Solo Female Travel Safety Tips
After more than seven years of travel, I have definitely come to realize that solo travel is different for women than it is for men. Though there are certainly a few more travel safety concerns, there’s definitely no need for panic! I often choose to stay in the cheapest accommodation I can find, I travel on local busses and I visit developing countries. So, how do I protect myself on the road? Well, mostly I use common sense. I avoid dangerous neighborhoods and I don’t put myself in scary situations while I travel. Here are a few other things that I do to feel safe while traveling solo.
1. I don’t drink alcohol.
While this may sound too extreme for you, many of the worst travel nightmares can be prevented if alcohol is not involved. Though I would never blame the victim of a crime, I think it’s important to at least monitor your intake. Having been both a party traveler and a sober traveler, I can tell you firsthand how many sketchy situations can be avoided. As an added bonus, traveling sober gives me the opportunity to remember all of the places I’ve been to and all the things I’ve done!
2. I act like I know what I’m doing.
Many solo female travelers will say that they do extensive research on a place before ever visiting. That’s never been my style. I really enjoy figuring things out as I go. So what happens when I arrive in a new city and I don’t know up from down? I act like I own that place. I dress conservatively and I get into the mindset of someone who has lived there for years. The worst thing you can do when you’re lost, scared and alone is to act like you’re lost, scared and alone.
I carry mace. I learned Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
I used to carry mace. Now I have all the skills I need and confidence in my physical ability to defend myself in a worst case scenario. I can hold my head up high walking down the street alone. Ladies, please read What I Wish All Women Knew about Self Defense!
4. I have a fake wedding ring.
If you’re traveling in the Middle East, you definitely want to have one of these, but in other countries it has also helped me to deter some unwanted male attention. When I hiked the Napali Coast alone, I wore the ring the whole time – I wanted people to know that someone would be looking for me if I went missing.
5. I have an unlocked phone and I buy a sim card wherever I go.
I was able to get my iphone unlocked by getting a code from this website. Every country I go to, I buy a prepaid sim card for around $10. The rates are different in each country, but you can usually recharge the prepaid cards at many convenient locations. Being able to quickly check in with my family on WhatsApp or Skype is incredibly important. If I am ever in a place where I will not have service for a few days, I let them know beforehand. I detail exactly where I will be, who I will be with and what I will be doing. I give them an expected return date and a panic date. The more details the better.
>Read: Cuba Planning, What I Wish I Knew!<<
6. I keep all of my important travel documents in my dropbox.
Passport, driver’s license and credit cards. If any of these items go missing I can still access them at any internet café in the world.
7. I have travel insurance with World Nomads.
I have (thankfully) never had to make a claim, but they cover the “oh shit” moments like when you need to be helicoptered out of the jungle with a broken leg or when your electronics get stolen. Many of the long term travelers I know use this insurance and I have heard amazing reviews from people who’ve made claims.
8. I use google maps on my phone to follow the route.
In most of the countries in the world google maps works perfectly, especially in the larger cities. Before landing in a foreign country where I will not have service, I load the map area on my phone and I mark off the hotel where I’m staying and other important landmarks with stars. Even without service, the GPS on my phone works and I can always see if we’re heading in the right direction while riding in a cab or on a bus.
9. I have someone watch my stuff when I go swimming.
Mostly if I’m at the beach, I’ll take little cat naps with my backpack under my head. If I decide to go for a dip in the ocean, I will ask someone to watch my bag for me – of course making sure that the person I choose looks reliable (older couples, fellow travelers, people with kids, etc).
10. I stash cash and keep all of my important belongings with me.
I have a big backpack with all of my clothes and travel gear, and a smaller “front-pack” with all of my electronics, valuables and my passport. When going on long bus rides, I always have my most important belongings in my sight. I stash cash in both bags in case either of them get stolen.
I would also like to note a few tips that I’ve heard before that I actually don’t recommend because I think that they are BAD advice.
- “Avoid countries or entire regions that have been issued travel warnings by the US Dept. of State.” If I listened to every single warning listed, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. Last year after the attack in Paris, they issued a “worldwide” warning. Great. That’s helpful. NOT. These guidelines are more to CYA rather than help out travelers looking for advice. Even dangerous countries may have a safe zone.
- “Don’t sleep on any bus or overnight train.” What?! This advice is ludicrous to me. It’s much better to be well rested in case a scary situation presents itself. Of course, make sure you only fall asleep if you are comfortable with your surroundings, but you probably shouldn’t travel if you are so fearful of everything.
- “Never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.” There are definitely parts of the world where hitchhiking is pretty safe. This was one of my main modes of transportation in the Virgin Islands when I lived there for nearly four years. Be weary of any travel tips that paint the entire world with such a broad brush.
- “Keep your guard up and don’t trust people.” One of the most important parts of traveling the world is getting to know people who are different from yourself. Yes, use common sense, but don’t arrive in a country with the assumption that everyone is out to get you – that’s BAD advice.
So why do I travel solo? Because I don’t want to wait for anyone! If there’s a place that you’re dying to visit, don’t wait for someone to join you, just do it. Solo travel has led to the most rewarding experiences in my life. Though these safety tips are my recommendations, they are not rules – and every traveler is different.
In seven years of sauntering all over the planet I have realized that people are generally good. The whole world, despite popular belief, is not actually out to get you. In fact, most people want to help you rather than hurt you!
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