suspicious or tries to get close to you, don’t be afraid to overreact. Cause a scene if needed. Acting reserved to strangers could save you from trouble.
Act out loud. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation or neighbourhood, or you feel harassed, don’t be afraid to act erratic. Talk to yourself, drool, laugh out loud, etc. never be afraid to embrace someone suspicious, who is trying to get close to you in public.
Blend in as much as possible. Women are at high health and safety risk by cultural and religious beliefs in foreign countries. Try to dress according to local customs and wear modest clothing.
Learn to defend yourself. Martial arts and self-defence tactics are life-saving. Above all trust your instincts. Carry a pocketknife, a pepper spray or anything else that could be used as a weapon and give you time to flee danger.
Put safety above money. Don’t risk your safety to save a few pounds. Don’t leave things to chance and plan ahead as much as possible. Travel safe even if that means paying extra. Buy a local SIM card so your phone works internationally, take an Uber to track your location and stay in central accommodation.
Know the destination you visit. A lot of countries issue travel advisories for foreign countries to assist their citizens. Some publish advice specifically for female travellers and other groups, others provide statistics of the common risks by area or release lists of safety levels by country. Gather the information on every country you visit and get a hold of the contact details for the closest Embassy or Consulate of your home country.
The list with fundamental travel safety tips for women is long. There are plenty of cases where female harassment victims are dismissed for inappropriate travel behaviour based solely on their gender. Governmental agencies and websites advise what women shouldn’t do when travelling the world, but none seem to feature lists on the appropriate male behaviour to prevent travel safety dangers in the first place. Women are taught that the world is filled with danger and travelling solo becomes a dilemma of the risks and lack of equality. Yet, if travelling is in your blood, keep on doing it.
Solo female travellers face various health and safety risks based on inequality, cultural and religious beliefs in foreign countries. Danger puts off many women from embarking on that solo trip they wish to take, yet the numbers of solo female travellers worldwide gradually increase. If you wish to travel solo, you should embrace it. Don’t give in to fear because the world is overall filled with much more kindness than evil. Make sure you take all the precautions to defend yourself against a potentially dangerous situation, and solo travelling may turn out to be the best decision of your life.
Keep travelling. Keep exploring. Keep staying safe.