Guys and girls share most of the common anxieties about hitting the road: we’re equally afraid of falling ill or being robbed or losing our baggage… But we all understand that girls have more reasons to worry about their safety than guys when going on a trip. Sadly, these concerns prevent a lot of girls from traveling the world alone. Fear is normal and understandable, but too much of it can spoil your grandiose plans. So let’s not freak out more than necessary and battle our anxieties by looking at the ways to make your journeys safe.
Research and prepare
The more you know about the area you’re going to, the safer your trip will be. Check the country’s traditions and current political situation. Isn’t there any social unrest or an armed conflict? Is it acceptable for a woman to travel alone there? Can you leave your arms or hair uncovered? Is it OK to start talking to people in the streets or look them in the eyes? In a lot of places religious and cultural rules do not apply to tourists, but it’s best to avoid any possible hostilities by respecting their way of life.
Try to make sure you know which areas are unsafe and avoid them. Book accommodation in safe districts even if it costs you more money. Plan your route so that you don’t have to travel at night, and if you absolutely have to, use a taxi. Write down emergency numbers and have a copy of your insurance with you at all times. Consider sewing a hidden pocket on your underwear for emergency money and buying a whistle (you cannot take a pepper spray with you to the plane).
Make an arrangement with a friend or a relative that you will communicate your whereabouts to them at least once a day. This will be your safe contact, and he/she will act if they don’t hear from you for a long time without a reason.
Check your outfit
If you want to minimise catcalling and grabbing, wear something not very revealing. I know it’s hard to say no to mini-shorts during a hot summer, but your naked legs may provoke an aggressive passerby. It’s wrong and unfair that you need to think about it, but better safe than sorry. In some countries, you may want to go further than that. I know a girl why dyed her hair black when she was living in South America where blonde is exotic, and it has helped her avoid a lot of unpleasantness. Another friend of mine wears a fake ring when going to Arabic world, and it saves her from a lot of unwanted “suitors” in the streets.
It’s always best if you don’t look too much like a tourist. Backpacks are convenient but they scream that you may not have anybody around who knows where you are and thus make you an obvious possible target. So a cheap tote bag might be a better option, the one that doesn’t hint that you may have a lot of money or an iPad in it. In the less-safe districts, try not to look too lost and walk fast as if you know what you’re doing.
For a lot of travelers exploring the nightlife is an important part of their experience. Go for it, but don’t lose your wits! Don’t get very drunk, as it may lead to some bad decisions and loss of awareness. One or two cocktails will make you relaxed, but more may make you sorry. Order your drinks yourself to make sure nobody has a chance to put something in it and stay closer to the bar where there are people and light. It’s best if you find some fellow tourists to party together, there’s safety in numbers!
I hope I don’t need to tell you that going home with somebody you’ve just met is very inadvisable, even if he looks a bit like Brad Pitt when he was still young and without a beard. Try to get to know the person first, make sure they don’t want to harm you. And if you decide to go for it, have protection with you! Not everywhere in the world having condoms or even using them is a norm.
Get around safely
It’s very tempting to get on a bus and immediately fall asleep, but truth is that transport is a magnet for scammers, weirdos, and morons. When you choose a sit, look carefully who sits nearby, and if you don’t like them, choose another row/compartment! Some trains have female-only cars, so consider using them if you feel better that way. Use only official taxi services and always photograph or write down the car number and send the information to your safety contact. It doesn’t hurt if your driver sees you do so either. Don’t worry, you don’t look paranoid, and if you do, who cares?! Be especially careful about hitchhiking and make sure you don’t get inside a car with three guys looking like they are escaping prison. Don’t be afraid to ask about the route and keep your phone close in case you notice something doesn’t go as planned.
I hope we haven’t scared the shit out of you yet :) Actually, you’ll be surprised how many friendly and helpful people you meet in your travels! Don’t be afraid to talk to them, it can benefit your safety! Your host or hotel administrator can tell you about the unsafe areas around and at what time it is best to head home in the evening. A group of backpackers that you take to a bar with you will help ward off unwanted weirdos. Tell a bus driver where you go and he’ll tell you where to get off. Sit with an organised group of tourists during a night layoff at the airport to have a chance to sleep without worrying that somebody will take off with your stuff.
Ba aware and trust your intuition
This sounds like a very general advice but it’s all that our tips boil down to. Never get too relaxed/distracted, always keep your eyes and ears open and think before doing stuff. You don’t need to be afraid of everybody you meet on the road but trust your intuition. If somebody starts talking to you and you don’t like it – go away and don’t hesitate to seem rude. If you come to your host’s place and you don’t like something about him/the place, then leave and find a hotel. Take care of yourself and never value your money over your safety. And the most important thing – enjoy your trip!