5 Safety Tips for Female Solo Travelers: Over two decades, I have explored the remote islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, skied an active volcano, dodged epidemics and navigated a low-grade civil war. I fought off muggers in broad daylight in Europe and barely missed being a feast for crocodiles. Aside from the latter, many safety issues worldwide are the same as those that exist at home. However, when jetlag combines with an unfamiliar setting, a traveler may become easy prey.
Although I have come through my travels unscathed, we women solo travelers need to be realistic about safety. From my repeated sojourns, I have gleaned a list of practical considerations.
5 Safety Tips for Female Solo Travelers: Arrival:
For arrival in areas with political unrest or high levels of crime, before leaving home, plan transportation from the airport to the hotel.
- When booking a hotel, arrange for an airport pickup. Not all taxis are a safe option.
Choose a place to stay carefully.
- There have been security issues. Having stayed in a hotel that had been bombed, it was comforting that their enhanced security rivaled an airport’s.
- Guestroom levels are open to the public or do elevators require key access.
- ATM’s or check cashing facilities exist within the hotel.
- Room numbers of guests are available to anyone on staff or visiting/calling the hotel.
- Restaurants or room service serve 24/7 so you are not left wandering the streets looking for dinner.
Even if you have a hotel with a top restaurant, eating-in every night misses the point of sampling the cuisine and nightlife of a new destination. Traveling alone in Cairo, I was able to pay a taxi to wait for me while I had dinner. This is not often affordable: In Paris or New York, for example, this could equal the cost of a domestic flight.
If a taxi leaves you at a restaurant, arrange a return pickup and get a mobile phone number.
Carry your hotel’s number as well since they can generally call a taxi. Be prepared for a delay so don’t wait until closing.
5 Safety Tips for Female Solo Travelers:
Don’t go alone to remote locations.
- Seeing ancient ruins or waterfalls off the beaten path are a real joy as I found standing alone at the Boer War Memorial in a vacant park in Johannesburg. Not a great idea as you have no back-up: When in doubt, take a reliable local guide. Beyond crime, if you go it alone and your rental car breaks down or you sprain your ankle in a canyon, how do you get help?
- If you are planning to walk around at night, check with women that work at the hotel if there are areas to avoid. Staying in a crowd is usually the best protection. However, if you are suddenly stuck in an empty street, making noise can ward off attackers. I carry a sailing whistle on my keychain. Its shrill screech would draw a crowd whether of rescuers or local residents enraged by the ear shattering sound.
Split up your cash/credit cards before putting them in hard to reach places (and watch out for currency controls).
- Be sure to use a money belt and in cold weather wear a shoulder bag under a coat or sweater. Pickpockets often work in tandem; one distracts you while the other robs you. In both Barcelona and Buenos Aires enterprising pairs spray a liquid on a tourist’s jacket. They then point to low flying birds as the culprits. One traveler I know experienced this same scheme in both countries.
- Remember that unlike airports, the open access in train stations makes a tourist encumbered by luggage a target for petty robbery.
- Another way your travel funds can disappear: In a foreign airport transit lounge, I found that having failed to complete a currency form I could lose almost all my cash as a fine. Having never left the airport, this was really curious. Don’t fall into this trap: check out currency restrictions before arriving.
5 Safety Tips for Female Solo Travelers: In Turbulent Times:
Stay clear of political protests, and avoid a stay in the local jail.
- In countries experiencing political unrest, it is hard to know when a crowd will become violent. If you choose to be a spectator, give yourself room to get away.
- In Russia, I followed a band of other tourists crossing the icy Neva River enroute to the famous Fortress. I later discovered it was illegal so don’t assume what you see others doing is the right way to go.
- Before a business trip in Dubai, I found on the Internet that 200+ drugs, even prescriptions, could result in a mandatory jail term. Do a little research before traveling not just about what to bring but also what to leave at home.In any case, my greatest travel hazard was dodging crocodiles in Zimbabwe when a small bridge broke beneath my feet. That unique experience aside, I encourage other women to explore as many diverse cultures as can be crammed into one lifetime. (However, always let someone else try out the gangplank first!)