Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers traveling alone
Folks always ask me if I feel safe traveling alone as a woman. In this post, I’m going to share 33 Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers when traveling alone.
I’ve traveled over 20 countries alone and I’d be lying if I said that I am confident and brave going into each trip. The truth is, I never know how a trip will turn out the moment I leave my learned environment to traverse an unfamiliar country and culture.
So here’s the thing… I don’t question my solo travel safety. I create it. I strive to build safety into my solo female travel experiences and I routinely practice safe habits.
31 Solo Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers:
My Safety Tips for Solo Travelers are street-smart survival tips I’ve learned from living in New York City, being an American woman and yes, my years of solo globetrotting. Some of my tips sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how travelers can accidentally throw out common sense when they travel. As a traveler in a foreign environment, my travel safety common sense sits at the forefront of my mind and not on auto-pilot.
1. Street smarts: Be alert to your surroundings at all times
Be aware of what’s around you and who’s around you. The idea is “If you can see it, you can deter it”. Keep your vision open to 240 degrees. I liken it to driving a car. We take special attention to observing and being keen on things going on around us so we can make quick decisions to avoid accidents. If you can see when someone is approaching or getting too close when there’s no need, then you can think quickly and react.
On my recent trip to Kyoto, an old Japanese woman I met on a bus tried to scam and pickpocket me. She was trying to get chummy with me so I would let my guard down. When my back was turned, from my periphery, I could see/feel her hand trying to get into my backpack. When I turned around, she whipped away and laughed. So I did what I normally do in unsafe places….VIDEO: 8 Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
2. Listen to your gut.
Always listen to your gut or intuition. When something doesn’t feel right, that’s your intuition saying, “Something is not right”. Trust it. Use it. As a solo traveler, reliant on strangers trusting your gut intuition is key. There are many good people out there, but there are some bad ones too. Your gut is the radar that can help you sift them out.
When I saw an old Japanese lady waiting for me in the rain, outside of Kyoto’s Golden Palace, something didn’t feel right. I knew it was a scam of some sort.
She wanted to give me a friendly local tour because I looked lost. How long was I in Kyoto? Where was I staying? Was I traveling alone? I gave her general information. She wanted to invite me back to her house for tea. Having dealt with illegal tour guides before, I knew how this worked and I wasn’t going to go anywhere with her. Despite the logic that Japan is one of the safest countries, my gut said something was very wrong with this scenario and quickly got myself out of it.
3. Avoid lonely dark streets and carry protection.
If you go out at night, then be smart. Dark and desolate places aren’t good places to enter or walk down, even if it’s a shortcut. Avoid dark and unlit areas. Instead, go around them, avoiding any areas where you might be pulled into dark corners. Stay on the main street in well-lit zones. Avoid having earbuds in your ears, so you can hear the sounds around you and be alert to anyone coming up behind.
Simple objects can be used as weapons.
I also carry a small weapon, like a pen. I hold it in my hand vs. keep it in my bag. If someone jumps me, I won’t have time to dig in my bag for it. If I’m in an uncertain area, where I notice people watching me, I make it obvious that I’m carrying it. I flash it around. This is my way of letting potential attackers or criminals know that I won’t be an easy victim to jump.
I crank my alert on high. I make myself ultra-sensitive to the sounds of my environment and more observant of things around me. I scan my surroundings a lot and become more aware of dangerous zones and people’s proximity to me.
Check my Packing List for Solo Travel to see some extra safety devices I pack.
4. Act confident… or Fake It!
Confidence is all in attitude. If you look lost, distracted, or unguarded then that is what you will communicate to thieves and scammers. They are looking for naive targets. Learn to develop your street-smart look. If you look at the everyday New Yorker, you’ll notice they have a bold and confident stance. They look aware, focused, and like they know exactly where they’re going. This is a look to develop.
If you’re not confident, fake it. I can’t stress this more. Walk as if you belong to the place or you’re not someone to be screwed with. Keep your guard up and be aware of what’s going on around you.
5. Keep valuables in front of you and close to your body.
Thieves and pickpockets always search for the most vulnerable target. Usually, these are travelers who aren’t paying attention and leave their belongings unattended. Here are some ways to hold your valuables close to you, so as to make yourself a difficult target for thieves. Drape your arm over your purse. It’s an obvious sign that indicates you are guarded against pickpockets. I also swivel my backpack (its got my DSLR lenses in it) to my chest, so I could keep a protective eye on it. Nothing enters my backpack without me seeing it.
6. Wear cross-body, pick-pocket proof, and anti-slash bags.
Pacsafe has great anti-slash bags for solo female travelers traveling alone. Meanwhile, cross-body bags sit in front of you to avoid pickpocketing.
7. Research local scams.
Research popular tourist scams and crimes. If you know about them, then you can spot and avoid them.
I’ve been scammed more times than I’d like to admit to myself. This has all made me a wiser traveler.
