Solo Female Globetrotter: 10 Safety Tips
I've spent somewhere around 9 months solo travelling, largely in developing areas. Your parents will probably tell you that this is very dangerous.
For men and women, travelling is pretty much the same. We go the same places, meet the same people, have the same experiences. But there is one key difference in how men and women experience the world. Being a woman comes with an increased threat of violence that let's be honest, most men just cannot understand. But is travelling as a woman really more dangerous than driving a car or consuming a high fat diet? Almost all assaults are perpetrated by people we know and trust, so comparably travelling solo is a very safe activity.
I was born a female and continue to identify as one. This is the hand I was given and I'm not going to compromise on living because of it. I'm never going to become a man, so I'm not going to sit at home waiting for that to happen. And so far, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive by following my 10 rules of safety.
- Register your itinerary with the Australian government
Because if civil war breaks out, you want them to look for you: smartraveller.gov.au.
- Keep your smart phone charged and topped up
A) You can always call for help, B) everyone back home knows you're OK, and C) you will always know where you are and you can track your journey in a taxi to make sure they're taking you the right way. It's also handy to add any local emergency numbers in your phone, just in case!
- Book all your accommodation ahead
Winging it is fine when you can wander streets with friends, but I've been the girl walking door to door in the middle of the night carrying two heavy bags when all the hostel were full, and I wouldn't recommend it. Always book before you get there so you can catch a ride directly to the address.
- Get everything done during the day
Be home by 9pm every night. That's really not an inconvenient rule, it's just an easy safety precaution you can take and entirely avoid worrying about things that go bump in the night.
- Don't keep all your valuables in one place
Divvy up where you keep your cash, credit cards (you really should have at least two), and valuables like cameras. Don't let one small theft become a cataclysmic trip-ending event.
- Research well
Make sure you read blogs relevant to being a solo female traveller in your chosen area, and talk to people you meet along the way about what to expect. For example in Ho Chi Minh City you should only take the bare essentials if you're walking on the street, and shouldn't wear your bag across your body because if a bag snatcher comes you could get seriously hurt.
- Cover your shoulders and knees
Depending on the area you should have one if not both of these covered. For example all across India both should be covered, but in Mumbai and areas of Goa I would choose only one to cover at a time (because it was very very hot but I didn't want to be too scandalous).
- Be a bitch
This is a great practice in overcoming everything you were taught about being a good girl growing up. You need to release the inner bitch. If somebody is pissing you off, tell them in no uncertain terms to get lost. Don't half-ass it and let them think they have a chance, especially in countries that have a negative view of "loose" Western women. Learn the right words in the local language and be direct and firm.
- Talk to everyone
Don't be afraid to meet stares head on and to engage with everyone around you. Almost everyone will have a genuine interest in who you are, where you come from, and why you chose their country to visit. Interest in you isn't necessarily sinister. Studies show that people are less likely to attack or steal from you if you've made eye contact or spoken to them. Additionally, if you need help it will also be the person you warmly greeted earlier that will be willing to come to your aid or give you advice.
- Be unafraid, just not reckless
There is no activity on Earth that can justify your assault. It's literally impossible to "bring it on yourself" because you do not control the actions of others. So it's important to be unafraid and open to all experiences. But you should trust your instincts. If you feel iffy about a dark alley, don't walk down it. It's unnecessarily reckless so just walk the long way. You can go everywhere and do everything men can do, as long as you follow social convention and don't take unnecessary risks. Stay alert and follow your woman's intuition, it is our best asset.
I like to think that travelling should be no different for a man or a woman, and if you take some easy safety precautions, it shouldn't be. While we are approaching equality in countries like Australia, the world is still a different place for the average female. People will be confused by your singularity and they will be extremely interested in talking to you. You can be regarded, somewhat incorrectly, as an easy target because of cultures' views of women as "weak". But we're certainly not weak. The fact we're travelling alone is evidence of that! So whether you're duly prepared for this kind of incessant attention can make or break your entire holiday. You can choose to tremble before their gaze, or you can choose to embrace their interest and leverage it to make the most out of your experience by interacting with the people around you on a deeper level than you otherwise would.
At the end of the day, the benefits of travel always outweigh any risks. Just go for it.