While we would all love to believe that female travelers have the same experience and are treated the same as male travelers when they go abroad, it’s simply not the case. Unfortunately, female travelers, especially solo female travelers, have a very different experience compared to their male counterparts.
There is just a lot more that women have to deal with when they’re on the road. From unwanted sexual advances to other uncomfortable situations, being a female traveler isn’t easy. And these types of situations aren’t limited to riskier countries either; you can also easily run into them in countries that most people would consider to be “safe” as well.
That said, you shouldn’t let this deter you from traveling as a woman. As long as you are smart about it and take the right precautions, you shouldn’t have any problems!
In this guide, I will give you the top 10 female traveler safety tips to help keep you safe as a woman while traveling, whether solo or in a group. The tips in this guide go in tandem with the ones in my Guide to Staying Safe While Traveling as well as my Advanced Travel Safety Guide (if you are planning to visit risky countries) so be sure to check those out as well to be fully prepared.
Of course, it goes without saying that a big part of staying safe and taking the right precautions is getting Travel Insurance. You should never be traveling to another country without it! Make sure to read my Guide to Travel Insurance to learn more about it if you haven’t already.
So without further ado, here are the top 10 female traveler safety tips:
1. Research your destination ahead of time
While this tip was already given in the Guide to Staying Safe While Traveling, it needs to be re-stated here. This is because if you are a female traveler, there are other things you need to look into before you go.
In many countries around the world, women are treated very differently to men and they often don’t even have the same rights as men do. In addition, being a foreign woman might also affect how you’re perceived by the locals and there may also be certain clothing norms that you need to be aware of.
Therefore, it’s extremely important to research your destination ahead of time to know what to expect as a woman there. A lot of potential mishaps can be avoided by simply taking a moment to do a bit of research about the place you’re visiting.
Find out important things like:
- How women are treated in that country and what rights they have
- How foreign women are perceived in that country
- How women are expected to dress and what the local clothing norms are
And if you’re not comfortable with what you find in your research, consider picking a different destination for your travels. While it’s not impossible to visit every country in the world as a woman, some are more difficult to visit than others and whether or not you should visit them depends on your own personal comfort level.
That being said, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone either! As long as you take the right precautions, you can have some amazing experiences, even as a woman.
2. Try to dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention
Of course, it depends on the cultural and clothing norms of the country you’re in, but in general, you should try to dress modestly if you want to avoid any unwanted attention. It’s an unfortunate truth that although the way you dress shouldn’t matter, in many countries around the world, it does.
This is because unfortunately, many non-western societies view western women as being promiscuous and “easy” because of all the western media that tends to promote this narrative. This means that the best way to stay safe as a western woman in a non-western country is to actually blend in with the locals as much as possible.
Some countries may also have specific laws that restrict you from dressing a certain way or only allow you to dress in one specific way so it’s important to research this in advance so that you don’t run into any trouble.
Another way to avoid unwanted attention is by wearing specific accessories that discourage it. For example, eye contact may be interpreted as flirting in many cultures so to avoid any misconceptions, wear sunglasses to hide your eyes and avoid this issue.
In addition, wearing a fake wedding ring is another way to discourage any unwanted advances (and prevent losing your real one if you have one). And if you have blonde hair or another feature that makes you stand out, consider hiding it with a scarf or other accessory so that it’s not as noticeable.
3. Consider choosing women-only options when possible
One of the ways you can stay safe as a woman while traveling is to choose women-only options. Throughout the world, there are many women-only options that are available, both with regards to transportation and accommodation.
When it comes to transportation, many transportation companies around the world often have women-only sections or carriages, whether it’s on a bus, train, or metro/subway car. By choosing to stay in those sections or carriages, you can generally have more peace of mind and feel more comfortable.
The same goes for accommodation as many hotels offer women-only floors and many hostels, women-only dorm rooms. If you want that extra level of safety and comfort during your travels, then consider booking one of those rooms.
4. Avoid walking alone at night or down empty streets
Another thing you should do is avoid walking alone at night or down empty streets. Nighttime is when a lot of shady characters like to come out and is one of the most dangerous times to be out alone as a woman. The same goes in the daytime for empty streets such as back alleys, side streets, or any other empty spaces in general.
