One question I receive often is “do you feel safe when you travel?” Which for the majority of the time I am able to reply with a confident “yes.” For the last 6 months I traveled to 6 countries, completing an around the world trip without running into harm’s way. While dumb luck played a role in this, I like to think my style of travel is another reason I’ve been safe on the road (knocks on wood). I offer up my best travel safety tips for women in this post, in hopes that you’ll also stay safer on the road.
Trust your gut
First and foremost, trusting your gut is the number one guide to staying safe. Call it your gut, your north star, your inner compass, whatever it is, just learn to trust it. Traveling and getting out in the world is good practice for trusting your gut. I’ve changed plans and changed hostels based on my gut. Mind you, your gut will most likely guide you to better outcomes. Sounds hippy dippy, but that’s been my experience thus far.
Before I head to a new location I read the local news. I find this to be a win-win situation in that I’m more likely to be aware of safety issues and I have a better idea of the local politics, weather, and general happenings. I also check out the US State Department website which generally scares me, but I still think it’s good to stay informed prior to departure.
Try to blend in
While it’s not necessary to take on the local clothing of every place you go, but take some time to look around. When I was recently in Bali I noticed that the only people wearing short shorts were white women who were most likely visiting Bali. That meant I put my shorts away and opted for loose trousers and longer skirts. Standing out will only bring unnecessary attention to a person, so I find it’s best to blend in with the locals. Mind you I am 6 foot, so that doesn’t always work!
Speaking of being 6 foot, it’s important to note that I always do my best to have proper and good posture regardless if I’m traveling. Although I really do my best to stand and sit up straight. Why? For one thing I don’t want to be a hunched over old lady in 40 years, but having proper posture exudes confidence. I figure someone is going to be less likely to steal from me or bother me if I’m a confident woman, so with that I tend to walk tall and proud on my travels and through life.
Leave valuables at home
This is something that the recent Kim Kardashian robbery has brought to light. While I might not have valuables worth millions of dollars, I sure have a few items that are worth a lot in terms of sentimental value. Keep flashy jewelry, sentimental items, or really expensive things at home. The less stuff you have with you will make you light on your feet and you’ll have less to lose.
Put that fourth whiskey down
Whether it’s whiskey, wine, or beer: don’t drink to excess. Most stories about tourists being robbed or assaulted are laced with some type of drug and alcohol use. This is not to say that it’s the victims fault, but altering your state does alter your judgement which might not always lead to the best of situations. This is not to say you can’t go out, just enjoy your libations in moderation and with people that you trust.
Get married (to yourself)
This is something I picked up when I was living in Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Someone had told me to get a fake wedding ring, which I initially scoffed at. Although when people would harass me at the market I started to think I was ready for my fake husband. While I don’t think it deters a ton of attention, I do think it says that someone is waiting for you back at the hotel or wherever. Or that someone, such as your fake husband most likely knows where you are. I started running with a fake wedding band when I was recently traveling in large cities. Who know if it did anything other than deter potential European boyfriends, but it did make me feel safer.
Exercise sans music
Speaking of running, don’t run with music. Or if you go for walks or biking, don’t do those sorts of activities with music either. Why? Hearing is a damn good sense to protect yourself, which you cut off when blasting music in your ear buds. That means you’re not going to hear that car coming, a pack of wolves, or whatever else that’s chasing you. So learn to motivate yourself or listen to a song before you leave the house, it’ll help to keep you safer.
Be smart on social media
Posting your exact location of your hostel on social media might not be the best idea. While the odds of someone connecting the dots are rare, I find that posting a few days after I’m in a location is ideal. Then if there is some psycho out there, they’ll be less likely to track you down. Maybe this one is hyper vigilant, but I don’t think it hurts to protect yourself.
Have the money to get out
If you find yourself than a less than ideal situation, make sure you have the cash on hand to change that situation. While backpacking and scraping by with hardly any money might work for some people, that’s not my game plan. Don’t get stuck in a bad situation like a crappy hostel and then not have the money to buy your way out of it. I once stayed at a hotel in Dingle, Ireland that totally gave me the creeps. I’d paid for 3 nights, but after 1 night I ditched that place and went to Galway. So if you’re not comfortable, have the cash and wherewithal to change and improve your situation.
Get good insurance
One thing that gives me peace of mind so I don’t need to be hyper paranoid on the road about my stuff is to have good insurance. At the end of the day you can do everything in your power to keep yourself and your stuff safe, but it’s also nice to know that you’re covered. I always travel with World Nomads Insurance when I hit the road.
Remember the goodness
At the end of the day, I try to remind myself that the world is a mostly good place. This past year I’ve disconnected from mainstream media, as I found the loop of terrible stories on a global scale was starting to wear on me. While it’s important to stay informed on current events to places you’ll be traveling, try and keep in mind that people are mostly good. Travel in the broad sense can, and will be safe. Just take a few steps to be safer so you can focus on what really matters, exploring new places and finding new adventures.
Looking for bonus travel tips? Check out this post, In-Transit: Stress Management for Travel. By taking a few steps, travel for women really isn’t that scary – even when you’re out there on your own. I hope these tips are a good reminder and offer some new ideas on how to stay safe on the road.
What do you do to keep safe? Let me know in the comments below.
Written in: Eugene, Oregon USA