Last Updated on June 30, 2021 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)