There’s solo travel advice and then there’s solo travel advice for women — in very many circumstances, these two lists intersect quite often. Everyone should upload their travel plans, ticket numbers, passport pictures etc, to a Dropbox, Google Drive or other cloud-based service. Everyone should keep some cash socked away in a secret spot in their bag. It’s a good idea in hotels to leave the “do not disturb” sign out or your television on so people think the room is occupied and you avoid thieves sneaking in while you are out.
Then, there’s advice specific to women — and specific ways female solo travellers can stay safe while travelling alone. Here are few of our favourites and a few tried and true ways that keep us ladies safe on the road.
Wear a Wedding Ring
Obviously, if you are travelling to meet men, this is really going to put a dent in your social life. But if you are nervous about unwanted advances from men, a wedding ring will often detract them from making a move. Even if you are travelling to meet other people along the way, having a ring that you can slip on your finger just in case things aren’t going the way you thought, can be a good backup plan.
The cat keychain is one of my favorites — as well as having a whistle. The keychains are totally adorable but can inflict some serious damage. I just like to carry one for the sheer feeling of empowerment those two little ears provide. Of course, if you feel safer with mace or pepper spray or even a pocket knife, it’s all the same. Just make sure you follow the rules for packing these and don’t put them in your carry-on bag.
Don’t Let Others Know You’re Alone
This is where you can feel free to let your imagination run wild. If you order room service, don’t feel shy about pretending like you are waiting for your friend/spouse/boyfriend to return, get out of the bathroom, whatever. If you are taking a cab, call a friend and tell them you are arriving in 5, 10, 15 minutes — even if you aren’t meeting a friend, pretend. Make a fake phone call, tell waiters in restaurants about the group you are traveling with — whatever it takes. The more people who think there is someone with you on the periphery, the less likely they are going to be to try and take advantage because who knows when that mystery companion is going to show up.
Know Where You Are Going
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with where you are and where you are going. Getting in a cab? Know the route the driver will likely follow. Walking to a local market, plan your route in advance and try not to follow the GPS on your phone as you stroll. If you feel like you are lost, duck into a cafe and check a map or your phone rather than standing on the street. Check your route with the person at the front desk of the hotel or hostel to make sure you aren’t walking through a bad area. And always bring extra money to get a cab or other transportation if you feel uncomfortable walking back on your own.
Try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. Sometimes this is what travel is really all about — experiencing and feeling like part of the local culture. Make sure you aren’t making any unnecessary or accidental fashion statements or behaving in an offensive manner and drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Getting and receiving the respect of the locals will not only go far in keeping you safe, but also provide a much more rewarding experience in the long run.