How do you travel abroad alone? Aren’t you in danger?
OMG! You travel alone? You’re going to get kidnapped or murdered!
Wow, you don’t travel with anyone? I could never do that.
But you are a single female traveling alone. Aren’t you scared?
Over the past three years people have asked these very questions time and time again and I always have roughly the same answer.
No, I’m not scared, but I also make sure I don’t put myself in stupid, scary, and sketchy situations. I make smart decisions. I make sure I am aware of my surroundings and everything ends up fine.
People don’t understand that just because I travel and live in a foreign country, doesn’t mean I’m really in anymore danger than I am back home.
What’s the crime like in your city? Is everything sunshine, puppies and rainbows? Are there no murders? Kidnapping? Rape? Crime in general? NO?! Please tell me where you live! Obviously you live in utopia and I would like to move there right now please.
I’m not sure why people think traveling alone, especially being a solo female traveler, is so scary and dangerous. Now, if I was the type of person who gets hammered and walks down a dark alley alone, or decides at 1am to go for a nice walk down the beach, or perhaps stays in an area where nobody else is except the creepy butcher across the street, THEN perhaps yes, my travels could end up being scary as shit.
I travel smart. That’s all you need to do. It’s not to say nothing will ever happen to me and I’m invincible. I just make smarter decisions to keep myself safer in the situations presented to me at the time. I can’t completely prevent something from happening to me, but I can take measures to deter and avoid bad outcomes. Just like you would need to do anywhere in the world.
Here are some of my tips that I have learned and adopted being a solo female traveler out on the road. I hope they help make you feel more confident getting abroad and traveling!
Go some place where there is a lot of light. This is a given. If you have a few choices for dinner, you choose the closer and more well lit place. If you find it safe enough to wander further, just make sure there are street lights and people on the way home, aka potential witnesses for any sketchiness.
I always have a Lonely Planet on me in case of emergencies. I have been dropped off at weird places in the middle of the night and at a difference place than what I was told. I just grab an official looking taxi if I can find one, and pick a place I want out of the book. A few reasons why I like using these books:
a. The taxi driver will likely know the places in it. The book often has a map or at least a phone number to call for directions if anything.
b. There are likely other places in the immediate area in case the place I pick is full.
c. It’s probably in a decent part of town.
d. You might not have any other choices or ideas except for the ones in the book anyway, so what do you have to lose? Especially if it’s night-time! Just get me to a guesthouse NOW….
(Any guide-book will do. They are not to be followed like a bible. It’s used for ideas, help, maps, etc… in tight situations where you need answers on the fly! I currently use Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.)
Let There Be Friends
Don’t be afraid to make friends so you can travel in numbers. You never know who you will meet abroad. It’s safer to be in groups and of course it’s fun too. On that same note, don’t be scared to ask someone else to go with you some where, like my friend and I did in Nong Kiaw. My friend and I had each other, but still needed more people with us to feel safe enough to walk 10 minutes down a road to get food in the pitch black with rabid dogs around us. I even made a friend on my very first day in Thailand as I was running to the bathroom to puke! I needed him to walk to me to the pharmacy. Not my most glamorous story, that’s for sure, but my new friends did help me!
Make sure to stay in the center of the town or city. Better lit, more things around you, closer to things, taxis etc… If and when you do want to wander off to the outskirts make sure you do a bit of homework and see how it is getting around in the area.
Walk in the middle of the street. Obviously, if the streets are busy you probably don’t have much to be afraid of. However when you are walking alone at night and the streets are empty, walk in the middle of the road. I always think, if someone wants me, they will have to come out in the middle of the street and do it. If I walk down the sidewalks where there are entrances to alleyways and doorways, then I am only making it easier for them.
Know the Know
Do a bit of research before heading out. Know your area a bit if you’re walking around. Just look up the big landmarks so you can get your bearings. If you have a target, check it out on the map a bit before heading out. When you look completely lost, you make yourself more of a target. Of course it’s a new city and you will need to get your map out and ask around. Just don’t be so obviously clueless, especially at night.
