According to Condé Nast Traveler, the world’s top travel agencies have seen an upsurge in women booking trips on their own. But this doesn’t mean we’re free from the potential dangers that lurk when we travel—whether it’s in our own country or a completely different time zone.
To my fellow women, whether you’re traveling alone for the first time or are prepping for your Nth solo adventure, heed these tips that I personally practice. Feel free to share your own safety tips in the comments section below.
1. Pack a door stop.
In case you booked an accommodation with a flimsy door or a location that doesn’t feel safe, place a rubber wedge door stop under the door of your room after locking it. This will slow down a potential intruder for a few seconds to a minute, long enough for you to yell for help or escape. Having it there will also give you some peace of mind so you can sleep well.
2. Don’t announce your exact travel plans online.
When you proclaim your exact whereabouts, do check-ins and live videos, or give details of your exact location every waking moment as it happens, you are making yourself an easy target. Potential burglars could take advantage of your absence from your home. Stalkers could easily track you. Even if you’re not a celeb or person of interest, oversharing your itineraries is like an open invite for potential criminals. Wait until you’ve arrived home or have left the first destination before posting blogs or albums of your trip. If you really must post, disable geotags or location tracking.
3. Don’t post your private info.
Make sure all your social networking accounts (whether private or public) don’t show your full birthdate, home address, personal phone number, passport info, credit card numbers, and many other security risks. Posting them will make you an easy target for identity theft, scams, hacking, and other crimes. Even if your favorite Instagrammer posted a flat lay of her passport and plane ticket, please do not attempt to copy for the sake of likes. For as long as the bar code and personal info are clear enough to scan and read, you’re putting yourself in danger. If you really can’t help but show off everything on Instagram, blur out the bar codes and personal info before posting.
4. Update your loved ones daily.
Before flying out, give your family a copy of your flight details, accommodations, group tour info, and other travel details. Send a private message to your most trusted friend or family chat group at least once a day when you travel, just to let them know what you’re planning to do that day. Some solo travelers even go as a far as checking in with their local embassy in the country they’re visiting, especially if they’re staying for more than a week. It’s helpful in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
5. Respect the local dress norms.
Before you pack your bags, study the dress norms of the city or country you’re visiting. Are shorts and sleeveless tops considered disrespectful to their culture? Are women legally forbidden from sporting their hair in certain ways?
6. Avoid offensive gestures.
Some hand gestures or acts that are completely normal for your country may be offensive in other countries. For example, tipping is considered insulting in Japan, while standing with your arms crossed is a sign of arrogance in Finland. The last thing you want is to be misunderstood, confronted, or worse, jailed for a seemingly innocent gesture.
7. Ask other travelers.
Read blogs from fellow women who grew up elsewhere and have decided to relocate to that country you’re planning to visit. It will give you a perspective on how to safely adjust to their culture. Get tips from female friends who have traveled there recently.
8. Consider self-defense accessories.
A small whistle is light and handy, drives away wild animals, and can deter a mugger from attempting to approach you. A sharp keychain or pepper spray may be used for self-defense, while a multi-purpose tool is great for hiking, camping, or other possible travel contingencies. Just make sure that it’s legal to carry in the country you’re visiting. Pepper spray is safe to carry in the US and Philippines, but illegal in certain European countries. Research before packing.
9. Be vague.
Don’t give away your personal details and travel info to every person you meet in your travels, even if they seem friendly or are the most handsome fellas you’ve ever met. It’s okay to join travel groups and meet people outside your comfort zone, but don’t immediately give away the name of your hotel, your exact itineraries, and the fact that you’re traveling alone. It’s okay to tell white lies, such as a fake hostel name or that you’re visiting relatives.
10. Smarten up.
Learn how to blend in with the way you walk, dress, and act. Research on the most common scams in the area you’re visiting. Jot down the emergency numbers of each location you’re visiting. Know where the embassy and police stations are. Avoid acting like an overeager, gullible tourist. Avoid getting drunk (or drinking alcohol altogether) when traveling solo. Study the common modes of transportation of that country before you even arrive. Have the right apps in your phone in case of travel emergencies.
Originally published on November 23, 2017. Updated on August 27, 2018.