Solo Travel Safety for Women

It’s natural to feel tentative when it comes to traveling alone.  Photo by Patricia Balsley.

I’ve traveled to many countries by myself. Admittedly, while the prospect of depending solely on oneself in foreign lands–or even domestic ones–can be frightening, the paybacks in my journeys have far outweighed any anxiety. In fact, I firmly believe I’m not so much traveling alone, as I am traveling to new friends.

That said, there are a number of common sense steps you can take to ensure your journey, particularly as a solo female traveler (or even with friends) is as safe and fun as can be.

Here are some top travel tips:

    • Don’t carry valuables.

Keep in mind that in some countries, being blinged out doesn’t just make you a target, it may appear disrespectful or conceited. In some countries, even having a large wallet can be a sign of wealth. Do your cultural research to avoid such pitfalls. 

    • Secure adequate insurance coverage.

Including health and emergency medical evacuation coverage. 

    • Select a hotel close to public transportation.

Make sure it has good security. Read online reviews. 

Select a hotel that’s close to public transportation, when possible.Photo by Charish Badzinski.
    • Never allow hotel staff to announce your room number aloud.

If they do, request a different room.

    • Double-check that your hotel room has a secure lock.

A double lock is preferable. Then, use it.

    • Consider using the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Use it even while you are in your hotel room. If leaving for a short time, even outside housekeeping hours, leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and the television or radio on.

    • Dress conservatively and inconspicuously.

Try to blend in with the locals. Keep in mind, showing a lot of skin in some countries is culturally disrespectful. Typically the same holds true for religious destinations.

These shoes are neither inconspicuous nor conservative; you maywant to leave them at home in favor of something more suitable.

Photo by Patricia Balsley.

    • When going out, always carry a business card from the hotel.

Make sure it has the hotel name and address printed in the language of the country you’re visiting. If you get lost and don’t speak the language, you can show this card to taxi drivers to find your way back.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

Trust the hotel’s concierge or front desk. And, if you feel you’re getting lost, ask again. If it does not seem safe to ask for directions, tuck into a coffee shop to rest and study your map. Studying maps on the sidewalk or when in questionable areas of town is not generally advisable, but trust your gut.

    • Don’t carry all of your money.

Don’t put it all in the same pocket or place, and leave credit card numbers with a trusted friend or relative at home who you can call if they are lost or stolen so you can cancel them. Leave your detailed itinerary along with a copy of your flight and ticket information with a trusted friend or relative.

    • For international travel, carry an extra set of passport photos.

Also carry a photocopy of the picture page of your passport. This will expedite replacement, if needed.

    • Travel by daylight.

Do this as often as possible and avoid flights that arrive late at night. If you must arrive late at night, you might want to take advantage of hotels in or near the arrival airport, so that you can face the new city in the light of day, when you are rested.

Shadows loom large, and things get unclear after dark. Try to explore during the daytime,for safety. Photo by Patricia Balsley.
    • Know the anticipated taxi fare.

Settle on the fare with the driver in advance; before getting into a taxi. Solo travelers are more likely to be “taken for a ride.” Know how long it should take to get to your destination. Try to use only registered or government-run taxis.

Taxi! Photo by Charish Badzinski.
    • Don’t over pack.

Travel as lightly as possible; think of hauling your possessions up and down stairs or over cobblestone streets. Carrying too much makes a person more vulnerable.

Pack light. A carry-on size rollerbag should do the trick. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
    • Learn to speak a few words of the local language.

That is, a few words, at the very least. While you’re at it, read up on local customs and norms, too.

    • Beware of accepting food or drink from strangers.

Sure, most people are kind-hearted, but some may have hidden agendas. Be aware that there are people in the world who might try to slip you something you didn’t intend to sip or snack on, placing you in harm’s way.

Hey, cupcake! Secure your own snacks, for safety’s sake.Photo by Charish Badzinski. 
    • Project confidence.

Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you really don’t. Look confident and not like an easy target. Be alert and aware of your surroundings.

    • Beware of attracting uninvited male attention.

Wear a wedding ring and say you’ve got five kids. Yes, you shouldn’t have to, but sometimes it’s the easiest way to fend off advances.

    • Don’t broadcast your solo traveler status.

Never tell people you are traveling alone, unless you are asking the concierge where it is safe for you to explore alone.

    • If you’re attending a business meeting, remove your name badge.

Do so immediately after the conclusion of the function.

    • Practice moderation.

Take care not to put yourself in a compromising position by drinking heavily or doing drugs. Your defenses will be down.

Watch the sauce!Photo by Charish Badzinski.
    • Most importantly, trust your gut.

Be your own best counsel. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!

What travel tips do you recommend? 

Many of these tips were originally published in Coulee Region Women magazine. The travel experts at Travel Leaders/Goli’s Avenues of Travel contributed to this list.

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