For years women have been travelling the world for business and pleasure safely and successfully. As much as we don’t like to admit it women can be more at risk than men and knowing how to avoid tricky situations should be a priority.
If you need to travel with business or wish to set off on a solo adventure what you need to do is to prepare well to create conditions that give you a safe and hassle free trip.
What are the main concerns for a solo female traveller, theft, violence, feeling vulnerable or will I be lonely?
Very often business travel is less fraught than personal journeys, as expenses are paid for by the company, you have a set itinerary, and are expected at the hotel or meeting. But as organisations trim their budgets,very often business travellers face the same issues as women holiday makers. The woman traveller can always be vulnerable.
Here are some tips to protect yourself without restriction as a solo woman traveller
Preparation and Planning
Plan your trip or tour before you set off, use guides books and research, research, research! Choose a hotel in the safe part of the city centre or if you are using a hostel look for a female only hostel. I would recommend an itinerary with all your travel information set out, bus and train times and numbers, address’s and street names of visitor sites and hotels. Have some idea of the travelling times of each journey so you are not arriving in an unfamiliar place after dark. Knowledge is power, the more you know and understand about a country or area that you are visiting the more confident and in control of your well-being you will be.
Always carry a mobile phone, make sure you inform your network provider that you will be using the phone abroad. Maybe invest in a mobile battery power supply, they can be as small as a lipstick, in case your battery runs out at a crucial time.
Tell someone where you will be at all times, and agree a check in system. Leave an itinerary with someone at home with the dates and hotel information where you will be staying, if you change your plans let them know too.
Be street savvy
Only carry a small amount of cash, and use credit cards. Make sure you have informed your bank that you are travelling otherwise bank security may well block the use your credit cards abroad. Make a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in the hotel safe. Also add a map, a guidebook, and if needed maybe a dictionary or phrase book.
Do not have an expensive looking handbag, you will become a target to a thief. Use a bag which can be zipped up and your valuables not on show. Never walk around with earphones in, you are less aware of what is going on around you. Walk purposefully with your head up, smile, be confident and look like you know where you’re going. If you need to ask for help or directions, go into a shop or café. Study your map discreetly, not on the roadside, this will send out a big signal for vulnerability.
Use cash machines in busy centres during the day. Be careful that your PIN number is kept secure. Split your cash into small amounts and store them in separate places – your shoes, different pockets, in your bra or even in a body purse.
Take care on public transport
Planning again is essential, make sure you know the route, the bus or train times and if you are taking a taxi, ask the hotel to call one for you.
When taking the train, avoid empty compartments and choose one with a family or where it is busy. If travelling overnight you can buy bunks in compartments, not always ideal, but may be necessary, again keep all your valuables on you at all times.
Public Transport is prime target for pickpockets, never carry anything in your back pockets, or in the front pocket of a rucksack, you can always turn the rucksack around and wear against your chest in these situations. Pickpockets work in groups, men and women, one may well bump into you while another is helping themselves to your purse or camera!
If you use a taxi it is essential you use a registered provider. By no means get into unmarked cabs! Note the licence plate number and keep your phone handy, even pretend to have a ‘conversation’ with someone you are meeting at the destination.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the places you are visiting. Respect the local culture for dress code, this will be in your travel guide and prepare for this before your journey. Wear comfortable shoes for sightseeing and in case you need to get moving quickly or even make a run for it. Expensive jewellery will again make you a target.
It is a great idea to join a group if you can for sight seeing, you will find at most tourist sites there are mixed groups and individuals on tours. You can always hire a guide, the hotel concierge are a wealth of information and would be happy to organise this for you. A tour guide is a great way to have knowledge, transport and a safe environment to be in. There may be other solo travellers at your hotel who would welcome sharing a guide for a day. Always avoid walking alone at night especially in dubious neighbourhoods. The hotel concierge will tell you the no-go areas. If someone bothers you, speak very loudly making eye contact, and make it clear that any attentions are unwelcome.
If there is any serious situation, make as much noise as possible and you could carry a rape alarm. Go to the nearest hotel or café until the nuisance has disappeared. Always have the emergency numbers for the country you are travelling in, just in case.
Wear a real or fake wedding ring
If someone bothers you, say your waiting for a friend/partner/brother – it doesn’t matter. Always maintain eye contact and be confident, even if you don’t feel it at the time.
There is nothing like a wonderful holiday romance or even a chance encounter when on a trip, but we do want you to be safe. Make sure you take all the necessary precautions to meet in a public place. Leave a note in your room with details of the person you are meeting and where. Make sure your phone is always charged and always have enough cash for a cab. If that sounds a bit paranoid – better to be safe than sorry.
Travelling should be fun so enjoy the experience. If you feel vulnerable in a certain place, listen to your instincts and try to join up with another group of travellers, or move on to your next destination. Most solo travellers have no trouble abroad and if you listen to your gut instinct and be aware of your surroundings, you won’t either.