Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Everything you need to know before traveling alone as a woman.
Solo travel in general has been one of the biggest trends in 2017, with 60-80% of travelers declaring they will take a solo holiday sometime soon. Studies have also found a 240% increase in female only travel companies this year.
Solo travel is a great way to experience new places, and meet new people, on your own terms. We have compiled a list to help you safely undertake your travel while minimizing any risk. Many of these tips are generic, but solo travel can also present some safety issues for women, that are not necessarily as problematic for men.
Here is the list of tips for women traveling alone
1. Research your Destination.
The safety of local neighborhoods, hotels and popular attractions can be researched using review sites such as Trip Advisor. Or you can ask the question on Quora.
2. Network with Locals or Expats Before you leave.
Quora is also a good place to ask local opinion, but there are also specific sites for making female friends at your destination. Ask around on social media, you never know which one of your friends may have a contact at your destination.
3. Find a Travel Buddy
You don’t have to spend your whole trip with your travel buddy. But it can be good to meet other female solo travelers to visit a few attractions together or just share a coffee and a few stories at your destination.
There are a few specialist sites for finding travel companions –
4. Make friends with female hotel and hostel staff
You will get some great local advice from local hotel staff. They can point out areas to avoid, which you may have missed in your pre-trip research.
5. Take a local guided tour on arrival
Tour guides are generally an oracle of knowledge, and can fill you in on the do’s and don’ts.
6. Give your Family or Friends the Trip Itinerary
Make a travel itinerary and leave a copy with a trusted friend or family member. In case something goes wrong they will have a general idea of were you might be.
7. Leave Regular Social Media Bread Crumbs
The problem with a pre-planned travel itinerary is – plans often change. By making regular updates to your social media accounts, you can keep your friends and family updated on your location with a trail of digital bread crumbs.
8. Check-in at Designated Intervals
Arrange to call a friend or relative at a designated time each week to confirm you are okay. Not only will this set anxious relatives minds at ease, but it will also help your own safety situation.
9. Make Copies of all your Important Documents.
It’s a good idea to have photocopies of all your important documents (Passport, ID, Driving Licence, Medical Info) and keep them safely at the hotel or hostel. However, you should also have access to digital copies in case the paper copies also get lost. You can store them in a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iDrive. Or you can just send them to yourself as attachments in an email, so they are always in your inbox.
10. Make Sure You Have the Correct Mobile Network
Especially if you are traveling to multiple countries you will need a sim card that works in each country. Having a phone with internet access can really help you when you are lost or in trouble.
An international sim card is probably the best and cheapest option.
11. Spare Cell Charger Cable
Bring a spare cell phone charger. You don’t want to be left without communication due to lack of cable.
12. Take Care When Using Couch Surfing Sites
Sites such as Airbnb are an excellent alternative to hotels, and great value for money. However, they do present extra risks to travelers, and there were several publicized assaults in Airbnb homes by the owners. Luckily these are extremely rare. You can mitigate the risks by only staying at homes that have high ratings and a lot of positive reviews from genuine travelers.
13. Carry Important Addresses and Telephone Numbers at all Times
Carry the address of your hotel on a card (the hotel business card is ideal) so you don’t forget, and to show to taxi drivers (if in foreign language). Also keep telephone numbers such as local emergency numbers, car rental offices, car recovery and breakdown, car services or taxis, and your accommodation on you at all times.
14. Take Out Travel Insurance
Traveling on your own without the correct travel insurance can soon turn to a nightmare if you have a medical emergency, lost baggage or cancellations.
15. Organize an Airport Shuttle
Arrange transport from the airport to hotel, especially if you arrive late at night. Usually the hotel can arrange this for you. Its also worth keeping this in mind when booking hotels to see if they offer the service beforehand.
16. Don’t Keep all your Funds in one Place
Don’t keep all your cash or all your credit cards in the same place. Distribute cash into several pockets or even in your socks or bra. In the event of loss or theft, you will still have some money to return to your accommodation or other safe place.
17. Dress Conservatively
Always a controversial subject telling other women how to dress. At least try to blend in and dress like a local, so you don’t stand out as a tourist. This will help reduce your chances of a tourist related robbery or worse.
18. Keep an Eye on your Drinks
Common sense even at home, due to risk of sexual assault. At some destinations this is also a common method used for robberies. Take your drink to the toilet, or finish beforehand, and don’t take drinks from strangers if alone.
19. Don’t Get too Drunk
If you are drinking, don’t go over the top and get drunk and incapacitated. It will make you an easy target for criminals.
20. Check the Safety of Taxis at your Destination.
For example here in Colombia we have a scam called millionaires rides. Solo travelers are collected in fake taxis and robbed. This is most common in the capital city, Bogota. You should ask your hotel, restaurant or shop to call you a taxi, instead of hailing one on the street. Check your destination to see if similar scams are in operation, and take the relevant precautions.
21. Track your Taxi to Detect Scams.
Use a GPS service on your smart phone such as Google Maps to track your journey in real time. This can show you if you are on course to your destination or being taken elsewhere. Not necessarily a sign you are being kidnapped so don’t immediately panic. Could also mean your taxi driver is taking you the scenic route to charge extra, or has misunderstood where you want to go. Just politely point out to the driver that they are going in the wrong direction, and see if they adjust course.
22. Note the Taxi Licence.
Take a photo on your phone of the taxi licence plate, or a picture of the driver’s licence badge. This will give you a record of the car you used if something goes wrong. When I have been in a suspect taxis, I have sent this picture straight to my sister so she knows what car I was using.
