A few years back I was on a train in India and in the row in which I was sitting were four solo female travelers. Two Americans, a Brit, and me, a Canadian.
Yes, women travel solo. A lot!
When I do an interview, which happens just about every other week, the focus is often the safety of solo female travelers.
Is it because I’m a woman? I don’t think so. It seems to be because women are seen as more vulnerable than men. However, in talking to men who travel solo, they often feel vulnerable as well–albeit a different kind of vulnerable. They tell me of being challenged by other men, that it’s a macho thing–some men just like to strut power. It’s foreign to me as a woman but I have had it confirmed by my four sons.
So when I write about safety, while there may be a tip or two that is specific for solo female travel, 99% of it applies to men as well. Yes, traveling solo safely is pretty well the same for women and men but the reasons for concern, the dangers, are different. This is why I offer my tips for solo female travel.
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel & Solo Male Travel
On this site we try to write for all solo travelers. In The Solo Traveler’s Handbook I dedicated about a quarter of the book to solo travel safety and just about all of it pertains equally to men and women. So, whatever your safety concerns, here are my top tips.
- Know your priorities. What’s important is your person, your documents, your money, and your stuff–in that order. This means that you should be willing to protect your person first and throw away the rest if necessary. Or protect your person and your documents but give up your money and your stuff. In a world where there is so much emphasis on money, it’s important to think about your priorities once in a while.
- Do your research. Know the risks of your destination before you leave. Check your government’s travel sites for information on travel document requirements, travel advisories, and other recommendations. Here are links for travel alerts for United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.
- Arrive during daylight. Always plan to arrive in a new destination well before dark. That way, if you are not comfortable with your hotel or hostel, you can change. Also, check out The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide. The guide was crowdsourced from readers and every one of the 223 listings from over 60 countries has been recommended by a real person who has stayed there.
- Keep your accommodation to yourself. Your accommodation is your safe haven. Don’t tell people where you’re staying. If they ask, it’s easy to be vague. Read: Solo Travel Safety: Safe Answers to Common Questions.
- Beware of people who flirt. Alone, out of your home culture where you can read people well, it’s wise to keep people who flirt at a distance. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun but, as per point 6, stay in public, don’t suggest anything that you won’t follow through on, and be mindful that you can’t read the situation well.
- Stay in public. Public is always safer than private. Stay in a public place with people you meet on your travels. In a different culture, on holiday mode, our “spidey senses” may not be on high alert. Being a in a public place keeps us safer. This is what saved me in my situation in Paris.
- Engage others in your safety. If you feel unsafe, draw on the support of total strangers – people of your choice, rather than people who approach you. Look for a family or a couple. Be proactive. Read: My Kind of Strangers.
- Stay in touch with home. Leave your travel itinerary with a trusted friend or family member at home and stay in touch with them should you decide to change it. It’s wise to check in periodically by phone, Facebook, or whatever medium you find easiest to use.
- Protect your documents. Keep your passport and other important documents secure. Have backup copies on you and at home with your trusted contact. Read Protect Yourself from Pickpockets: Keep Cards & Cash Safe.
- Separate your money. Keep money and back-up credit and debit cards in a at least two different places so that if you lose some, you haven’t lost everything. I keep a bit in my luggage which is usually back in my hotel or hostel; some in a purse or backpack, whichever I’m carrying; and some in my pocket.
- Keep it simple. Dress conservatively and don’t flash expensive technology or jewelry. You don’t want to attract attention from the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and there is no doubt that conservative dress, etc., can avoid problems.
- Grab your hotel’s business card. Carry the name and address of the place you’re staying in the local language on a card. This will be helpful if you’re taking a taxi home at night, especially if you don’t know the language.
- Stay sober and well rested. You need your wits about you to stay safe. If you’re not sober or you’re jet lagged or hungover be very aware that your decision-making won’t be as clear as usual.
- Find help for someone who needs help. If someone appears to need your help find someone else to help with you–preferably a local who can read the situation well. There have been instances when the need has been a ploy.
- Be rude if necessary. If you’re being bothered by someone who just doesn’t get the message that you don’t want their attention, be rude and noisy. They’ll usually back away.
- Secure yourself online. Public Wi-Fi is just that: public. Don’t buy things online or do any banking on public Wi-Fi unless you’re using a VPN. Sign up for a month of VPN for just $10 or a year for about $69. Readers of Solo Traveler get a 15% discount on an annual plan. Or read the what, why and how of a VPN with easy setup guide here.
And, the greatest common sense safety tip of all: trust your instincts. Listen to them. If something doesn’t feel right, get out of there.
Below, some additional posts I recommend.
Solo Travel Safety for Women and Men
Here are a few posts from the archives I recommend:
- Solo Travel Safety: who to trust
- Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 15 tips
- Solo Travel Safety: 10 ways to look confident.
- Solo Travel Safety: 5 principles
- Addressing Solo Travel Objection #1: ten safety solutions.