I always like to read up on the crimes prevalent to the country. If I know what the crime is, I can avoid it or take precautions. Scams can be as simple as a taxi driver wanting to drive off-meter. Or maybe it’s thinking you’re being taken to the Tourism Information Office and discovering its a scam tour agency. Or maybe a local tells you that your hotel burned down and they can take you to another hotel.
How do you deal with a scam? The best thing is to take precautions to avoid it.
8. Research the destination dangers with Travel.State.Gov
Being American, I check into Travel.State.Gov for travel alerts on the country before visiting. This is a government website that gives up-to-date information on whether a country is considered high risk or not for American travel. Typically, this is based upon political, environmental, and health factors which affect the destination country and which could spell a travel risk in regard to American safety.
9. If you are staying in a place for a length of time, sign up with the Smarter Traveler Program and get travel alerts
I sign up with Smarter Traveler program created by the U.S. government. This is my way of documenting my travel, in case, anything happens to me abroad. They send emails keeping you alert to any national emergencies or political unrest… things you should be watchful of and which can affect your travels.
10. Stay connected
Keep in touch with friends and family via Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp or social media. I like to give my mom a Facetime call now and then to let her know i’m safe and to share a part of my journey.
11. Do occasional social media check-ins
Social media has been a resource to remain in contact with friends, but it also aids with safety and search when friends go missing. While you may not want to blast your vacation openly to the public, you should keep your close family and friends abreast with occasional check-ins.
12. Let family and friends know your daily itinerary.
It’s good to entrust others with your whereabouts. I always give my family or a friend my travel itinerary and update them regularly to let them know I’m on the course or if I’m going off of it. t helps to have a concerned mother, who hounds you on your whereabouts.
13. Dress appropriately for the culture.
Research the country dress and dress appropriately. It may be a 100-degree Indian summer, but if I’m in India, I know it’s a conservative country. Dress provocatively or revealing and you’ll get a lot of unwanted attention and catcalls. So dress to respect the culture. Even to blend. Some travelers will buy the clothes of the country so they can blend more. This also helps.
Sellers and thieves also gauge your worth by your appearance. Dress rich, you’re saying you have money. For this reason, I actually dress hobo. When I travel, I like to go unnoticed. I also dress to compensate for the fact I’m usually also traveling with a lot of media gear. Also, traveling in my duds makes haggling easier for me.
14. Stash Money, Credit Cards, and Passports in Separate Places.
Travel theft is a concern for most travelers and for good reason. Most travelers carry extra cash and credit cards and thieves and pickpockets know this.
15. Stay Healthy
Make sure you’re in fit condition and in decent health for your trip. You should never travel when you’re battling health issues. Should anything trigger an existing health condition it may keep you detained in the country for a longer period and you’ll be suffering more than the issue at hand but additional stress over the financial upset and delay.
16. Ensure your hotel lodgings are safe.
Research your hotel lodgings and their customer reviews to ensure they are safe. Women traveling alone are at their most vulnerable in their lodgings because it is a place where they have their guard down. Some folks swear by Couchsurfing; I’m not a fan. I’ve heard horror stories. You are relying on the conditional goodwill of a stranger. Hell, I spent a cold night in a rental car on a residential street, because I was staying at friend’s- a friend’s place, who was a heavy sleeper and did not hear me buzz the doorbell.
Being on a budget is not a good excuse to put yourself at risk for a few dollars.
17. Pack a doorstop
Hotel doors can be broken into. I had one viewer comment that his hotel room got broken into while he was asleep and he woke up to see a man towering over his bed. Luckily, he was able to fight the intruder off. I always use the chain lock on the hotel door, but not all of them have one. So I always pack a doorstop as an additional precaution.
Read more hotel safety tips.
18. Lock your valuables and belongings
When staying in shared accommodations, always lock and secure your belongings. Many hostels have lockers to keep your luggage and belongings safe. Tip: Always pack a lock with you.
19. Keep your valuables in your sight
Keep valuables and belongings in your sight when in public transport. I like to keep my belongings with me on my lap or under my legs. In certain situations, especially during peak crowds, you might have to store your luggage on a storage rack. I still try to remain close and attentive to it in case someone grabs my luggage and runs off with it.
20. Know where you are going.
Know where you are going, be it when you land at the airport or when you go out exploring, so you avoid getting lost.
Know your daily game plan and where you are going. Be it when you land at the airport or when you go out exploring, you want to know your directions to avoid getting lost. I try to know how I’ll be getting from point A to point B before I leave my hotel so I’m not looking lost, confused and vulnerable when I’m on the streets.
21. Know your emergency numbers
Knowing the number of the local/ tourist police or your embassy is helpful. But I like to carry other emergency numbers like my bank contact (my bank occasionally loves flagging my ATM use and purchases), credit card and insurance policy numbers.
22. Use safe and reliable services
When it comes to transportation use safe and reliable services, such as Uber or Lyft instead of flagging street taxis. If you’re taking a day tour, make sure it’s a recommended and reliable agency used by many others.
