Travel Travel Tips Women

Travel Safety Tips For Women Hitting The Road Solo

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woman hiking solo in Mongolia

By Jo Eckersley

If you’re anything like me you will hate being told what to do, what to wear or how to look after yourself. It reeks of that word we wish we could have dropped from our vocabularies decades ago: patriarchy.

“A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it: the dominant ideology of patriarchy” – Oxford Dictionaries

Power exists in a whole host of forms. But isn’t the power to move freely, without fear, one of the most vital? If anything proves this it’s the refugee crisis happening today.

So we deserve to travel without fear. But, as the refugee crisis proves, we don’t live in a just world.

I count myself as lucky for only having experienced a handful of gropes, and one terrifying night where I had to get out of a taxi and run. Women are rarely safe from sexual harassment, whether we leave our hometown or not.

The difference is, in the place where you grew up you at least knew which alleys to avoid.

Modern female travelers have to strike a difficult balance in working out how to stay safe without compromising on their (hard fought for) independence.

This means every decision we make is personal; the advice below may work for some and not for others.

Whatever you do, always remember it’s never your fault if someone comes on too strong.

Never Act Alone, Even If You Are Alone

While weighing the various pros and cons of traveling alone, it’s inevitable that safety will come up. Luckily, there are things you can do to help protect yourself.

If you’re traveling solo don’t spread the information about. If need be, lie.

I’ve been known to fake phone conversations when I’ve been on the road feeling vulnerable (or was I just trying to look cool? We’ll never know).

Sad to say it, but some men in some ultra-conservative countries men think you’re “fair game” if you’re not married. Consent doesn’t come into it. Wear a wedding ring, or at very least tell people you’re married.

Walk Like You Know The Streets

Even if you’re lost, walk like you know where you’re going and you belong. Find somewhere safe like a shop or café to get your phone or map out and check where you are.

Don’t loiter on street corners. That rule applies from Brixton, London to Bagdad, Iraq. If you need to meet someone arrange it at a safe café or shop.

Camouflage

Camo is probably not really necessary, but it’s worth blending in. For one thing, if you look like a tourist you’re never going to get good prices at the bar.

Try and wear clothes which aren’t worlds apart from what you see in the street. It’s no fun having to cover up in hot weather, but it’s often worth it. Linen and cotton clothes should help.

A general rule of thumb for traveling is to know a bit about the country and its history. A friend of mine traveled around Cambodia as a fresh-faced 18-year-old.

Neglecting his usual hygiene routines, he spent most of the time wearing a t-shirt which he later discovered bore the hallmarks of the Khmer Rouge’s flag.

Make A Plan

Planning can sometimes take the fun out of things, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can help you stay safe.

A few things you can do include:

Booking your accommodation in advance based on user reviews, keeping a copy of your accommodation’s address on you at all times, planning walking routes and doing detailed research on where you’re going.

You can also keep yourself extra safe by sending your loved ones details of your itinerary, downloading travel safety apps, carrying a safety whistle or a personal alarm, and wearing pickpocket-proof garments with hidden pockets.

Don’t Trust Anyone Too Easily

It’s never your fault if someone makes unwanted advances at you.

Never.

But I know there were certain things I could have done in the past to stay safer on the road.

I’m a friendly person, but I’ve learned to be careful. Nowadays if strangers come up to me in the street I make a quick assessment and ask myself:

“What do they really want from me?’, and “Is it worth the risk?.”

Sometimes you just have to be rude.

Learn To Defend Yourself

Being able to defend yourself is an empowering feeling.

Learning self-defense can potentially put you in a position to flout the received wisdom featured in this article.

Win, win, win.

If you’ve got a YMCA local to you see if they run classes, or try at your local gym.

What tips would you add? We’d love to hear in the comments below! 

Jo Eckersley

Jo is a British freelance writer who has lived in five cities over the last five years, most recently Sri Lanka. Interested in politics, travel, activism and culture, her work has appeared in The New Internationalist, Time Out Sri Lanka and The Big Issue North. You can read more at joannaeckersley.com, or get in touch via Twitter @joeckersley.

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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful tips for the solo female traveler! The key to stay safe while traveling alone is to stay confident. Girls who display less confidence usually become soft-targets. Another tip I would like to add is that girls traveling alone should book hotels that offer good safety. For example, women carry a lot of expensive and valuable stuff like jewelery, laptops, passport and other essential documents. Carrying these things all the time is not possible. Hence, look for hotels which have in-room safes manufacture by reputed companies so that you can be assured that your belongings are safe back in the hotel.

    1. @Irma: Thanks for the tip!

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