23. Avoid Public Transport at Night
Avoid using empty buses or trains at night. Taxis are also more likely to be nefarious at night. As above, ask your location to order you a legitimate taxi or car services.
24. Do Not Fall Asleep
When using trains and buses in urban areas do not fall asleep. If its an overnight bus to a different city you may need to, but ensure your possessions are secure first.
25. Consider Using Uber
Opinions on Uber are mixed, but it can be a great alternative in some countries. It also eliminates the need for cash, as the payment is made through the Uber App.
26. If in a Taxi Sat in Traffic Don’t use your Phone
This is a common robbery in South America and other continents. The robber will move through congested traffic on foot or bike. Taxis are targeted because they often contain people in the back using devices. The thief will then demand your valuables through the window or open the door.
27. Always Lock Car Doors
In a taxi or a hire car, always lock the doors when you get in. Some taxi drivers will do this anyway, but if not lock the doors in the back of the taxis. If in a hire car activate the central locking. This will minimize opportunistic grabs, or an attempted car jacking.
28. Keep Your Bag in the Backseat
If possible, keep your bag in the back seat of the taxi with you. In the trunk it can easily be forgotten, and if you need to disembark in an emergency you can grab your bag and run.
29. Use a GPS in Hire Car
Pay extra and hire a GPS Sat Nav for your hire car. This will prevent dangerous situations as a result of getting lost. If you get the chance pre-program the route and double check it using Google as some hire stations don’t update their sat navs (you can sometimes update yourself if you have laptop). If hire station doesn’t have GPS, you can use Google Maps on your phone.
30. Keep the Car Full of Gasoline
Don’t allow the gasoline to run too low. Refill before reaching half full. Especially in countries where you will be traveling outside of urban centers or for long journeys.
31. Register with Your Local Diplomatic Mission or Embassy
Many countries have a service to register with the local embassy, if you are staying in the country for more than a few days.
32. Chain the Hotel Door
Always lock the hotel door when you are inside and attach the safety chain if there is one installed.
33. Carry a Door Wedge
Buy a cheap rubber door wedge to carry with you. This can be used in the absence of a safety chain to wedge the door. It can also be used to wedge the door or shared bathrooms at other locations.
34. Buy a Travel Door Alarm
A portable travel intruder alarm can be attached to hotel doors and windows to warn you of someone trying to enter the room.
35. Do Not Disturb
Leave the do not disturb sign on your door handle and the TV turned on to portray the room is occupied. This can help to protect your valuables when you are out if there is not a room safe.
36. Don’t Get Involved in Illegal Activities
Seems like common sense, but so many travelers end up in trouble this way. Buying recreational narcotics is the perfect example of an activity that will expose you to undesirable elements and the wrath of the law. Small amounts of mild recreational narcotics are socially acceptable in some countries, and penalized with heavy jail sentences in others. Be sensible and avoid such situations!
37. Carry a Personal Protection Device
I always carry CS gas in my purse. A high voltage tazer is another option. Not everyone is comfortable with such a device. You can also consider less aggressive protection like a high decibel pocket alarm or whistle. In some countries CS gas and tazers are prohibited weapons, so you should check local laws before taking your pepper spray overseas.
38. Security Purse for your Valuables
Buy a slash proof bag that has wire mesh in the lining, and has RFID protection to stop your ATM card being scanned/cloned from inside your bag.
39. Front Facing Purse or Day-pack
Have a bag that hangs on your front; especially when using terminals, ticket machines or other distractions. If this is not possible hold the bag to you chest, never leave by your side or rear.
40. Run for the Hills
If you feel afraid and unsafe, get out of there. Don’t be afraid to run. Removing yourself from dangerous situation as soon as possible is always the best solution.
41. Display Confidence
Walk with purpose and project confidence. Look like you know where you are going and what you are doing. Keep your head high, but don’t overdo the eye contact. This can bring unwanted attention, and appear rude in some cultures.
42. Fake a Marriage
Wearing a ring on your wedding ring finger can be a useful deterrent to unwanted attention. Telling someone who is giving you unwanted attention that you are married can also work.
43. Observe Local Laws and Customs
Women are treated differently in some cultures, and while you may not agree with this, you should respect any related laws or customs. For example, in some countries it is considered a social taboo to display too much flesh, and at the extreme level can even be illegal.
44. Avoid Politics
Everyone loves a good debate, but try to avoid discussing sensitive local and national issues with strangers and people you just met. Until you know how someone will react, it is best to not mention social or political problems at all.
45. Avoid Public Demonstrations
However noble the cause, it is best to avoid public demonstrations and gatherings on your own. Such events can sometimes turn violent quickly and without warning. Outsiders may become a target.
46. Don’t flaunt wealth
Avoid counting money, using your phone, expensive camera or other valuables in the street. Wearing expensive jewelry is not advised, and if we are completely honest, not really necessary.
47. Sanitary Products
Carry with you some tampons, sanitary towels, and even some contraception. Some of these maybe difficult to obtain at your location.
48. Female Intuition
Trust your instincts above all. Travelers are generally positive and optimistic people, so when something feels bad, it probably is. Get out of there.
49. Say NO!
Don’t be afraid to refuse any offers. Yes, it may offend some people, but your safety is more important. Don’t be afraid to say NO! Don’t be pressured into anything.
50. Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Its unlikely anything will happen to you. But following these simple tips will reduce the risk even further. Have fun and enjoy your travels, but stay safe.