One of the most common remarks I hear when women travel (either solo or with friends) is about whether or not a place is ‘safe’ enough. These comments are usually accompanied by “you shouldn’t go” or some other form of disdainful criticism. And it really grinds on me.
I totally agree that there are places in the world that are dangerous and there are certainly higher risk factors to consider when travelling, and unfortunately women are more often at a higher risk than male travellers.
But PLEASE. If you are someone who says with the utmost confidence (without actually knowing what they’re talking about) that someone shouldn’t go somewhere – STOP IT NOW.
Trust that these badass ladies who have saved and dreamed and planned to travel have done their research. Most will make mistakes along the way, but that is OK. Support them and encourage them to research and prepare for any obstacles which may present themselves. There is a HUGE difference between caring about someone’s safety and trying to manipulate or control their decisions.
I wouldn’t say I’m widely travelled, not at all, but there have been a few things I’ve picked up along the way which are mostly common sense and can be applied to any female (or male) traveller.
DO PLENTY OF RESEARCH
This is super obvious but no matter where you are travelling, do your research beforehand. Learn what the attitude is towards women in the place you’re visiting and read other women’s blogs about how safe they felt (I love The Blonde Abroad and The Bucket List Bombshells for this). Don’t just blindly accept what other people say (who haven’t been there especially), so take negative feedback into consideration and consider whether you can adapt your plans to make your trip safer.
GO WITH A FRIEND
If you can convince a friend to go with you, I guarantee it will be just as fun if not a more fun experience! Not only is it great sharing travel experiences with friends, but it makes you less of a target for tourist scams or pickpocketing. If not, I recommend staying in hostels and being open to making friends and travelling with people you meet along the way.
This is really a matter of respect towards the culture you are visiting, but nevertheless can also be useful as a safety tip. Some cultures just don’t accept girls wearing swimwear, shorts, or low cut tops, so make yourself aware of what is appropriate.
DON’T GO OUT ALONE AT NIGHT
This one is frustrating because sometimes there are some really cool things to see at night while travelling, like a night market or a sunset beach party. Try to make a friend in your hostel who wants to go with you, or if you are a pair or group of girls, always stick together!
TRY NOT TO GET TOO DRUNK
From personal experience where we were almost mugged on a beach at midnight, maybe have a designated sober friend! Otherwise, just keep your wits about you and don’t put yourself in a compromising position.
KEEP YOUR BAG CLOSE
Whether it’s padlocking your suitcase/backpack in your hostel dorm or keeping your bag on your front and attached to you at all times, do not underestimate how easy it is for your belongings to be stolen. In the example I gave above about almost being mugged, this was not only because it was night and my friend and I were drunk, it was because we put our things down for literally 10 seconds and someone grabbed them (thanks to the Slovakian guy who chased/tackled/retrieved the passports and wallets!). I also wouldn’t recommend putting all your things into one person’s bag if you’re travelling as a group, as it increases the risk of everyone’s things being stolen in one go.
TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE
As a solo traveller it is soooo important to let your loved ones back home know that you are safe and where you are. If you are planning a journey from one city to the next, for example, let someone know what time you are due to arrive and where you will be staying. I also have my parents on Find My Friends, so they can track me provided I have WiFi or data.
SETTLE ON A PRICE FIRST
Before setting foot in a taxi or buying that cute little souvenir, make sure you settle on a price first. The only aggression I have ever faced while travelling was when a tuk tuk driver in Cambodia demanded more money and grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I literally threw a handful of cash at him. The language barrier and how late it was didn’t help the situation, but with hindsight we should have clearly told or showed him what we were willing to pay before getting in.
REMOVE YOURSELF FROM UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS
Do not feel afraid to remove yourself from a situation where you don’t feel comfortable. If your friends at a hostel want to do an activity you aren’t keen on, don’t tag along just for the sake of it. If a local is being super friendly and chatting to you to ‘improve their English’ (a line I have heard many times) just be polite and oblige them, but if they start asking to meet up or ask for your number, politely turn them down. The risk outweighs the benefits in many cases, although this is down to individual situations.
Of course I’m no expert but have a think about these points and if they might help in your situation! Most importantly, do the research and use common sense. Stay safe ladies!