There’s no denying the world feels like a really scary place right now. Really scary.
I don’t want to use this space to discuss the details of the recent tragic news stories – there’s enough people writing about these topics out there who are far more qualified to do so than I – instead, I want to use it to share some safety tips for women traveling solo.
I’m a firm believer that every woman needs to take at least one solo trip abroad. The experiences, lessons, memories and relationships you encounter while traveling solo are unequivocal and can’t be compared to trips you might take with family, friends or significant others. The world, I found, also tends to feel more welcoming, safe and all around magnificent when you are out living in it, versus watching it from behind a screen.
Though solo travel has become second nature to me, I understand the intimidation factor the term can carry. The thought of traveling alone can be quite daunting, especially if its something you’ve never done before. If fear is stopping you from experiencing the trip of a lifetime, here are safety tips to consider when planning your solo trip.
Be Aware of the Risks
The common risks women traveling solo face are not different from the risks they face in their own country, city or home. The only difference is that you’re in a foreign country, with a language barrier, streets you’re unfamiliar with and a culture that is new to you. Being aware and understanding that the risks change from country to country gives you the upper hand and keeps you alert to potential issues.
Before you go, check the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs for travel alerts and warnings. Do your own research to find risks that are endemic to a specific area. For example, traveling to Brazil puts you at high risk of credit card fraud and ATM scams, so it’s important to monitor your bank statements and use cash when possible.
Keep Your Belongings Safe and Travel Lightly
Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s a good idea not to take too many valuables. Avoid sporting expensive jewelry and brand name purses or coats. Never flash people your money. Only take what you need for the day, and it’s a good idea to hide money or valuables in several different spots on your body, including a cross-body purse, money belt, shoe or bra.
When you leave your accommodations, make sure all windows and doors are secured and locked. It’s a good idea to lock up your bag or store it in lockers if they’re available. Don’t hesitate to ask the front desk to store valuable belongings in their safe while you’re gone.
Safeguard Your Identity
Keep copies and records of everything that’s important in case your wallet or purse gets stolen. Always keep hard copies of your passport, visa, credit/debit cards, driver’s license and medical insurance. You also should save digital copies on a smartphone, such as the LG G5, that allows you to connect to a cloud storage provider in case your phone is lost or stolen.
When you’re out and about, only carry what you absolutely need and leave extra credit/debit cards or identification cards at your accommodation. Never carry anything that shows your Social Security number, and file a police report as soon as possible if anything is stolen or if you notice fraudulent activity on your accounts.
Adopt the Local Culture
A good rule of thumb when traveling solo is to not draw extra attention to yourself. This can be achieved by dressing and acting like a local. Educate yourself on the local culture and etiquette before arriving and try to blend in with the clothes you wear, the way you interact with others and the way you eat.
In conservative countries or when visiting a religious site, it’s a good idea to wear long pants and a long sleeve (or quarter sleeve) blouse. Carry a pashmina or scarf to cover your head and shoulders if need be.
Take into account how people greet each other differently in countries and stick to the local norm. For example, for most countries in Europe and South America, it’s customary to embrace and exchange kisses on the cheek. In more conservative countries, such as Qatar, most men and women do not shake hands with the opposite sex.
And there you have it- my safety tips for women traveling solo. Fellow solo travelers, what do you have to add? Let me know in the comments below.