For solo female travelers, it’s always a good thing to review (and review again) safety tips for women on the road. Women, especially younger women in their 20s and 30s should not be afraid to travel alone–it’s doable and like most things in life, there is a manageable risk. The best advice I give women (that applies across the board) is to follow the rules and you’ll minimize your chances of running into trouble. These tips might seem like common sense, but if you implement them into your travel style, I guarantee you’ll generally feel safer. Being over cautious might make you feel silly, but your safety is worth it.
I love traveling alone because you see the world differently that you do when you travel with people. If you’ve never tried it, I’d highly recommend planning a one or two-week solo-getaway to test it out. Keep in mind these 10 safety tips, and you’ll be on your way to discovering the world from a whole new angle.
1. Police are not always your friends
Police don’t have the same status, authority, or respect, in foreign countries as they do in America. No way. In most English speaking countries, police officers are alright. It’s the foreign police (who have their country’s interest at heart first) to watch out for.
In Athens, Greece, my friend had her $600.00 camera stolen on the metro. We immediately headed to the police station to report it. When we got there, a police officer took us up past huge concrete blocks to a dank top-floor room outside of a triple barred jail cell (with creepy Greek prisoners leering and cat calling us). He left us to sit on a moth eaten couch for nearly 45 minutes. We had no way out. A huge tattooed guy–leather jacket, dyed blond hair slicked back with oil grease, half lit cigarette chomped between his decaying teeth–came out to retrieve us. The police officers yelled at us and hardly spoke English. After hopelessly filling out a report (which he then tore up in front of our eyes) I grabbed my friends arm and we ran into the elevator and out of the station. Don’t always trust the police, and never walk to a police station alone at night. They are in sketchy areas, and not all police are good guys.
2. Carry a mugger’s wallet
Whenever I travel, I always have a backup wallet with a little bit of spare cash and a few look-alike credit cards. Thankfully I’ve never been mugged, but if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to give up your valuables, give them the mugger’s wallet and get the hell out of there. This way, you save your credit cards and the majority of your cash.
3. Store Money and Documents in Multiple Locations
Always keep your passport and huge cash bills in another location than your wallet. The more “hiding places” you have for your valuables the better. Spreading out your money and documents in your things means (if in the event you are robbed) they will steal less from you. Also, always carry a backup emergency credit card, or two, on your person. And as dorky as they look, passport security belts (these go under your clothes) are invaluable.
4. Take out your headphones
Headphones make you an easy target. You can’t hear anyone coming up behind you, you can’t hear the announcer in the train station. You get involved in the music and before you know it, you’re an easy-mug. Especially at night. Save the earbuds for the actual transportation portion of your trip.
5. If you sleep on public transport, wrap your arms around your bag
If you doze on public transport, wrap your arms around your bag. Never put anything on the floor. If you have valuables (wallets, iPod, camera) stick them down your shirt. You might not feel it if someone opens your bag, but you’ll definitely wake up if someone reaches down your shirt.
The worst possible thing you can do as a solo female traveler is to be oblivious. By being aware, I don’t mean that you have to look over your shoulder every 20 seconds, or travel in fear. You should know who is around you, peg potential threats. And walk confidently. The most obvious identifier that you are a tourist is slumped posture and a tentative approach to your surroundings.
7. Follow your instincts
9 times out of 10, your instinct is right. If you feel threatened in any way, or get “a bad” feeling about a situation, follow that instinct and get out fast. Change your walking path by taking a different street, lock your things up in a hostel locker, don’t trust other travelers with your well-being. The more you travel, the most you’ll hone those instincts. Trust them.
8. Have a backup plan. Always.
Don’t let yourself get lost. Always know where you are, and have at least two plans to get home. If you have to take a night bus, think about the best place to call a cab. Ask questions to the people who run your hostel. They know the city and will most likely give you good information, although again, don’t be too trusting.
9. If you think you’re being followed
Cross the street. Do a 180 turn. Walk toward a well lit area. Head for a group of people. Accelerate. Enter a nearby business. If the person is still following you after you’ve changed your path, turn around and scream “what do you want?” This will probably freak them out, and it sounds silly but the tone of your voice has a lot to do with labeling you as a target, or someone to avoid. If you’re being followed by a car, turn around. It’ll take them a lot longer to turn around and follow you again.
**Never put yourself in a situation where you’re walking alone at night.
10. Research where you are staying and where you are going
Don’t go into a city or book a hostel without researching the crime and safety of the neighborhood first. It takes a few extra minutes online, and you’ll thank yourself later when you show up to check in. In most cases, busy is better. Hostels closer to the city center tend to be busier, more people are around, walking at night in the city center is typically safe and you won’t have to walk far to get home. The further out you stay, the greater chance you’ll have to take public transportation home, alone. Not good.