How safe is it for a woman to travel alone? As a solo traveler, I always get asked this question. A simple answer would be yes, it IS safe to travel by yourself, even if you’re a woman.
However, the truth is that there ARE issues that you must take into consideration when you set out to travel, whether abroad or in your own country, alone or with friends. Here are some of the basic safety tips I practice whenever I travel solo.
Let someone know where you’re going.
If you’re the type of traveler with a fixed itinerary, give a copy of it to your family and friends before leaving. Include as much information as you can that would give people a starting point should something happen to you.
When I went on a 70-day solo backpacking trip in Europe, for example, I gave a file of my rough itinerary to my parents, containing the dates, places, names of my hosts, and their contact numbers and addresses. I also included other information, such as the transportation I was going to take (bus, train, or plane) and my hosts’ Couchsurfing profile addresses.
If you don’t have an itinerary and just go with the flow when you travel (as I often do), you can use your social media accounts to keep people updated of where you are. Send an email (or post a status, or tweet) everyday so that people can keep track of your whereabouts.
Distribute your money in your belongings.
Don’t keep all your money in one place. You may think it’s safe to put everything (all your cash, credit cards, passport, and travelers checks) in your money belt because it’s hidden, but consider that thieves nowadays know that travelers have a money belt. If you are held up, you can lose everything in one go!
So, keep some money with you when you walk around, but also leave something in your backpack or other belongings in your hotel. Keep a photocopy of your passport in your backpack or hotel; you can even have a scanned copy in your email for additional protection.
Read up on the place you are visiting for any security issues.
Read blogs or articles online about any specific safety issues of the place you’re visiting. Are there any common scams there that you should know about? Are there any security issues you should be aware of, especially as a woman traveling alone?
When I was in Bangkok, for example, my tuktuk driver told me that the Grand Palace was closed that day, and he would take me somewhere else. If I didn’t read up on Thailand prior to my trip, I would have fallen for it! However, don’t let all you read online prevent you from enjoying your trip. Just exercise common sense and you should be good.
Respect the culture you’re in and dress appropriately.
Again, practice common sense. Do some research before flying into a new country and find out what’s the appropriate attire. If the women around you are fully covered from head to toe, it is not a good idea for you to strut around in your mini-skirt. Respect the culture you’re in and try to blend in your surroundings.
Practice protective behaviors.
One way to practice protective behaviors is to listen to your intuition. Wherever you are, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do you, for some reason, feel uncomfortable in the situation? Don’t bother analyzing why, immediately leave the situation and seek a safer place.
The nervous feeling you have (even though you may not be able to identify the reason why) is your body’s way of telling you there’s something wrong. Listen to your body’s discomfort and seek refuge. I have done it a couple of times during my travels and while I don’t know if I was right, I was happy not to find myself in a situation where I regretted not following my intuition.
Be aware also of your surroundings, especially when walking alone at night or in places where there are not a lot of people. I always walk briskly, and use my peripheral vision to check out whether someone is following me or not. If I have to check the map, I go off the streets.
Don’t deaden your sense of hearing by wearing your headphones while walking around. Don’t get lost in your own world while walking on the streets; it’s an invitation to trouble!
There are many, many advantages of traveling alone. You have the utmost freedom to do what you want, go where you want to go, be with whoever you want to be with. However, as a female solo traveler, you have the responsibility as well to keep yourself safe, and following these tips are just some of the things that can keep you secure in your travels.
Have you traveled alone? What safety tips do you follow?