Travel Gossip: Safety as a Solo Female Traveler

As a teenage girl traveling by herself, I've gotten many questions: Are you scared? Don't your parents worry about you? Why alone? How do you stay alive? You're staying at a hostel?! While I take my safety very seriously and am always careful and alert, sometimes these questions make me want to bang my head on a wall. So for all you non-solo travelers, new travelers, and even those veteran solo women globe-trotters: here's safety tips and tricks from some of the coolest women on the blogosphere.

Moriah Kent at Global Girl Gone

Moriah Kent

What is your best travel safety tip?

The best piece of travel safety advice I can give is to not walk around with earbuds or headphones. You are cut off from sounds that can alert you to danger or strange going-ons. It’s safer to walk around a new place with all of your working senses on guard so that you can be aware and protect yourself.

Do you consider some countries unsafe for solo female travelers? If so what is your criteria for determining this?

Yes, there are countries that I consider unsafe for solo female travelers, however, it has yet to stop me from traveling to them. The criteria I use to judge the safety of a destination includes statistics of yearly reported rapes of both local and foreign women; I take into account the general attitude towards women in a country (based on religious and cultural beliefs); I also read the travel warnings provided by the US State Department. As a solo female traveler, I would avoid places where there are high reports of abduction, rape, or harassment, unless I found a group of other travelers to venture there with or I would take all of the precautions possible, if I had to be someone alone that felt unsafe.

What is the most sexist/most common sexist question you've been asked when talking about solo travel?

“Are you alone?” is the question I have been asked most frequently that feels sexist depending on the person asking and what I perceive as their intent for asking. Often, this question carries the weight of assumptions such as: “You’re alone and female and therefore, you must stupid or unaware of how to take care of yourself, so I shall now attempt to take advantage of you”. And, yes, I do get all that from those three little words (not every time, but enough times for it to make me groan in annoyance and move away quickly).

Any stories about times you have felt unsafe or threatened and what you did in that situation?

Once upon a time, I lived in Japan for three years. Within the first year, I was visiting another person in my prefecture who lived in a more rural area. On my way home, I was waiting at a secluded bus stop at 8:00 in the morning with my earbuds in. A local man also happened to be at this bus stop. This local man thought it would be a fantastic idea to whip out his junk and walk inches away from my face with it fully erect. My heart began racing when I realized what was happening and after rearing my head back in immense disgust and literally yelling “UM. OK. NO!” I grabbed my cell phone, opened it, and started filming. Pointing my cell phone in the direction of this flasher was enough to scare him into the field across the street, but the aftermath left me feeling violated, scared, and embarrassed. I recovered after acknowledging it and talking with friends about it, but I still to this day feel lucky that that man had not tried to rape me, and I have since tried to educate myself in the way of self-defense and protection.

Find more of her at:

Facebook: /Moriah-Kent Twitter: @global_moriah

 

Kari at Words and Other Such Things

KariRedmond

What is your best travel safety tip?

I believe common sense and trusting your instinct are the best safety tip I can provide. I tell my mother every time I take off to a new, even more dangerous than the last country destination that all the horrible things she fears could happen in Colombia, Honduras, or Cuba could just as easily happen right here in the little town I live in, were it not for common sense.

Do you consider some countries unsafe for solo female travelers? If so what is your criteria for determining this?

I do not think some countries are more dangerous than others. I believe some people are smarter and more experienced than others. They are the successful travelers.

What is the most sexist/most common sexist question you've been asked when talking about solo travel?

I’ve not really heard too many sexist comments, other than, ‘what’s a pretty girl like you doing traveling around here,’ which I don’t think is all that sexist, more naïve.

Any stories about times you have felt unsafe or threatened and what you did in that situation?

I’ve been in several sticky situations, mostly due to recreational pursuits. My best advice is to simply comply. Do whatever ‘the bad’ guy asks- give him your money, your phone, your purse and walk away unharmed.

 

Beth Gregory at International Playgirl

bethgregory

What is your best travel safety tip?

It is really important to research the area you are visiting beforehand. Knowing what the local customs and belief systems are, if there are any common scams in that area or other dangers to be aware of may save you a lot of trouble. Research sounds boring but it’s useful. Many people have ended up out of pocket or worse because they didn’t know about the risks in the city or country they were traveling to. More importantly however, always follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then follow your instincts.

Do you consider some countries unsafe for solo female travelers? If so what is your criteria for determining this?

No. I believe some countries may be more risky to travel to and you will have to take more precautions and consider what to wear more. Wearing a short skirt in India, for example, may attract some unwanted attention. But I believe all countries can be travelled solo by women and women should not let fear or their gender stop them from traveling.

What is the most sexist/most common sexist question you've been asked when talking about solo travel?

