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Safety Tips for Women Solo Travelers: Here are our ten tips.
Here are our 10 safety tips for women traveling solo. Much has been written about how women traveling abroad solo can work to be safer. We look forward to hearing your suggested additions and comments.
10 Safety Tips for Women Solo Travelers: Guides:
- Avoid following the wrong man (or woman)!
- Meet your guide at your hotel or other lodging.
- I learned this the hard way some years ago as a woman traveling solo in Egypt. During a day tour, my guide introduced me to a stables at the Pyramids. I reserved a horse and guide to ride into the sunset. When I arrived at 5 PM, taxis were not allowed up the drive in the evening. I trudged on foot through the sand. At the top, I found a man on a horse holding onto a second riderless horse. I asked if he had been sent by my stables. I was so pleased when he confirmed that yes he had been! Although I had studied Egyptian Arabic for many years, I spoke to him in English. I was shocked riding in the dark with no one nearby when it became clear there was mix-up! This was not my guide from the reputable stables. He was, in fact, just a man with a horse! Luckily, I was able to finish the ride. I made it to the Sound and Light Show a bit shaken but without incident. However, I learned a new lesson.
- In a foreign language and new destination, it is very easy to follow a stranger by mistake. I also found in Thailand I got lost in a crowd and was unable to locate my guide or group!
- If your guide is late arriving, find out if he was delayed by his skydiving lesson! Although I say this in jest, don’t assume you and your guide are on the same page as to safety. On a business trip to South Africa before Nelson Mandela was President, I was the only woman accompanying a group of developers. We walked through what was known as an “informal housing” camp. Our goal was finding ways to provide low-income housing alternatives. I did have some concerns. I tagged along in the back with a dog barking loudly at my heels. When we reboarded the van, one of the developers asked the local driver: “How do we know when it is safe like that?” The driver quickly replied: “That wasn’t safe!”.
- So what was the lesson learned? When you must rely upon the judgment of a local guide, be sure you are on the same page. If your guide was delayed ziplining atop a 50 story building, you likely will want to find a replacement.
10 Safety Tips for Women Solo Travelers: Trains and Subways:
Avoid the Heimlich Hug in train stations and subways.
- The chief problem here? Unlike airports, there is easy access in and out.
- This was really brought home to me in broad daylight in western Europe. I was surrounded by 5 men and women. They were able to get into my purse when the woman behind me gave me a big bear hug causing me to jump. Fortunately, as I always recommend, I had divided up into three places my cash, 2 different currencies and credit cards. The challenge? They managed to steal items worthless to them. Nonetheless, it made my three country Thanksgiving trip something of a headache. They had also swiped my first class train ticket. When it took off to travel through two more countries, I had no ticket. As a result, I was required to buy a new ticket for all cash at two different stops. I had no idea if I would run out of currency and be put off the train unceremoniously in the snow. My overseas plane ticket had not been available as an eticket but paper only. That meant I spent Thanksgiving Day and $34 on taxis trying to replace the hard copy for a $100 fee.
- On return, my travel insurer repaid in full my $211 loss. Still there was no way to be compensated for the time and effort lost from enjoying the trip to solving the problems caused.
Women Solo Travelers Should Watch Out After Dark:
When looking for local nightlife, make certain your round trip pickup really makes a round trip.
- I have found myself at 11 PM in Europe competing with a long line for a taxi. Although it was a safe area, I had not realized that it would be such a real hassle competing to get back to my hotel.
- Although you may not like group activities, many cities have nightlife tours. In Argentina, for example, this could be a safer way to go to late night tango shows and clubs.
10 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Solo: Getting Help:
If confronted by an apparent assailant, yelling “fire” may be more effective than just “help”.
- I recommend adding a whistle to a wrist band worn for jogging or sports. I have one used in “man-overboard” exercises from my prior sailing class. Even if the nature of the emergency is not clear, the shrill noise will attract attention.
- Bystanders may be willing to provide assistance but momentarily stunned. I found this when a footbridge broke beneath me suspending me over the crocodile-filled Zambezi River. Initially, witnesses on a small boat froze but jumped to action when I tried shouting for help in a second language. Fortunately, at the last moment, I was pulled up by both arms to safety over the nearby boat.
Beware of Airport Thefts as a Solo Traveler:
Where certain foreign airports provide separate screening for women, luggage will languish out of sight and unprotected on a public turnstyle.
- Pack accordingly, or as I did. Take your wallet and passport in your outstretched hands for your security check.
10 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Solo: Hotel Safety:
As I discovered on one solo trip in Africa, if a stranger rings your room directly, dial the switchboard to see if they placed the call. The second night in a row that I received such a call I checked with the hotel operator. The call had been placed directly. The hotel relocated me as it meant that someone had targeted my room specifically. If an employee, they might have access to the key.
Check out Taxi Companies at Your Hotel:
Be mindful that not every taxi/taxi company is safe.
- Some years ago as I was traveling alone in Latin America, the US State Department published a warning. This followed a few incidents of women arriving in foreign airports and being assaulted by taxi drivers.
10 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Solo: Social Media and Sports:
Remember even more importantly than at home in your native language, a “friend” you meet-up via social media is likely out of context or absent any way to verify who they are.
- You need to be even more cautious and should only plan to meet in safe, public places where you have your own transportation.
Equally true for men and women alike, in active sports, look for a buddy. Alternatively, join a semi-private class at a higher level than your current skill set.
- I found this out skiing alone abroad and as the 201st (and only solo) group member on a trip to snorkel/dive in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. When a buddy was strongly recommended for the latter, I was a “Group of One”!
We look forward to your feedback and tips from your own travels around the world.