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As a woman, there’s no escaping from the fact that there are extra precautions you have to take to feel safe during solo female travel and, in fact, everyday life. I’ve been followed home, spat at, catcalled – all of it. When it comes to traveling alone it’s only natural that your fears for safety are heightened. It is, after all, the great unknown.
In recent times solo female travel has become very popular (we can thank Eat, Pray, Love for this). When it comes to the question of whether or not it’s safe for women to travel alone there really is no definitive answer. However, there are loads of simple measures you can take to increase your safety while you’re away.
Whether it’s your first trip, or you’re an avid traveler – you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for a jam packed guide of how to ensure your safety on your next solo female travel adventure!
Do some solo female travel research
Pick somewhere you know other women have travelled alone. If you’ve never travelled by yourself before I’d recommend South East Asia as a great jumping off point. So far I’ve traveled independently to Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, but I still have so many more places to explore!
Do you love the sound of going out and partying in a jungle?
Catching (or at least trying to catch) some waves?
Finding yourself through yoga and spiritual practices?
Sampling some of the cheapest, and most delicious, street food the world has to offer?
Though each of the three countries is unique in their own way, all of them have something for everyone to enjoy. They are also huge tourist hubs for families, couples and solo female travelers alike. No matter what kind of traveler you are you will never be out of place!
Get to grips with where you’re staying
I’m notoriously bad for following directions. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe the fact that I’ve affirmed this to myself so many times. Or perhaps the fact that in my 24 years of existence I still haven’t quite got to grips with the concept of a compass. I don’t know. My skills certainly lie in other areas…
Nonetheless, when I’m traveling alone I always make a point of getting to grips with, at the very least, the name of where I’m staying. That’s easy enough right?
Take a note of where you’re staying on some paper (old school, but phones aren’t always reliable!) If your accommodation has free business cards (usually only hotels not hostels) grab some. Whatever works for you. Then when you want to head back you can easily tell a taxi driver where you need to go or ask someone for directions.
These days with all the ridesharing and mapping apps all you usually need to get by on is a name. It doesn’t hurt to scope out your surroundings though. Knowledge is power ladies!
Don’t get too drunk
I love a party as much as the next girl. That being said, I can safely say I’ve never got to the point of drunk where I’m no longer in control while I’ve been traveling alone in a foreign country.
This doesn’t mean I’ve avoided alcohol altogether, but I advise working out your maximum (before the trip!). When you get to wherever you’re going try not to exceed it.
Always watch your drinks. Don’t accept drinks from strangers, unless you can pick one yourself. If I’m drinking from a bottle I always put my thumb over the top while I’m talking and I never ever ever leave a drink unattended.
Avoid walking alone at night
A woman walking home alone in the dark is an easy target. In fact, anyone walking home alone is an easy target. If you’re not used to the surroundings you’re probably paying attention to a map on your phone and you won’t have your wits about you. Even if you did it’s not like you can politely ask a mugger not to steal your stuff.
The price of a taxi is nothing compared to the price of your safety and well-being. You can’t put a figure on that.
If you feel uncomfortable get out of the situation
I’m a born people pleaser, which is both one of the best and worst things about my personality.
I’m your friend? I love you and I’ll be honest with you. But, if we’re not friends, I’m very conscious of making a situation uncomfortable.
In the past, this has led to me staying in situations for far longer than should have. When you’re traveling by yourself, you can’t afford to be making people happy at your own expense. If something doesn’t feel right and is getting those spidey senses tingling get out!
A prime example of this was when I visited Vietnam last year. I was grabbing an Uber to go meet some girls from the hostel for food. It was raining. There was a car waiting, I checked the license plate and got in.
red flag number one
The driver didn’t seem to know where we were going. Seemed kind of odd because the location is automatically sent to Uber’s built-in mapping system that can be seen before accepting a ride. Nevertheless, I persisted.
red flag number two
The driver turns round shows me on his translation app “I’m not very good at English.” Smiley face. Looks back to me. Real life smile. Starts driving. Nevertheless, I persisted.
red flag number three (there should not have been this many red flags!!)