In general, you should try not to go out at night on your own in the first place. If you want to experience the local nightlife, see if you can join a pub crawl or make some friends at your hotel/hostel that you can go out with so that you’re part of a group since there is safety in numbers.
But if there’s no group for you to join, then you’re better off getting to your destination via Uber (or another ride-hailing app used there) than by walking alone in the dark. You could also take public transport as long as you’re getting on and off at busy stops and populated areas. And taxis can also be another option, but they can often come with their own problems (read about them in my Guide to Taxis).
Sometimes though, your only option is to walk alone at night and if that’s the case, then try to find a couple or family walking by that you can tag along with as you walk to your destination. Don’t be afraid to tell them about your situation so it doesn’t seem awkward. Most people are willing to help out and you might even make some new friends doing this!
However, if you can’t find a couple or family to walk with and you feel like you are being followed, then the best thing to do is to actually enter the nearest hotel, restaurant, or bar and simply talk to one of the employees there. Be sure to tell them what’s going on and they might even be able to help you by walking you to your destination or at least, to the next populated area!
5. Invest in female traveler safety tools
As a woman, there are certain safety tools which you should consider bringing with you that can help you prevent running into bad situations while traveling and protect you in the off-chance that you ever do end up finding yourself in one.
The first is a whistle or personal alarm. These tools are extremely useful for drawing attention to yourself if you are ever in a situation where you need help from other people. The personal alarm is like an automatic whistle that sounds a continuous loud siren after you pull out its pin, which only turns off when you put the pin back into place.
The second is a doorstop. This tool helps give you peace of mind in your hotel room by deterring any unwanted intruders. You place it under the door and if someone tries to force their way into your room, it stops them from being able to open the door and also sounds an extremely loud alarm which typically scares them off.
The third is a tactical pen. This tool is great for self-defence since it has a solid frame designed to cause serious damage to someone when used against them. The best part is that it also doubles as a real pen too so you won’t run into any problems taking it through airport security. Make sure you learn how to use it if you do get it!
And the fourth is a hidden bra pouch. While you could just hide your valuables in your bra as many women do, this tool offers another alternative. It attaches to your bra and hangs off of it, hiding your cash, cards, and other small valuables and preventing pickpockets from stealing them.
6. Cover your purse and/or use one that is cross-body & anti-theft
Purses are some of the most common targets for thieves and pickpockets since most of them assume women are easier targets in general and the fact that the purses hang off your body makes it more difficult for you to notice when someone is about to steal it and/or steal something from it.
As a result, the best thing you could do is to actually not travel with one in the first place and keep your valuables on your body instead.
However, if you have too many things to carry and/or you just want to have a purse as an accessory while you’re on the road, then you should try to always keep it covered with your hand in public and/or use a cross-body version that is harder for a thief to snatch.
If the purse also comes with extra anti-theft safety features like slash resistance, RFID blocking pockets, and locking zippers, then you’re even better off! Here are a few cross-body purses on Amazon that offer all of those features:
7. Try to interact with local women
As a woman, any interaction with a man comes with an extra level of uncertainty since you don’t know what their intentions are. Most of the time you can interact with local men without any issue, especially in more developed countries, but sometimes your interaction with them could become uncomfortable.
If you don’t want to have to deal with any of that uncertainty or potential discomfort, one way to avoid it is by choosing to interact with local women instead when possible. Women tend to watch out for each other and local women are more likely to be willing to help you without expecting anything from you.
So if you’re lost, you have a question, or you simply want some local advice, consider finding a local woman to ask first. You also get the added bonus of learning what the female experience in that destination is like from a local too! If you can’t find a local woman, then try finding a local couple or family instead.
Of course, don’t take this to mean you should avoid local men at all costs. There are many decent local men in every country who can be just as helpful to you as the women. This is just a preventative measure to avoid the ones that aren’t!
