Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers
Scrolling through social media at 10pm, as one does when unable to sleep, I noticed that a friend was asking for safety advice for traveling on her own. It took all of 5 seconds before messaging with a response and then I proceeded to bombard our chat with safety tips for solo female travelers. She was thankful, and I felt great for sharing! And if it was useful for her, then perhaps the insight will be useful for others as well. So here we are, a post on safety tips for solo female travelers gained from years of personal experience traveling the globe.
Well Traveled Gal
No kidding, originally this website was created to help share my frequent travels! I loved travel so much, easily taking 5-7 trips a year. Maybe a slight case of FOMO. 😉 It had a travel map and everything. #nerdalert Times have changed, now it’s about wellness and wilderness. The point though, is that I have traveled often, and mostly on my own. Over 35 countries to date, with all sorts of security states. It doesn’t matter if it was partying-a-la-mardis-gras in New Orleans, trekking up mountains in Malaysia, diving into history in Palestine, connecting the soul in Bali, or canyoning in Switzerland. A little awareness goes a long way when it comes to protecting your personal safety and enjoying that vacation!
The Greatest Teacher is Experience
What happens when you don’t follow your own advice? One year I went down to New Orleans to #livemybestlife and party like no tomorrow for Mardi Gras. Having been the year previous on my own, I wasn’t really worried too much this time, especially since I was there with a friend. So we danced in the street, drank far too many of those hurricanes, and met all sorts of lively people. A fun time. Maybe too fun though, and definitely bordered on what I consider irresponsible (sorry mom). The truth is that I don’t remember how we got back to the hotel, or the last part of the night really. I do remember waking up feeling like a bag of hammers, feeling thankful that we were in our hotel room, then my heart dropped as I realized my cell phone and wallet were gone. Like stolen gone.
Thankfully we’re in the age of e-transfers and my friend covered the rest of the trip. My passport was also safe and sound (holy-moses-thank-you-good-karma). What did this cost? Well it cost half a day of calling and cancelling all my cards. It cost me my pride and served up humility. And it was a pain in the arse to file a report during Mardi Gras and get new ID when I got home.
Yet it could have been worse, so really we were just thankful and it solidified my not-so-silly safety first mentality that usually was at the forefront of my travels.
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers
1. Check Travel Advisories
Check the safety status of your planned country with Global Affairs Canada. They offer up to date travel advisories as well as travel advice. Not only are the advisories from the Canadian government listed but there are also links for advisories from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States.
2. Register Your Travel
Did you know that you can register your travels with Global Affairs Canada? You can. It’s quick, easy, and private. And totally up to you. If you’re wondering why though, it’s easy – registering means that the government will notify you and provide important information in an emergency like natural disasters or civil unrest. If you’re like me, you turn off the news while on vacay so having a service like this is worth while. It also means you’re getting information on how to safely proceed directly from the government during an emergency instead of hearsay.
3. Embassy and Emergency Contacts
Know where the closest embassy is located in country. Keep a small list of emergency numbers like the nearest embassy/consulate, health insurance, travel insurance, and airline with reference/booking numbers.
4.Keep Backup Records
Email your travel itinerary and photo of passport to your NOK. I’ve been doing this since first starting to travel when I was 18. Not only does it alleviate the worries of your loved ones, it acts as a safety net if you have your passport or tickets stolen.
5. Travel Light
Strip your wallet prior to travel and bring only what’s necessary. For myself, that’s usually that’s two IDs (drivers and health care in case you need them) and two sources of funds (two credit cards or one credit/one debit). Keep cash in two separate spots while traveling and avoid flashing big bills in public. Boy oh boy do I ever wish I followed my own advice on this one in New Orleans. #wompwomp
6. Dress Modestly
Depending on where you are traveling, avoid wearing jewelry, expensive clothing, or oh-so-revealing clothing. Now is not the time to display your bling or other assets! I avoid wearing jewelry and embrace either hiking or boho chick styling ha ha. I mean, you can still look cute with less, non?
7. Checked Baggage
Anyone ever watch Broken Down Palace with Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale?!? Right, so let’s not be naive…trafficking, as horrid as it is, happens. And it happens through the airports. Don’t let your innocent-much-loved-checked-in-backpack become an attractive courier against your knowledge. While traveling in Asia, Indonesia, and Central America I used a lockable bag cover to secure my backpack anytime it needed to be ‘checked baggage’ for a flight.
8. Safety in Numbers
Walk in groups whenever possible, and never alone at night. How can you manage this as a solo traveler? Make friends with other families or travel groups. Sign up for walking tours. I remember just not feeling comfortable while in Bali at night so I picked up my pace until I was close to the two families walking ahead of me. Pretty much stuck by them until I reached my destination then broke off from the group.
A few days later I was indulging in a spa day and contemplating touring around to see the temples. Another family traveling was doing the same and was kind enough to offer that we all go together. It saved on paying for the driver for the day and I got to explore in a group instead of wandering around alone.
9. Taxi Etiquette
When taking a taxi, keep your luggage with you in the backseat. That way you can make a quick exit when needed, and won’t get stuck in an argument about pricing while your stuff is being held hostage in the trunk.
Let’s back that up a second…do not leave the airport until you know exactly where you are going and how you’re going to get there. Looking ‘lost’ and unsure portrays vulnerability. Knowing exactly where you are going also gives you the power to call out the taxi if they take the ‘scenic route’ in order to get a higher fare.
10. There are no Single Ladies When Traveling
Except I’ve never been married. This is one of the only times I’ll ever advise anyone to lie! If you’re a single lady or traveling solo without your partner…then seriously consider lying about it. After leaving the military I decided to roam Southeast Asia for a while on my own ‘eat, pray, love” style adventures. It was good for the soul! It was also slightly risky at times and I ran into someone overly interested individuals. Let’s just say I had the best imaginary husband anyone could dream up! He was always on the other end of my phone calls, waiting for me at the hotel, just left to grab us something to eat, etc, etc. Who was he? He was an imaginary mix of a best friend, an old boyfriend, and a co-worker. Why? Because the best lies are part truth. It was genuine when I described personality, job, likes because it all came from actual people that I knew. An easy exaggeration of truth when necessary to reinforce my own personal security.
11. Social Media Savvy
Post your daily events/pictures/locations on social media preferably only once you return home. At the very least however, post only the day afterwards or once you moved to the next location.
12. Tap Into The Locals
As soon as you settle in, get advice from locals (hotel staff included) on the safe areas in town to roam, the best spots to eat, and local customs. Not only will you enjoy a more authentic adventure but you’ll have more insight as to how to have a safe and fun holiday.
13. The First Rule of Travel
If nothing else, trust your gut. Always. Without question. If someone doesn’t feel right, then it likely isn’t.
Ugh, that seems like a lot to keep in mind doesn’t it?! Make these safety tips for solo female travelers a habit though and it won’t seem so cumbersome. You can tailor them to your trip, with the exception of number 13, always follow number 13.