10 Tips for Women to Stay Safe While Travelling Alone
Travelling alone may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who like it, it offers an exciting chance to have a completely self-directed opportunity to explore. Unfortunately, travelling alone does come with some additional considerations in terms of safety, especially if you’re travelling alone as a woman. Here are some tips for how you can stay safe as a solo female traveller.
- RESEARCH: Researching your destination is part of any trip, but there are some important things you should educate yourself on when travelling alone. This may include appropriate clothing for women (e.g. if you’re travelling to some Islamic countries), understanding transit options (so you’re not caught without a safe means of travel), knowing specific places to avoid (e.g. places you might not want to go at night), being aware of the current daylight hours (so you don’t find yourself unexpectedly walking around in the dark), educating yourself on popular local scams, etc. One other important bit of “research” that is also very important is knowing enough of the local language so you can get help if you need it!
- LODGINGS: The place where you’re staying should be a comfortable and safe home base for your trip. Make sure it’s in a good area of town, avoid being on lower floors (certainly avoid the ground floor), ask about security features, and verify that there are staff onsite at all hours. While AirBnBs may be popular, they may not be as safe an option if you’re travelling alone.
- VALUABLES: You should avoid wearing jewelry that attracts attention (even if it’s fake gold – a potential thief doesn’t know that) and generally minimize the “stealables” you bring on your trip in order to be a less appealing target for criminals. One exception, though, is that (in some places with more “enthusiastic” men) it might actually be worth wearing a fake wedding ring (whether you’re married or not) to avoid unwanted attention. And don’t forget that your travel documents are valuable, too, so keep a photo backup and if your hotel room has a safe then consider putting your passport and other valuables in it whenever you don’t need them. Finally, if you’re wandering about then it can also be a good idea to keep some extra cash/cards separate from your purse or bag just in case it gets snatched or lost.
- BLEND IN: Whether it’s flashy jewelry (see above) or just wearing very touristy clothes (it’s not hard to spot your average North American tourists in Europe purely by fashion), it’s much safer for you if you blend into a crowd instead of standing out. Further to this, if you have to check a map or something then maybe tuck yourself into a little cafe or somewhere instead of busting it out on a street corner (thereby revealing yourself as a tourist AND distracting yourself, which makes a great target for pickpockets).
- CHECK-INS: Make sure that one or more people at home have your complete itinerary and that you check in with them regularly (daily is ideal). That way if something does go wrong, there’s someone else who will be in the loop as to where you were last and where you were going when contact ceased.
- NEW PEOPLE: You don’t have to assume that everyone is out to get you but you need to be cautious when you meet new people and be conscious of whether someone might be trying to con you (or maybe has a unrequited romantic interest in you, etc). It’s much more important to be safe than to be polite, so don’t worry about being firm (even if it makes you feel like you’re being rude) when your instincts tell you something is not right. If you do meet people then make sure you’re meeting them in public places and don’t feel you need to tell them that you’re travelling alone (e.g. be vague, say “we” instead of “I”, etc.) – if a little white lie makes you feel safer then go for it.
- DRINKING: Whether it’s drinking or drugs, you cannot afford to get out-of-control inebriated while travelling alone. Keep an eye on the person making your drinks and don’t leave your drink alone where it might be tampered with. Feel free to enjoy yourself, but know your limits and avoid getting drunk.
- TRANSIT: If you’re in a taxi or similar transportation then keep your bags beside you in the cab if you can (in case you need to leave quickly, but it also may help you avoid forgetting something). If you’re going to be taking public transit (research first, see point 1) then make sure you have control of your bags at all time and avoid empty traincars and the like (a slash-proof bag or purse can help prevent some thefts in crowded transit or other situations as well).
- HEADPHONES: Wearing headphones makes it much harder to really be aware of your surroundings and thereby increases the risk to you in potentially dangerous circumstances. Furthermore, most thieves will clue into the fact that those headphones are probably attached to a valuable phone as well, making you even more of a target (see Jewelry above).
- OTHER WOMEN: Finally, sometimes another woman is just going to be more understanding of your predicament than a man would be, so when in doubt it can be a good idea to identify another female to reach out to if you’re in trouble.
Just because there is a lot that you have to pay attention to doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful trip. So keep your head up and your wits about you and enjoy your vacation – you deserve it!