Many people don’t understand why I would travel solo. I’ve also had many people take the attitude that when I travel to countries like Australia I will be more safe than when traveling to South East Asia. This isn’t sexist but is a very ignorant attitude to take. I once had a taxi driver in Thailand tell me that if I had been his girlfriend he would ‘forbid me’ to travel alone. This annoyed me at first but then I managed to laugh it off. It does upset me that many people still see it as odd that a woman could travel alone, or would want to. No one has really asked me sexist questions but many have outright told me that I won’t be safe. I think many people find it odd that I have a partner yet still choose to sometimes travel solo.

Any stories about times you have felt unsafe or threatened and what you did in that situation?

The times I have felt most threatened because of my gender whilst traveling have actually been because of other travelers rather than locals. Sadly a lot of male backpackers or expats have tried to take advantage of me whilst in a bar. Drinking is a big part of backpacker culture and whilst a lot of men will be decent, there are always some men that try to take advantage in these situations. It’s important to watch your drinks if you’re in a bar and stand your ground.

Sometimes in other cultures men have a tendency to stare. This can be uncomfortable but it’s important to remember they are more likely staring because you’re a female foreigner rather than purely staring in a sexual manner. The best action to take is to simply ignore it, even though it can be uncomfortable at first.

Find more of her at:

Twitter: @InterPlaygirl Instagram: @international_playgirl

 

Tara of Where is Tara

Tara

What is your best travel safety tip?

Just don't drink. If I was ever backpacking a country that had a bad reputation, again, I would want to be sober and fully aware of my surroundings at all times. Oh and always take the business card of the hotel/hostel with you in case you get lost or can't find your way back.

Do you consider some countries unsafe for solo female travelers? If so what is your criteria for determining this?

Yes. It is the attitude of men towards women (often western women in particular) in some countries that makes it unsafe. Also the lack of respect that local law enforcement officers sometimes have towards western tourists and women in particular.

What is the most sexist/most common sexist question you've been asked when talking about solo travel?

A lot of people are surprised when I say I went to South America by myself. They say things like, "yeah Brazil (for example) would be fine for a guy by himself..... but not a girl". It's not necessarily sexist though. It's kind of a fact with some countries.

Any stories about times you have felt unsafe or threatened and what you did in that situation?

In Peru I got a lot of unwanted attention because of my fair hair and skin. I had something awful happen in Peru, in a situation that I previously would have considered very safe. I could not wait to leave that country after that. I kept traveling but part of me wanted to fly home and never leave.

Find more of her at:

Twitter:      @whereistarablog
Facebook:  /whereistara
Instagram: @whereistarablog

 

Katelyn Michaud at Diaries of a Wandering Lobster

KatelynMichaud2

What is your best travel safety tip?

The world is not as dangerous as the media and your parents make it out to be. You need to be open-minded and do your research before you head to a new place. The media often hypes up a place to be dangerous when it probably isn't as bad as they make it out to be. Find travel bloggers, friends, family or anyone who has been to that place and ask them about their thoughts on the place. Of course, there are places you probably shouldn't go and you should pay attention to travel advisories from your government, but don't be afraid to go to a new place. I was recently in Greece and several people told me before I left that I shouldn't go because of their economic issues. However, I felt completely safe and loved my time in Greece. Be smart. Be cautious, but don't skip out on an amazing place because someone says not to go there.

Do you consider some countries unsafe for solo female travelers? If so what is your criteria for determining this?

Yes and no. There are some women that are rocking it in countries that I might not travel solo in at the moment. All the power to them! I think it depends on your comfort zone. I would never travel in a country currently in a war or where recent terrorist attacks have occurred. I think it's very important to be aware of travel advisories and the customs and recent events in any country that you might travel to in the near future. I'm currently planning a trip to the Arabian Peninsula next year, but I plan to stay away from Yemen, although someday I would love to visit the country.

What is the most sexist/most common sexist question you've been asked when talking about solo travel?

I've traveled a lot in Central America and have been cat-called and whistled at more times then you can count. Last year my friend and I were on Caye Caulker in Belize and we were constantly being cat called. They would call us "baby" and follow any comments with the f-bomb. My friend was really bothered by it, but I mostly ignore it at this point. Is it right? Absolutely not. Women should be treated with respect, but in many areas of the world we are not.

Any stories about times you have felt unsafe or threatened and what you did in that situation?

I like to Couchsurf and have met some amazing people through the website. However, I just learned a really important lesson. While I was in Athens I booked a hostel that I planned to sleep in but was looking to meet some locals to show me around on Couchsurfing. I put up a post on the Athens message board to see if any locals or other travelers might be there the same time as me and we could explore the city together. I got several replies from all men. One guy asked if I wanted to have a threesome with his girlfriend. Ummm... no! Another guy kept telling me my hostel was in an extremely dangerous part of Athens and I should stay with him. My hostel was in one of the safest parts of Athens. After those messages I deleted my message on the board. Lesson learned!

Find more of her at:

Twitter: @wanderinglobsta
Facebook: /diariesofawanderinglobster

So for all you adventurous girls and women: listen to your instincts, stay alert, research, and consider all risks. This world is not always fair and courteous to us. But by no means should you allow this to scare you or keep you from traveling. So be courageous, too.
Safe Travels!