Especially women travelling alone have to be extra careful. Sadly, this world is no happy fantasy land with peaceful unicorns flying about and rainbows in the sky. However, just because there is bad stuff happening in the world doesn’t mean you should hide away from it.
Travelling alone entails so many beautiful freedoms, such as meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t have, going places a travel buddy might have been bored with or just being able to do whatever you want on any given day.
It’s a definite confidence booster. But it also brings some uncertainty and insecurity with you. So here are my safety tips for women travelling alone.
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Women Travelling Alone Have to Rely on Themselves
Who watches your back when you put down your bag? Who guards your valuables when you go for a swim? Safety in numbers and all of that is fair enough, but what if you are one of the many women travelling alone? Sadly enough, a female travelling by herself is still seen as in danger. Or as easy prey. Or as a curious thing (don’t even ask me about all the weird questions we women travelling alone get a lot).
However, nothing of this should ever hold a woman back from travelling. You should read up on general travel safety, about stranger danger, water safety and what to do when you fall sick abroad. But for extra measure, here are 18 vital tips for women travelling alone.
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Don’t Keep to Yourself – Tell and Ask Questions
- Share your travel plans with family and friends: It gives both them and you more peace of mind knowing when they can expect their women travelling alone to arrive in certain places and they can kep better track of you in case something happens.
- Check with your host which areas are safe and which aren’t, you wouldn’t want to walk into a gang fight zone even be it night or broad daylight. Locals know best.
- Have a fully charged phone with you with screenshots of maps and routes or apps that have full on maps saved in case you cannot access wifi
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Looks Count – Dress Smart and Confidently
- Don’t walk around alone after dark and avoid empty and/or unlit streets. If you can, stick to streets with CCTV recording and lots of people.
- Women travelling alone shouldn’t dress too flashy or provocatively. Sadly, that still often is seen as an invitation and often an excuse for victim shaming. Also, it shows respect for local customs and helps you to better blend in and look more like a local.
- Wear comfortable shoes in which you can run in. High heels make you look sexy but also like an easy target. Or maybe you want to use the heel as a weapon. But are you really that fast?
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Don’t Share too Much
- Don’t flash your valuables; hide expensive items in an unimpressive, crumbled grocery bag rather than in a (fake) designer purse when you are out.
- Don’t reveal personal information, details on your itinerary or that you are alone to strangers. Even when talking with friends in public be aware that you might be overheard.
- Wear a fake wedding ring. It doesn’t matter if you are single or not, wearing a wedding ring actually puts off a guy or two. And it doesn’t scream women travelling alone! You could always take it off if there’s a guy you would want to tell you’re available.
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Be Prepared for the Worst
- Carry a personal Screaming Device or a Storm Whistle with you in unsafe surroundings. Pepper spray is banned in many countries and you probably won’t have time to pull it out anyway.
- Know where the next safe place would be, such as open supermarkets, petrol stations or – even better – police stations.
- Ignore unwelcome remarks and catcalls. If you start complaining or telling the rude dude off, they might feel thwarted in their manliness and come at you even more. Don’t give them the attention they seek as much as you would like to hit them.
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Avoid Being Completely Alone
- Join tour groups or (free) walking tours in your new city to get to know it without being alone. Some areas you should only enter with knowledgable local. Again, ask at the reception or tourist information.
- Always meet strangers in public places and tell someone you trust about it.
- Arrange a fake call or install an app that does it for you in case you want to leave.
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Don’t Be Too Trusting
- Don’t accept car rides, food or drink from strangers. (Watch your drinks and don’t get drunk)
- Always watch out for your food and dink on top of that as we all know that putting knockout drops into drinks happens too often to be comfortable about it.
- Only use taxis with a metre and registration or have your accommodation call an official driving service.
- Learn basic self-defence (check out these self-defense techniques for travel)
- In case you are threatened by a robber, don’t play hero, but give over your wallet – or throw it to the ground and run for the hills.
- If you are getting into your car, only unlock when you are at the door and lock yourself in once inside. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to secretly slide in (and don’t get into your driver’s door if someone happens to be waiting in their car next to your door).
- Don’t let down your guard when you walk around. Have a good view of your surroundings and keep your ears and eyes free (no walking while texting or listening to music on loud).
- Download offline maps and store important numbers in your phone (better yet: have them on speed dial). Check if there is a local ‘Call to Safety’ number to use when walking alone and to be tracked.
- Trust your gut and listen to your instincts.
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I hope you now have some more tricks up your sleeve to stay under the radar and travel safe and secure as a female solo traveller. If you are travelling to dangerous countries, reserach and preparation are key. Otherwise, don’t be scared, be prepared!
Pineapple Cat says
These are really good ideas! Thank you for sharing these!!
Annemarie Strehl says
Hi Elena, I am really happy my tips were helpful. I believe it shouldn’t be as terrifying to travel alone as a woman as it is often perceived to be. Sadly, we do have to take more precautions but knowing these give a lot of confidence. :)
Rosemary David says
Wow, this is a great and helpful tip. Thanks for sharing.
Annemarie Strehl says
Hi Rosemary. Thank you for our comment. I am happy it was helpful to you. We solo travelling ladies need to look after our safety. :)
Great tips Annemarie. Thank you for sharing.
As a traveler and a womens self defense instructor I’d like to share a tip of my own which I hope your female readers will read, remember, and share with many other women in their lives.
