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Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Experience the freedom and flexibility of traveling on your own! But always keep your personal safety and security a priority when planning your trip.
Many people who have experienced the freedom of traveling alone will tell you that it's one of the best ways to get out there and see the world. When you travel solo, you are free to explore wondrous destinations on your own terms, and at your own pace. No squabbling over where to go, what to eat, or how much to spend. When you travel on your own, you are in charge.
Travelling by yourself builds confidence. Holly Booth, author of Pack Only What You Can Carry, believes that solo travel is the perfect time to engage in solitude and introspection, two aspects of self-examination unlikely to be applied during our daily, working lives. “Solo travel allows you to spend quality time alone with yourself which leads to the kind of introspection that can be life-changing,” she says. “It also allows you to push yourself past boundaries and shake yourself up a little – it’s the only way to grow.”
But traveling on your own does require more planning and attention to detail than traveling with a family member or friend. When you're on your own, there's no one with you to guide you back to the hotel if you get lost. If your bag gets stolen or you forget something important at home, you can't just borrow a few spare clothes from your travel companion. You'll have to figure out how to make do on your own.
Indeed, traveling by yourself can be an exciting adventure. Or it can be a dangerous disaster! It all depends on how much thought and effort you put into planning your trip. Here are just a few tips to help you start your next journey off on the right foot.
Blend in with the locals. A popular travel site for women suggests that women travelling alone head to a local grocery store, pharmacy or other type of shop that local residents shop at and buy a small, inexpensive item. It's not the item that you are interested in, it's the branded shopping bag that it comes in that will help you look a little less out of place and less like a bewildered tourist vulnerable to harassment and pickpockets.
Are you nervous about traveling by yourself for the first time? If you have never traveled by yourself before, and you're a bit nervous about being on your own for the first time, then traveling as part of a tour group may be a good way to go. Traveling with a tour group provides better assurance (but no guarantee) that the hotels, restaurants and sites you'll be visiting are reputable. Hotels and attractions don't want to risk losing the repeat business that comes from satisfied tour groups.
One of the few drawbacks of traveling on your own, but as part of a tour group, is that you may have to pay a higher price for your booking than someone who's traveling with a companion. But if you want to save money and pay the lower fee associated with a double-occupancy booking, your tour operator may be able to arrange room sharing with another member of your group. Whether or not you chose to do this all depends on your own comfort level. There's no way to be 100% sure that your roommate won't be disruptive, shady, or generally unpleasant to deal with. Sometimes paying the higher price for a private room is worth it.
Leave the excess baggage at home when you are traveling alone. Always pack your bag with safety, security, and convenience in mind. After all, how you pack your bags before your trip can mean all the difference between smooth sailing or choppy waters. Here are some tips for packing your carry-on and checked luggage:
- If you plan on taking a cab or renting a car at your destination, choose smaller-sized luggage instead of big cases. Cars and cabs outside of North America tend to be more compact, with smaller trunks.
- Before you check your luggage at the airport, take a few photos of it with your smart phone or digital camera. Take close-up shots of locks and zippers so that if you suspect your luggage has been opened or tampered with, you'll have proof that your bags were securely closed before they were checked by the airline. Make sure your photographs have a date stamp on them. If your luggage gets lost or damaged while in transit you'll be able to take swift action.
- Put a few bright stickers, ribbons, tags, and other easy-to-spot markers on your luggage. These days, luggage all looks the same when it slides by on the baggage carousel. Make it easy to spot in a crowd. Thieves are less likely to steal a brightly marked bag.
- Pack clothes that you were planning to get rid of soon anyway: socks, underwear, t-shirts and end-of-season clothes. When your trip is over, toss the old socks and underwear in the trash and drop clean, unwanted clothes in a charity bin on your way to the airport. Charity bins can usually be found in supermarket parking lots and at gas stations.
- Unless you are traveling to an off-the-beaten path foreign destination where you won't be able to purchase toiletries, pack only what you think you will need. There's no need to tote large bottles of shampoo and lotion with you if you can purchase them at your travel destination.
- Keep all your prescription medications in their original bottles with the prescription labels on them. Even though you may know what each pill is, you may need to prove to authorities and border guards that you are qualified to carry and use the drug. For example, in some countries, certain sleep-aids and painkillers are illegal to possess without a doctor's prescription. Also, should you, unfortunately, end up in medical distress, having the drugs you are taking with their dosages on the label will help medical personnel treat you appropriately. It could be a matter of life and death, so be smart with your prescriptions.
- Shawls, wraps, and large scarves are very handy for traveling. They can be wrapped in multiple ways as skirts, head covers, swimsuit cover-ups, seat covers, and beach blankets. Before you go away, watch a few videos on how to wear a wrap in different ways.