Picture it Now
Like the tip above mentions, look out for landmarks. Let pictures help you remember them. Take pictures of the bank you used to draw money, pictures of your hotel sign, roads, and landmarks. This can be used if you forget where you are staying, have issues with your ATM cards, or if you lose your way and need a reminder of some landmarks. You can even show the picture to a local to help in asking for directions if you’re lost.
Walk This Way
Always walk confident. Look around like you know where you are, especially at night. Again, if you look lost and helpless you make yourself an easy target. It’s a new city and you can only take this so far, but do your best by being as prepared as possible. If you’re not, act like it anyway. Head up, body straight, looking around, show people you are paying attention to everything around you and you know what’s up.
On the same note, walk fast. I always do anyway, but when you’re alone and it’s getting dark/already night and you’re trying to just get somewhere, swift walking is best. It makes it look like you know where you are, where you’re going, and making you less of a target.
When you are on the move, make it a point to always arrive during the day. You will have plenty of time to find your accommodation, walk around, get to know the area before dark, and not be stuck in a city or town at 2 am with nowhere to go.
Carry something. Anything. I used to have an asp, which was totally awesome yet not the most convenient thing to lug around with you. I now carry mace on me. It’s easy and small. Just remember to check it in if you are flying.
Know the Dress Code
Dress appropriately for where you are. If you are not sure, carry something to cover up. I like to carry a sarong or scarf. This way if you’re getting weird stares or calls, you can throw it on. Less skin usually lessens the annoying hollering. I know it’s hot in some of these countries, so we want to wear our shorts and tanks tops, but it’s not always a good idea in some places and you will attract unwanted attention.
When you go out at night, make sure you’re at a bar down the street from your guesthouse. Don’t walk too far from your place if you plan on getting drunk. Stumbling down an alley way at night after a few drinks is just a poor choice to say the least.
Always wear purses that cross your body. Also, preferably deep ones that also have a zipper. These are the only ones I wear. It’s nearly impossible for some one to get anything out of there, no less without me noticing. I can barely find my own things! If it goes across the shoulder this will deter people from wanting to grab it off you. In some countries, people on motorcycles will just drive right past you and snatch your purse off your shoulder. If it crosses your body, they will probably target someone else.
To take travel safety to the next level, you may even try pickpocket proof clothing.
Stare ‘Em Down
If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to let them know you are aware of them. I usually see them staring at me, ignore it for a bit, and when they don’t stop, I stare right back. I make sure that they are well aware that I am aware of their creepiness and I’m not afraid… Even if I am.
Same if someone is walking towards you. They might just be walking passed you, actually they very likely are, but just let them know you see them coming and give them a look. People looking to cause trouble prefer the person who isn’t paying attention; a completely unaware victim.
Just Say No
Being a solo female traveler you’re going to get hassled and asked things while you are walking around town. I feel like this is almost stupid to say, but you would be surprised how many people think their invincible while they are traveling…
For the love of god don’t take up anyone on sketchy offers! Many locals (and foreigners for that matter) can be nice and offer things out of the goodness of their hearts, others will offer things that sound good, but put you in bad situations. For example don’t say yes to a random guy outside a bar who offers to drive you home, don’t think walking off with a huge group of local men to have a friendly drink at their bar alone is a good idea, and please say no to the dude who randomly pops up out of nowhere with a drink for you.
I mean, would you say yes to these things back home? If so, you need a reality check before something happens to you. It could be completely fine and innocent or it could end up in a huge mess, or worse, a tragedy. Why take the chance? Who is going to be there if something happens? After all, you are alone. You need to watch out for yourself.
Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything and you should just sit home. It just means to make the right judgments choices. These situations could be risky, so personally I would avoid them.
It just takes being smart and aware to stay safe abroad as a solo female traveler. Don’t be afraid of traveling alone and go for it head on it! So many woman do it and you can too! It’s an amazing and liberating feeling.
If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do. Happy travels ladies!
If you already are a solo female traveler, what do you do to stay safe?
Are you still scared and have doubts?
Share in the comments below and let me know your thoughts!