31 Solo Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers + Solo Experts

Last Updated on June 30, 2021 by Christine Kaaloa

rickshaw in vietnam, grrrltraveler in vietnam, hanoi rickshawSafety 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 29 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. Instead, I create it. I strive to build safety into my solo female travel experiences and I routinely practice safe habits.

hiking in sapa valley, sapa trekking guide, grrrltraveler in Sapa, trekking in Vietnam

31 Solo Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers:

These are actually street smart survival tips I’ve learned from living in New York City and being an American woman. Some of these may 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 in the forefront of your mind and not on auto-pilot.

1.   Be alert to your surroundings at all times

The idea is if you can see it, you can deter it. Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your vision open to 240 degrees. 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….

2. Listen to your gut.

When something doesn’t feel right, that’s your intuition saying, “Something is not right”. Trust it. Use it.

How to deal with scammers: So you’ve got a scammer bothering you and they won’t go away. As women, the tendency is to be nice and polite and offer a “maybe” brush-off, but this does not work. Never offer  personal details (such as hotel or length of stay) and don’t give them a “maybe” for the future or they’ll show up at your hotel and continue to hound you. Be upfront and honest with them that you won’t use their services.

Continuing the example  above…  When I initially saw the old 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. Afterall, no one waits in the rain for you for 30 minutes, without wanting something in return…

She wanted to give me a friendly local tour because I looked lost. How long was I in Kyoto for? Where was I staying? Was I traveling alone? I gave her general information. She even 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, with a relatively low crime rate, my gut said something was very, very wrong with this. I knew I had to find a way to ditch her quickly.

So I told her the truth-  I had little time in Kyoto so I didn’t have time to waste and I’d be moving very quickly. A person of her grandmotherly age would slow me down. Also, I’m an unemployed backpacker doing this trip dirt- cheaply. I would not be able to compensate her monetarily for her time. There was no way for her to swivel my truth in her favor. She left.

Read: How to Deal with Scammers  and Dealing with Touts, Scams & Beggars
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3.  Avoid and 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 short cut.
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4.  Act confident. (Fake it if you have to!)

The trick is all in the attitude. I can’t stress this more. Look lost or unfocused and that’s what you’ll convey. Thieves are looking for people who are unaware of their surroundings.Eyes forward and aware of what’s going on around you. Walk as if you belong to the place or you’re not someone to be screwed with. If you don’t feel confident, bullshit it.

People who don’t exude confidence or act too day dreamy, tend to make great targets for thieves and attackers.

5. Keep valuables in front of you and close to your body.

You can even drape your arm over it. It’s an obvious sign that shows thieves that you are guarded. I swiveled 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.  Read: Ways to Outsmart Pickpockets

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 pick pocketing.

7. Research local scams.

Always research your destination. While many travelers research their itinerary plans, the essential things you should research are the local dangers, such as popular tourist scams and prevalent crimes. If you know about them, then you can spot and avoid them.

8. Research the destination dangers.

Being American, I check into Travel.State.Gov for travel alerts on the country before visiting. This is a government website which 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 regards 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 the 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. Keep family abreast of 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 course or if I’m going off of it (It helps to have a concerned mother, that hounds you on your whereabouts).

13.  Dress appropriately for the culture.

Research appropriate dress for the country. It’s not only out of respect for the culture, but also that if you dress to be seen, you’ll probably attract attention from undesirables. Sellers and thieves assess your worth by your appearance. Dress rich, you’re saying you have money. Dress provocatively or revealing and you’ll probably get a lot of unwanted attention and catcalls.

You don’t know how many tourists I cross who’ll wear strapless sun dresses and tank tops with exposed bras in a country, which is ultra-conservative. I want to shout, What are you thinking?!  I never like to think that any woman asks for it, but some tempt it. Ladies, I know you won’t attract any hot guys in your duds, but for every hot guy, there’s twenty undesirable ones ready to do the bidding and they’re confident to try.

For this reason, I actually dress hobo. When I travel, I like to go unnoticed. I also dress to compensate 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 Passport 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. Here are a laundry list of ways I protect my valuables when I travel.

15. Stay Healthy

Make sure you’re in fit condition and 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- 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 your self 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 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.

Read Popular Tips for Staying in a Hostel

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.

See my list of reputable travel resources.

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.

25. Get Travel Insurance with COVID-19 coverage

Travel has always invited unexpected things. COVID-19 however, reshaped travel to feel more challenging. SafetyWing Nomad Insurance runs like normal travel insurance, covering 180 countries and all the standard trip emergencies like flight interruptions and lost baggage. However it also has COVID-19 coverage. Not only does it cover quarantines but if you contract the virus while you are traveling, you are covered.

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 understanding 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 stranger 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 which 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.

Read my 24 ways to avoid travel theft.

31. Don’t look like an easy target

As a traveler, you will probably always look like a tourist, no mater how much you dress yourself up or down. What you can alter is to avoid looking like an easy target.  Theft starts from looking easy, distracted, confused and a bit naive. So don’t look it. Look focused and aware at all times.

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 Female Solo Travel Experts:

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.

A recommended read is NBCNews.com‘s interview with long-time solo travel bloggers, Beth Whitman and Ellen Hannon, on the recent media scare tactics over female solo travel here. Another fantastic read covering sturdy travel tips is Solo Friendly‘s Safe Solo Travel .

More Solo Female Travel Safety Tips from Solo Female Travel Bloggers :

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
Top safety tips for women in India (and elsewhere) Dream Breathe Go
The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety Adventurous Kate
Solo Travel Safety – a link that takes you to 31 posts about solo travel safety. Solo Traveler
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
Am I the Pollyanna of Solo Travel? Solo Traveler
Traveling Solo As A Woman Lynne Neiman

Related Posts on Ways to Stay Safe Traveling Alone

How To Deal with Travel Scams
Is  Being a Female Solo Traveler? Not!
How do you spend your nights as a solo traveler? (14 fun ways to spend your nights alone)
• How to travel solo in India:Interview with Chiaki Nakashima
Solo Travel: How to Hurdle your Fears of Traveling Alone  (Planning your First Solo Trip)
The Crash Course Lessons of a First-time Solo Traveler in India
India Tour Agency scams and How to Get Out of One (aka How I Became a Solo Traveler)

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23 Comments. Leave new

  • Love this article. Great tips! I remember watching one of your videos when you were talking about safety and mentioned always holding a pen… then I noticed a pen in your picture in this post 😀

  • Personal safety and self-defense is so important for us women travelers and we should all be prepared to fight back effectively and know the best techniques to use if the need ever arises.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years now and we teach a very effective technique which should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and this is what we teach to women of all ages.

    This is the “groin grab” self-defense technique to be used against a male attacker which is taught in many womens self-defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    You’re going to take your hand and grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. Do not let go of them, but continue to squeeze them with all of your strength. This is important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. Don’t. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men) try to convince you otherwise.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.

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