I’m looking at the route on my phone wherever we are going is not in the direction of the pizza. I bring this up. “Just giving something to my friend”. He pulls up on a street corner and hands this woman an envelope IN THE MIDDLE OF MY RIDE. Nevertheless, I persisted.
red flag number four (probably should be dead by now)
I’m pissed he’s driven us around to go see his friend/drug dealer/whatever. I make it clear I’m annoyed. He cancels the ride. Tells me not to worry, that he’ll take me somewhere. Keeps driving. The next traffic light we stop at I open the door, run out of the car and don’t look back. This some real-life Taken shit right here.
DON’T BE ME IN THIS SITUATION.
Use your common sense. Follow your intuition. If it seems weird always err on the side of caution. Your safety is far more important than pandering to someone’s feelings. You don’t need everyone to like you. Least of all that Vietnamese Uber driver you’re never gonna see again.
Make sure someone always knows where you are
We all like to make jokes about those people who go on holiday and it seems the whole time they’re just getting booty shots on the beach or updating Facebook with smug “How’s your Monday?” statuses. We all like to joke. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, I’ve probably also participated (I’m not sorry). But those updates are also important for your friends and family to know you’re alive and well.
I’m not saying you have to stage a full photoshoot (although it is fun). A few texts to the appropriate parties will do. Just make sure you don’t drop off the map entirely. If you’re going to be somewhere with no signal let people know, or they will worry.
There was a perfect example of this recently. On one of the Facebook travel groups I’m on, a worried mum had shared a missing post of her daughter and her friend. She was worried sick and looking for any information on their last sightings.
The posts went viral.
They made the news.
A couple of days later the girls took to Facebook to explain they’d been at a music festival with no phone signal. They were mortified and rightly so. It’s an easy mistake to make, but don’t be those guys!
Creepy tracking capabilities aside iPhones have a great built-in app called ‘Find Friends’, which allows you to share your location with your friends at all times. I have a couple of people who I trust with the capability of knowing every movement of my life in their palms. Of course, this only works if your phone is on, which leads to my next point.
Keep your phone charged or have a battery pack to hand
A smartphone and exploring a new city where there are loads of beautiful things to take photos of don’t always go hand in hand.
At best that battery will last you a day with minimal usage. At worst the battery will be done before the day is out. I love spending days absorbing new surroundings and really not paying attention to my phone. A few years ago my phone broke while I was on a two and a half week road trip throughout America and I just didn’t bother to get it fixed for that time and I loved it.
However, then I was not alone.
When I’m traveling by myself I always like to keep my phone charged and keep a portable phone charger on me just in case (I like this one by Ankher – it charges ridiculously quick and is nice and compact). You don’t need to constantly be glued to your phone – just let people know where you are. Plus if you need directions, need to call a cab, book an uber – it means you’ve got a way to do it!
Final solo female travel tips
- Some women like to wear fake wedding rings – this isn’t something I’ve done myself but I’m sure they certainly deter some unwanted attention
- I’m all for women wearing whatever they want, but be mindful of a country’s cultural norms
- Pack a padlock or make sure your bag has a lock so you can protect your valuables while you’re traveling/sleeping
- Learn some basic helpful phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting
- Bring more than one bank card and keep them in separate places
- If you carry a shoulder bag make sure to wear it across your body so it can’t be easily snatched
- Don’t flash your valuables around or wear expensive jewelry
- If you’re going in the water use a dry bag to keep your valuables on you
I’ve made some silly mistakes while I’m traveling. At the time I felt pretty stupid. Now, I’m glad I made those lapses in judgment so I can share what not to do! There’s danger everywhere, but there’s no way to ever be 100% completely protected that’s just life.
As long as you keep your wits about you solo female travel can be an incredible, beautiful and empowering adventure. Even sitting at home you could be burgled or there could be a fire. Anything could happen. You just don’t know. Please don’t let fear or anxiety stop you from living your life.
Did I feel like this before I took my first solo female travel adventure?
No, I was absolutely terrified. Through experiencing, learning and meeting other solo female travelers I’ve become more confident. Now the scariest part for me is the turbulence. So if anybody has any tips on that then please share them with me!
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What about you guys? Have you considered solo female travel? If not, why – what’s holding you back?
Let me know in the comments below!