One of the biggest obstacles that keeps women from traveling solo is a nagging fear of their life suddenly being morphed into some crazy version of the movie Taken.
And while it’s true that plopping yourself down in a new country alone does come with its risks – the world is a much safer and friendlier place than the news would have you believe.
Staying safe abroad really comes down to two simple things: preparation and awareness.
By taking a few simple, proactive steps, you can greatly decrease the risk of finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
After traveling (and living!) solo as a woman in 6 different countries, these are my top tips for a safe experience:
If you are aware of the problems that are being reported, then you can take the appropriate steps to make yourself less of a target and recognize when someone may not have the purest intentions.
This is one of those things that is too often overlooked until you’re in an emergency situation where you need help right now. Before you even arrive at your destination, look up the phone numbers of emergency services and add them as a contact to your phone.
While there’s nothing quite like wandering through a new city with no particular destination in mind, every place has it’s good and not-so-good neighborhoods. Do a little bit of internet sleuthing to figure out what areas are best avoided and when (for example, some places are perfectly safe by day, but you wouldn’t want to find yourself alone there at night).
Building off of tip #3, accommodation is usually cheapest in the areas that are the least safe or desirable. Before booking, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the neighborhood where you’ll be staying. Also, if you opt to stay in a private environment with strangers, such as a shared AirBnb, make sure you have a backup option such as a nearby hotel or hostel where you can go if you get any weird vibes.
If you’re on a budget, hostels are great because they are usually located near the city center or main attractions and sharing a room with multiple people often actually keeps you and your belongings more safe because there is always someone around.
When you’re traveling solo as a woman, safety should be a top priority. That’s why it’s crucial to research the safest transportation options at your destination before you arrive. Sure, it might cost a little extra to take a cab or use a ride-sharing app, but it’s worth it to have peace of mind.
If you do opt for cabs, make sure you know how to find “official” ones at your destination, so you don’t fall prey to scammers or unsafe drivers. I always recommend using ride-sharing apps when possible because they create a record of your ride and track your location in real-time, making it harder for anything sketchy to happen. While Uber is a popular option, it’s important to research what works best in your specific location.
The bottom line is this: if you’re ever unsure whether walking or taking public transport is safe, always err on the side of caution and go for the option that guarantees your safety, even if it costs a bit more.
If you’ve ever landed at an airport only to find that you have ZERO cell reception and no SIM cards in sight, this tip is a GAME-CHANGER!
This will allow to use your navigation even if you don’t have cell phone service or a WiFi connection.
You can find instructions on how to download offline maps using Google Maps here.
This tip is aimed more at those who are traveling solo long-term.
Yes, travel insurance is expensive. Nobody wants to spend money on something that has no tangible, immediate value, buuuut when the time comes that you finally do need it, you’ll be so thankful!
A single incident could be the difference between having to pack up and go home and continuing on your journey. Just the peace of mind that it grants you allows you to have fun, worry-free.
I use and recommend World Nomads because it not only protects you against things like health incidents, but also stolen luggage and trip cancellation. Many credit cards offer travel benefits as well, so be sure to check what perks your card provider has to offer before leaving.
Use your phone’s built in location-sharing or an app like Life 360 to make sure that at least one person who you trust – a family member, partner or friend – is able to see your location at all times.
And if you’re going on a date or hanging out with someone new, be sure to let a friend know so that SOMEONE is aware of who you’re with and knows to check in on you.
If you are walking alongside a road, keep your purse or bag on the side of your body not facing the road.
Once common crime is thieves on motorbikes who swipe bags from unsuspecting pedestrians, then zoom off before you even have a chance to process what happened, let alone catch them.
To avoid this, try to keep a hand on your purse or bag at all times, or keep it securely tucked between your arm and side.
Yes – it will look ridiculous. But, when using crowded public transportation or visiting popular tourist attractions, this will make it much more difficult for anyone to mess with your things without you noticing, as opposed to when it’s on your back and out of your line of sight.
Another option that will earn you far less weird looks, is to use TSA luggage locks or other methods to secure your zippers.