I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years and we teach a very effective technique which I feel should should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and there is an extremely effective technique what we teach to women of all ages, which I feel we should all share as far and wide as possible.
The technique is the “groin grab” self defense technique which is to be used against a male attacker, which is now taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…
To execute this technique, you’re going to take your hand and quickly grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Quickly grab hold of, or snatch the testicles and dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.
Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. DO NOT LET GO OF THEM. This is very important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. DON’T. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. If he initially starts to fight back then you tuck your head in and keep squeezing his testicles until he faints. This only takes a matter of seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.
It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.
If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. We, as women have no part of our bodies as vulnerable as a mans testicles. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack by a woman. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men who are very uncomfortable with thoughts of women beating them in combat) try to convince you otherwise.
I once worked with a group of Somali women who informed me that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters between generations shared this powerful method of fighting off men. They even have a name for it in Somalia and they call the move “Qworegoys”. They were surprised that women in the West didn’t seem to share this information as much as they expected, and even more surprised that most women didn’t even seem aware of this technique.
I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many Women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.
Annemarie Strehl says
Wow, Helen, that was powerful. I have never heard of this before, so thank you for sharing it. It was a bit uncomfortable to read, I agree, but like you said, it’s important to be aware of this.
This is insulting. Women: be aware of your surroundings and don’t be stupid. Literally all you need to do as a solo traveler.
Annemarie Strehl says
Hi Rachel, how is insulting? I am sorry, I do not understand. So you’re saying precautions are stupid and women travelling alone is no different than men travelling alone? I would appreciate to hear your experience of travelling the world by yourself as our experiences seem to be rather different.
I have hosted several groups of (usually older) women to several European cities. One thing I always request is that they bring several keys on a ring and a stick ink pen. We do not party at night but occasionally must walk to our hotel after dark. They spread the keys between their fingers to act like brass knuckles in one hand and have their ink pen ready to jab someone in the other hand. Primitive weapons but better than nothing at all.
Annemarie Strehl says
Hi Gail, thanks for your comment. That is a pretty good idea. I haven#t heard of that one before. Thank you.
Hi Annemarie. I travel solo quite a bit, and your points are very similar to my own practices. In some countries, a woman on her own is seen as ‘fair game’ by men. It is easy to be taken by surprise by their boldness. I have even had restauranteurs and tour guides hit on me quite persistently when they see I am on my own.
The advice I would add is: Don’t worry about offending your ‘admirer’; he tries it with many women, hoping to get lucky. If you let him know he’s wasting his time, he’ll normally leave you alone.
I’m not saying to avoid contact with people around you, just learn to spot the predators. I was sitting at a cafe in a piazza last week, and a well-dressed man came up and sat at the table next to me. He was looking, actually staring, at me, but I ignored him and continued reading. He soon asked me if I had a light for his cigarette – that old chestnut! I said no and went back to reading, but he persisted in trying to engage me in conversation. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I politely, but firmly, looked him in the eye and told him I wished to be left alone. He smiled, shrugged it off and went in search of his next target.
1. The predator will ask questions to determine if you are on your own. I don’t like to lie to people, but I say that I’m joining my travel companion shortly or something to give the impression that I am not travelling alone.
2. If they persist after being asked politely to leave you alone, feel free to convey the message in less polite terms. As Annemarie also advised, though, try to do it in such a way as to avoid emasculating him.
3. Make sure you stay in well populated areas afterward and that you are not followed.
4. It would be very rare that the situation escalates to the level where he refuses to leave you in peace. In that case you know he’s a psycho and should get an authority involved.
Annemarie Strehl says
Hi Gwen, thank you for chipping in. Your points are very interesting. It is true that you have to be on your guard much more and be bolder with rejections. You have to look after yourself, so stand up for yourself. And it is good you stress that overboarding fear is not good. Trusting your gut and learning to spot ‘predator behaviour’ is important. So thank you for boiling it down to these three points! Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for your very useful post. I will try to apply these tips.
Annemarie Strehl says
Thanks for your nice comment. I am glad I could be of help. Even though the blog post is targeted at women, the tips are basically universally applicable.
Doreen M Cervenka says
As a flight attendant, these ARE very helpful. Thank you. Think I may add a few tips I’ve learned thru the years. Crew look out for each other, but when I’m alone, as SOON as I enter my hotel room I call the front desk and have them on the phone while I check the tub, under the bed, behind curtains, in the closet etc for intruders…. I usually hand the front desk a note upon check in to let them know my plans regarding the call.
Never EVER say your room number aloud for others to hear. If the front desk says it to you as they rarely, but can, do while handing you your room key kindly request a new room .
Some hotels are a maze. Double tree Hotels in particular are confusing. When I get to my room, after checking for intruders, bed bugs etc… I point a pair of shoes, by the door, in the direction of the elevator. This Saves me a LOT of unnecessary trips the wrong way only to come to a dead end. Hope these help!
Wow, Doreen, these are amazing tips! I’ve never even thought of checking for intruders or placing shoes in the direction of exit. So smart! Thank you for sharing these. I will include them to tell other women as well.
Great article! I love travel blogs. I had a good time browsing your website. I don’t leave very often remarks, but you deservingly get a thumbs up! Looking forward to the latest one.
Hi Lhynzie, thanks for your lovely comment. I greatly appreciate you taking the time. :)