Safety Tips for the Solo Female Traveler
Did you know that one third of all travel bookings are made by solo travelers and that women make up around 60% of that group? Traveling the world alone is exceptionally empowering for anyone, but many women are held back by fears about personal safety and harassment. The good news is that with some simple, common sense safety precautions, there’s no reason at all not to go it alone, wherever you’re headed.
The Art of Blending In
The single most important safety rule for the solo female traveler is to blend in. You’ll probably not manage to look like a local, but aim for the “confident expat” look, to give the impression that you are familiar with the area and that you know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how to handle yourself.
This means respecting and adhering to local dress customs, as well as to local behavioral demeanor. It may well offend you that women in some countries are more at risk if they dress or behave in a certain way, but save your indignation for when you are on safe territory and can campaign to help local women. While you are there, behave as local women behave if you wish to stay safe.
This aside, it’s important to blend in in other ways, too. Avoid looking at your map while you’re on the street, for example, and don’t carry new or expensive-looking bags. A battered bag and unremarkable clothing is best, and avoid carrying anything that will make you look “touristy”.
Guard Your Personal Information
Giving away too much information about yourself can put you at risk. Avoid divulging your marital status (whatever it may be). For example, don’t sign into accommodations as a Miss, just leave it blank. Some women find that they feel more secure wearing a fake wedding ring.
Don’t tell strangers where you are staying; if you arrange to meet someone for any reason, meet them in a public place, not at your room.
It’s a sad fact that women cannot necessarily party or drink without increasing the risks they face, but it’s a fact that you must acknowledge in some countries. If you’re traveling alone, avoid getting drunk.
Do take responsibility for your own travel arrangements and book ahead where possible, having checked out reviews and taken country-specific advice on where to stay and what to do. Sharing your itinerary each day on social media is a good way to let someone back home know where you are going, with whom, and what time you should be back, without divulging too much of that information to strangers around you.
Safety in Transit
The safety of public transportation systems varies from city to city for solo female travelers—check up on this in advance. Taxis are often the safest way to travel, but choose a company recommended and booked by your hotel or hostel: avoid hailing one from the street if you can. It goes without saying that hitchhiking is potentially risky in any country, including your own.
Safeguarding Your Property
If you’ve followed the advice on blending in, then your personal property won’t be at obvious risk of theft while you’re out and about. Avoid flaunting anything obviously expensive, and don’t wear flashy jewelry or watches. It’s sometimes helpful to carry your valuables in an innocuous-looking local grocery bag.
Ultimately, however, if you are robbed or threatened for something you are carrying, hand it over. Property can always be replaced and nothing you own is worth putting up a fight for.
Listen to Your Instincts
This long list of dos and don’ts may seem daunting, but the biggest tool you have for staying safe is your own instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, or if you get a suspicious feeling from someone, get out of the situation quickly, even if doing so will seem rude. If you were mistaken, and if necessary, you can always apologize later, but never ignore a gut feeling which tells you something is wrong.
The second biggest tool you have is your natural confidence. Wherever you are traveling, step out with purpose and intent and exude an air of confidence even if you don’t feel it. Anywhere in the world, people who appear confident are at less risk of attack.
Don’t allow fears for your personal safety to put you off traveling solo—with a little common sense and a healthy level of awareness, you will be fine. The horror stories make the headlines because they are unusual; the vast majority of female solo travelers have the time of their lives and return home much enriched by the experience.