I personally use the PacSafe Metrosafe backpack when traveling which has built-in security features like slash guard protection and zipper clips.
If you’re going to be traveling frequently, it’s well worth the investment!
THIS IS A BIG ONE. Never keep all of your cash, cards and valuable documents in one place. That way, if you ever get robbed or even simply lose your wallet somewhere, you aren’t totally screwed.
I always travel with two debit cards, two credit cards, local currency, emergency cash in USD, copies of important travel documents and my passport.
I take whatever cash and card(s) are needed for the day out with me and leave the rest locked up at home.
Traveling solo is not the time to be the damsel in distress. Pack no more than you can manage on your own. In fact, I recommend bringing only a carry on bag and a backpack regardless of how long you’ll be traveling. (For tips on how to pull this off, check out my post on how to travel long-term with a carry-on only).
In many countries, your designer bag may easily be worth more than someone’s entire monthly salary, so don’t have flashy, expensive items on display.
If you are going to wear expensive items, try to make sure that the logo is prominently displayed.
One of the top ways to stay safe abroad is to BLEND IN. If you’re wearing clothing that isn’t aligned with local culture and values, you can draw a lot of attention to yourself and become a magnet for unwanted attention, ESPECIALLY as a solo female traveler.
Also, blatantly disregarding local dress customs in more conservative places can be seen as disrespectful (and is disrespectful, in my personal opinion).
The last thing you want to do is offend locals whose help you very well may need at some point during your travels.
People tend not to mess with a woman who looks calm, collected and like she knows exactly what she’s doing. Walk like a woman on a mission. Make it look like you belong there even if you have no idea what you’re doing.
If you get disoriented or need to look at a map (which you should already have downloaded if you followed tip #6!), find a park bench where you can casually sit down or a convenience store to duck into while you get it figured out.
As a solo female traveler, carrying a personal alarm that clips to your purse or belt loop can be a great safety measure.
In the unfortunate event that you find yourself in a dangerous situation, the loud alarm can attract attention and potentially scare off any would-be attackers.
Plus, the small size and ease of use make it a convenient accessory to have on hand.
Of course, a personal alarm is just one of many safety precautions you can take when traveling alone, but it can provide an added layer of security and peace of mind.
This is critical, especially when you are new to an area! The last thing you want is to be cut off from the device that serves as both your communication tool and map. If you’re not sure you’ll be able to find a place to plug in your phone, investing in a portable power bank can be a huge help!
Your brain has literally one purpose: to keep you alive.
So if you get a sudden inexplicable feeling that something isn’t right, trust it.
Even if you’re wrong – and sometimes you probably will be – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This is one that I’ve struggled with constantly (curse my midwestern roots!).
I was raised to always acknowledge anyone who speaks to me and to treat others with respect and kindness, but at times this can go too far and quickly escalate from a friendly conversation to harassment or being followed.
Setting and expressing your boundaries is key to staying safe and feeling comfortable while traveling alone.
It may take some practice, but don’t be afraid to firmly and politely say “no” when you need to – your wellbeing is worth it!
If you can tell someone is going to approach you who you don’t want to engage with or if you feel like someone is following you, pretending to be on the phone can be a huge help.
In your pseudo-conversation, try to make it sound like you are meeting someone nearby.
People are much less likely to mess with you if they believe you are expected somewhere or are about to join a larger group of people.
This is probably THE biggest danger in my opinion. At home, you have friends and family to look out for you and you know your surroundings well, but as a solo female traveler – you’re all you’ve really got, so you absolutely HAVE to look out for yourself.
I hope that these tips help you feel more confident in your ability to travel alone safely.
There’s a great big world out there, and there’s something so empowering about setting out on your own to discover it!
Solo travel opens you up to a whole new world of opportunities and friendships that you may not have come across had you arrived at your destination with your tribe in tow.
Don’t let a little fear of the unknown keep you from the biggest adventures of your life!
If you’ve traveled solo previously, what are your tips for a safe trip? Let me know in the comments below!