23. Avoid following strangers into unknown and dark places
Never follow strangers into places you’re uncertain about. Even if they seem friendly or appear to be authorities. They can lead you into a lonely spot where you can be cornered and robbed or worse. I once got lost in the streets of Marrakech and a friendly-looking policeman offered to lead me back to the medina. I saw his uniform and followed him, even when did a detour into a dark tannery shop of men, whereupon they tried to sell me leather goods. It turned out to be a scam and I quickly made an excuse that I was meeting a boyfriend and had to hurry off. If you are uncertain about a person, it is best to not follow.
24. If your driver picks up a friend passenger, find another ride.
As a solo female traveler, if your driver wants to bring a friend along, tell him NO. You are a paying customer seeking a professional, private and safe ride. With two foreign males in your car, you make yourself vulnerable to any advances, scams or worse. If he wants a friend-mobile, then remove yourself from the car and find another. I’ve had a few accounts where I sensed a shady driver and got off my taxi, tuk tuk or rickshaw in an inconvenient place. I’ve also stayed in these vehicles (see my Bangkok taxi scam) and had the most uncomfortable rides. These days, I find an active mobile phone helps!
Tip: I always travel with a mobile phone with internet access or a travel SIM.
Rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber are common. Ask your hotel for recommended apps and download it. When I was in Sri Lanka, they did not have Lyft or Uber but they had many others used by locals and my hotel was able to recommend the best one.
25. Get Travel Insurance
Travel has always invited unexpected things, so you want to make sure you are prepared in case you get into accidents, encounter theft, lost luggage, loss, must be flown to a hospital, etc… World Nomads insurance is my favorite travel insurance- I’ve used it on a lot of my trips primarily for its gear protection and because the activities I participate in when I travel are considered adventurous, such as scuba diving or caving. Travel makes you adventurous and my World Nomads insurance gives me peace of mind. It offers comprehensive coverage but is also relatively inexpensive trip insurance if you’re an American.
26. Practice street smarts
Follow the street-smart safety advice you would follow back home. As I mentioned earlier, I learned a lot of my solo travel safety tips from learning to be street-smart while living in New York City. You’d get a slightly different lesson living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago or Honolulu.
27. Learn self-defense
Taking self-defense classes is always a good way to stay safe traveling alone.
28. Know which items aid self-defense
There are many types of self-defense you can learn from workshop classes to understand how items in your grasp- such as pens and keys- make handy self-defense weapons. Any pointed object, like your room key can be held between your index finger and middle finger and can instantly be turned into a weapon if someone attacks you. Walking back to my hotel at night, I keep these things in my hand– not in my bag. If someone jumps me, I won’t have time to fish for it in my bag.
Some folks carry pepper spray (you’d have to pack it in your luggage as it won’t clear TSA).
You can also carry a rape whistle or keychain alarm, where you pull the tab and the alarm sounds.
29. Avoid sharing personal information with strangers
Never give strangers personal details about your relationship status, whether you’re traveling alone or what hotel you’re staying at. When you tell people you’re traveling alone, you’re telling others that you’re unaccounted for. No one will miss you if you suddenly disappear.
30. Research ways to avoid pickpockets.
There are many products that help you avoid travel theft. From RFID blocking money belts, wrist wallets, travel hacks and pickpocket-proof clothing, feel at peace you’ll find handy aids to help you prevent theft.
31. Take preventative measures and plan safety into your itinerary
People are often surprised when I tell them as a female solo traveler, I go out at night. I don’t advise it for everyone as it’s certainly open to danger. But I take strong precautions and preventative measures regarding my safety when traveling alone. I plan safety into my itinerary by making choices that aid my safety such as booking a hotel with airport pickup and drop off or booking a hotel that is nearby public transportation and is in a good neighborhood. Taking a train or bus that leaves late at night or arrives too early in the morning is not a safe decision but if you have no choice, then I’d notify my hotel of those odd hours so they can help with solutions or I’d introduce myself to another solo traveler who is traveling my route and join them. There will always be extra measures you can take for your safety. Find them.
What tips would you add to this list of Solo Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers? What are your ways to stay safe traveling alone?
Solo Travel Safety Tips from Solo Female Travel Bloggers:
Below are some fierce femme soloists, who are currently rallying the media’s recent scare tactics on women who want to travel alone. They all know how much courage it takes to make the decision to go solo in the first place. They’ll give you encouragement, support and more tips to make your travel safe and confident.
5 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone Solitary Wanderer
Yes it Is Safe to Travel Solo Travel Yourself
Dear Dad: Please Don’t Worry (A Treatise on Solo Female Travel) A Dangerous Business
The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety Adventurous Kate
Solo female travel: why it’s a label I support Cez Christine
The Women Traveling Solo Question Almost Fearless
Revisiting the solo female travel experience Legal Nomads
Choosing Accommodations for Solo Travel Wanderlust & Lipstick