This article isn’t written by a man trying to force “gender stereotypes” on women.
I’m a female traveler and I’ve traveled solo a few times.
In fact, you may have read my earlier post about the time I was shocked by an electric shower in El Salvador.
And while I’ve traveled, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Typically, female travelers fall into two camps – either the innocent “the world is a beautiful place” or the tough “I’m a strong female and I can handle it all” category.
Neither are good outlooks to have.
But with more women traveling solo than men, it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing – and even then there are no guarantees because safety is never a sure bet.
In fact, The New York Times just featured a provocative article titled “Adventurous. Alone. Attacked” filled with violent stories about how women have been raped and brutalized around the world when traveling.
Some of these women did everything right and still suffered horrific attacks.
But the Times claims the violence is due to the “gender stereotypes” and goes on to say we should stop telling women how to dress and act and instead start putting the pressure on men.
However, in reality, we can’t expect another person to be responsible for our own safety.
There are predators in this world. Always have been. Always will be.
Telling men to “play nice” isn’t going to help you a bit when you’re in the rough, uncivilized areas of the world.
And adopting either a feminist or Pollyanna approach to traveling is not the answer.
The solution is somewhere in the middle, and yes ladies, as females we have to take extra precautions when traveling.
It’s just the way it is.
So if you are a female and are looking to travel solo, I say do it – but read these tips first.
Not The Time To Stand Out
But ladies, there is an extra layer for you.
Yes, you might have brand new vacation clothes and the perfect accessories to match, but your goal when traveling is to blend in, not stand out.
The last thing you want to portray is, “Look at me, I’m a wealthy American,” especially while traveling alone.
I know, it might not seem “fair” and guys should just “behave,” but ladies the reality is there are bad guys out there, and some men (and women) are predators.
It’s just the way it is.
You can still look stylish and classy by wearing basic clothes that are clean and well-kept but won’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
This means leaving behind the expensive diamond earrings you got for your birthday. And the designer handbag and sunglasses.
When I was in El Salvador, I dressed modestly and wore simple clothes. I didn’t even bring a purse and instead opted for a small crossbody bag to place a few accessories in.
And my sunglasses? I picked up a $1 pair from the Dollar Store before I left.
Watch What You Post
We get it – you want that perfect Instagram photo followed by the hashtag #jetsetter.
But save posting your vaca photos until you are back safely in the States.
The last thing you want is broadcasting to the world that you are traveling by yourself.
We get it, you are brave, but you are also vulnerable (sorry it’s the truth ladies).
And please, do not “check in” on Facebook.
Checking in and leaving a trail of exactly where you are (especially after you posted you were traveling solo) could literally get you killed.
I mean do you really know all 1500 of your friends on Facebook? And even if you “only accept friend requests from people you know,” are you sure your Facebook settings are set to private and not public?
Back here in America, checking in at the gym probably won’t endanger your life, but while you’re traveling overseas you could be outlining the perfect map (with your exact location) and placing it in the hands of a predator.
Before you get on the plane, make sure you have the address of where you’re staying and other important information like the phone number and address of the closest U.S. embassy written down.
Look at a map and get an idea of where you are going before you arrive.
You should also write down the phone numbers of a few trusted contacts back in the States should your phone get stolen (unless you have their number memorized).
When I went to El Salvador, I opted to leave my expensive phone back in the States because I knew that everything could get stolen. A friend of mine on the ground gave me a cheap basic phone to use, and the cell package I picked up while in the country was only $8 for 2 weeks.
You can also get a burner phone before you leave – just make sure you get an international SIM card.
In addition to having a colored copy of your passport with you, you should also email a scanned copy of your passport to yourself and a trusted family member or friend should something happen where yours gets stolen.
In most circumstances, keep your actual passport with you at all times and place it in a flat belt pack to wear under your clothes which keeps it concealed and hidden.
If you are staying in a trusted place with a secured hotel safe, you can place it there, but make sure you carry the copy with you.
While I was in El Salvador it was too risky to have my actual passport on me (I carried the copy) – but I kept my actual passport locked at the place I was staying which was behind a tall locked fence with armed guards.
Don’t Ignore Your Intuition
Ladies – we are gifted with being fiercely intuitive, and as a solo female traveler, you must not dismiss your intuition, you must use it.
If something feels off – it probably is.
There are countless stories of women who “sensed” something was off but ignored their gut feelings.
Sadly many of these women had even told a friend or family member that they had a bad feeling, but by then it was too late.
The good news is there are stories about women who trusted their intuition and it actually saved their lives and others.
Remember the story about the flight attendant Sheila Frederick who was able to save a teenager from human sex trafficking?
Frederick trusted her intuition when she saw something that looked off on her flight and she followed through.
USA Today reported:
“Something in the back of my mind said something is not right,” Frederick said.
Frederick said the girl wouldn’t look at her or respond to questions, and the man she was flying with answered every question she asked.
“He was well dressed, that’s what kind of got me because why is he well dressed and she is looking disheveled and out of sorts,” Frederick said.
Frederick was able to tell the girl under her breath to go to the bathroom. The veteran flight attendant put a note on the mirror for her.
“She wrote on the note she needed help,” Frederick said.
And remember ladies – bad guys are better at being bad guys than you are.
You might be the most peaceful and trusting person ever – but the world is not a safe place and some men play on the vulnerability of women.
Trust your gut.
And finally, we get that you want to have a good time. But watch your alcohol intake. Pounding back multiple margaritas or frozen drinks might sound like a good idea at the time, but remember you are alone.
Alcohol lowers our defenses and makes us more vulnerable. We don’t think as quickly and our reflexes aren’t as fast.
And please, please never leave your drink unattended. Take it to the bathroom with you. Even turning away from your drink for a quick second can give someone the opportunity to slip something in it.
Whether it’s lemonade or a long island, just keep your hand over the top.
And it should go without saying, but be aware of your surroundings. All of them.
Don’t Forget To Have Fun!
Ladies the goal is not stay in your hotel room with the door chained and too terrified to step outside.
Traveling solo is a liberating experience – you can learn a lot about yourself, such as how you respond to obstacles like canceled flights or lost luggage.
And you’ll have the freedom to plan your trip the way you want – you get to pick where you stay, what restaurants to check out, and which local spots you must see.
Since it’s just you, you are free to sleep in till noon, then head to the beach for some sun and sleep another hour.
Or you can make an adventurous itinerary going to places that interest you the most.
I want you to have an amazing trip, but remember to take these precautions to heart – they might just save your life.
Oh and of course, take lots of pictures!
Just make sure to post them later.
Are you a female who has ever traveled solo? Did you ever encounter a suspicious situation while traveling? If so, how did you handle it?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!