8. Don’t be afraid to lie and say no
However, you can’t avoid local men completely and sometimes you will have to deal with some of them who just can’t seem to understand that you’re not interested in them. It also doesn’t help that in western societies, we are taught to be polite and friendly at all times, giving the impression that we are enjoying every interaction we have with strangers.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to get out of an interaction, don’t be afraid to lie to do it. For example, if you’re on your own and someone whom you don’t want to talk to approaches you and asks what you’re doing, lie and say you are meeting your boyfriend, husband, or a group of friends.
Never say you’re on your own.
This also applies for when you want to avoid an interaction in the first place. For example, if someone asks to sit next to you and you don’t want them to, just lie and say that you’re saving that seat for your boyfriend. Or if they approach you randomly and you don’t want to talk to them, pretend to make a phone call and walk away.
And if you are already in a conversation with someone and you’re getting the feeling that they are being a bit more flirtatious with you than you’re comfortable with, just casually mention your (non-existent) boyfriend or husband in some way. Make it seem natural and those magic words will make the men themselves come up with some excuse to end the conversation for you.
It’s unfortunate that men typically only stop their sexual advances when they find out you’re already with another man, but sadly that’s the way it is. And it may feel wrong to lie at first, but it’s a very important skill to have if you want to stay safe as a female traveler and avoid getting yourself into any uncomfortable situations.
And if someone really doesn’t get the message even with all your hints, then don’t be afraid to say no. Be rude about it and even make a scene if you must, whatever it takes to get yourself out of a potentially dangerous situation. Your comfort and safety is more important than their potentially hurt feelings.
9. Don’t get too drunk and keep an eye on your drink at bars & clubs
A few drinks isn’t a big deal and if you’re out with people you trust, then you can usually let loose provided that you know they will take care of you.
However, keep in mind that one of the best ways to become a target as a female traveler is to get drunk, especially if you’re on your own. Make sure you stick to a group (like on a pub crawl or with other travelers you trust) and try not to lose control.
In addition, when you’re out in a bar or nightclub and you are drinking, it is important that you remember to always keep your drink covered with your hand (when you’re not actively drinking from it) and never let it leave your sight. Sticking to bottles and cans also makes this easier since you can just keep your thumb over the opening.
The reason you should do this is because some people will try to roofie or drug your drink without you noticing. They usually have bad intentions for doing this since these drugs make you much easier to influence into doing whatever someone says and also because they make you forget everything that happened the night before.
So always take care of your drink when you are out and if you accidentally forget about it for whatever reason, leave it and get a new one. And while this could be a general tip for all travelers, it’s women who typically make up most of the victims, making this an important piece of advice in this guide.
10. Be wary of drinks from strangers
Similarly, you should be wary of drinks from strangers for the same reason. Regardless of how long you’ve been talking to them, how nice they are, or how good the drink looks, you have no idea what might be in it. This typically only applies to when you are directly handed a drink by a stranger.
However, if a stranger offers to get you a drink and you decide you want to take them up on that offer, just go with them to the bar and as a safety precaution, have the bartender hand you the drink directly instead of getting it from that person. This way, you get your free drink and avoid any risk of there being anything else in it!
Here are a few other things you can do to prevent the possibility of getting roofied:
- Stick to clear-colored drinks like vodka soda or gin tonic so you can see if they’ve been spiked since roofies tend to give them a bright blue color.
- Watch out for a change in the flavor of your drink as the chemicals in the pills tend to make them bitter.
- And if it seems like someone is really pressuring you to drink or watching carefully as you do, it’s a good sign they may have spiked it.
And those are all the most important tips!
Just like in my Guide to Staying Safe While Traveling, I really want to emphasize that this guide is not meant to scare you into not traveling at all, but rather just inform you about all the possible ways that you could run into issues as a woman while abroad.
In most cases, you won’t have anything to worry about, especially in countries that are more developed. A lot of people think that traveling as a woman is not worth the risk, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As long as you are smart about it and take the right precautions, you will have an amazing experience!
The tips on this page are specifically for female travelers in any part of the world, but if you are traveling to a country that is considered to be risky, then you should also read my Advanced Travel Safety Guide because there are some other precautions you need to take as well as other things you need to be aware of.
Let me know in the comments below if these tips helped you out! And if you want to learn about how to make sure you’re prepared for your trip financially, check out my Guide to Managing Money While Traveling.