- Choose a neutral palette for your wardrobe and accessorize with colorful accessories and costume jewelry. An all black and white wardrobe makes mixing and matching different pieces easy-breezy. Your wardrobe will look like it is ten times its actual size!
By packing light, you'll improve your sense of safety and security when you travel. Taking a single carry-on bag means that you can keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Your ability to move around safely will also improve because you won't be struggling with heavy bags that can wear you down and reduce your alertness to what is going on around you.
One of the best ways to save money on your next vacation adventure is to make sure that you don't overstuff your luggage. Many airlines charge extra fees for checked baggage, but allow you to take a moderately sized carry-on bag plus your purse. In order to fit an amazing and diverse wardrobe into a carry-on bag, consider packing a few lightweight scarves. Scarves can be worn in so many different ways, allowing you to turn a basic wardrobe of travel clothes into 2 - 3 weeks worth of stylish outfits! Check out the video on the right for dozens of cute ways to tie a scarf!
Don't take your safety for granted, even if you are staying at a five-star hotel. It's important to take basic precautions when you check into your hotel if you want to feel safe and secure while travelling alone.
- When you book your hotel room, make sure that you ask for guaranteed reservations in the event that you arrive well past check in. The last thing you want when travelling alone is to find yourself without a secure place to spend the night.
- Clearly state to hotel staff that they are not to give out your name or room number to anyone. Don't assume that client confidentiality is a common practice everywhere you go. Always assert your safety and security needs.
- Avoid ground floor suites or rooms on lower floors if you can. Always keep patio doors secured even if you think your room is too high for anyone to climb up to.
- Buy a travel lock and/or alarm/motion detector and use it even when you are in your room awake, just watching TV.
- Keep the door latch on at all times when you are in your room.
When you are out and about visiting tourist attractions, be mindful of how much information you share about where you are staying. That friendly tourist casually chatting with you at the open air market may not be a tourist at all. He may be scoping you out, trying to glean personal details about you that may fool hotel staff into accidentally giving him access to your personal information, or worse, access to your room!
Not everyone likes to travel alone. What's your travel personality?
Keep your cash and valuables safe and secure. The last thing you want is to lose your money or get robbed. Here are some safety tips for handling your cash when you're traveling by yourself:
- Keep your cash organized, sorted, and folded properly for easy access. Standing on the street with a wad of crumpled bills in your hands invites trouble. Handle and count your money discreetly when doing cash transactions.
- Carry small denominations and coins for tips, vending machines, payphones, and laundromats.
- Don't keep all your money in one place (such as in your wallet or purse). If your wallet gets stolen or lost, and you kept all your cash in there, say goodbye to your money. Instead, divide your money up into small amounts and keep it safe in multiple different secure pockets or pouches (Just don't forget where you stashed your money.)
Another good tip for improving your safety when you travel, especially to a country that uses a currency you haven't used before, is to do some research on the currency's value. Knowing the basic exchange rate between your home currency and your destination currency will protect you from getting ripped off or scammed into paying more for something because you don't know how the price stacks up against your own currency. Appearing confident and knowledgeable when you handle your cash will send a signal to would-be scammers that you aren't just another clueless tourist.
If you are a woman traveling alone, take extra care to protect yourself. If you chose to drink alcohol, drink it in moderation. Unfortunately, your safety can be easily compromised when you are alone and inebriated. Always keep an eye on your beverage, even when you are lounging by the pool. Drug-facilitated sexual assault is a very real danger, even in the so-called safest parts of the world. Before you go on your trip, learn more about how to protect yourself from drink-spiking.
Dress appropriately and respectfully. Observe local customs when it comes to what women are normally expected to wear. A woman should be able to wear whatever she wants, wherever she wants, but sadly this is not always the case in other parts of the world. If dressing modestly is expected, then select your travel attire accordingly.
When It comes to travel safety, do what feels right for you. Use your common sense and don't be afraid to follow your gut instincts. These travel safety tips are just a few of the many different things you can do to stay safe while on holidays. Unfortunately, crime does happen and there is no way to be 100% safe, 100% of the time. If you want to feel safe 100% of the time, then perhaps stay at home. There are always safety risks when traveling, but if you pay attention to your surroundings, learn how to assert your safety needs and plan ahead, you will be able to enjoy your holiday knowing you're a smart, savvy, and safety-conscious traveler!
Note: As with all travel safety tips, there's no one foolproof way to keep yourself 100% safe, 100% of the time. Don't let your guard down just because you have implements some common-sense travel safety tips. Always be vigilant and aware of what's going on around you.
© 2014 Sadie Holloway