As a full-time traveler and a digital nomad, the number one priority that I put forward before planning everything else, is always safety. When you go in groups, it’s easy to split the task of keeping an eye on one another. But, traveling solo is a different territory entirely. And if you’re a solo female traveler, that means you’ll have to be EXTRA careful because not only we’re dealing with possible robbery, scam, and theft, we also have to keep ourselves safe from the potential of sexual assault, rape, and harassment.
For this article, I have teamed up with my two seasoned traveler friends, Syifa Adriana, and Yoke Wen, to give you some personal tips on how to stay safe as a solo female traveler. I met these girls through Couchsurfing, and we’ve been travel buddies ever since. You’ll get to see different tips and perspective from a city nomad like me, a travel vlogger like Syifa, and an outdoor adventurist like Yoke.
FYI: It’s a looooooong article, so I’m dividing it into two section: Departure and Arrival (will upload this part next)
What you need to know before you arrive in your destination.
1. Do your homework – Research, research, research!
Before you decide to go on a new adventure, make sure that you know EVERYTHING about the city or the country that you’re going to. Do a bunch of research. Too much information will never hurt, really!
Not only you should find out about all the touristy activities that you can do in the area, you should also research about how the transportation system work, how the locals dress, and whether the place is considered safe for female travelers. Personally, the transportation system is the first thing that I would Google because there are a lot of cases of women getting harassed by taxi drivers or stories about women not feeling safe traveling with a public bus.
To do this, my friends and I will usually check out some travel blogs or ask the ladies from various solo female traveler groups on Facebook. You can check out Girls Love Travel, Women Who Travel, The Solo Female Traveler Network, etc. They are usually very helpful, and they’ll give you valuable insights. And the best thing is, you can write a shoutout to anyone who’s currently in your next destination, and ask them to hang out with you!
2. Book the right flight and the right accommodation
Although it’s tempting to book the cheapest flight out there, try not to book a flight that’ll arrive at night time, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. It’s for safety measure. And if you can’t escape it, consider staying at the airport until the sun goes up. It’s going to be uncomfortable to sleep on an airport bench, yes, but at least it minimizes the chances of you getting scammed or robbed in a foreign city.
For your accommodation, read as much review as possible before you book it. Consider all options: Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Hotels, Hostels, or maybe Tinder with a healthy dose of realistic expectations. Do not blindly follow your friend’s recommendation, because you will always have the chance to experience it differently. I personally feel safer booking a female dorm or an Airbnb with a female host than booking a mixed dorm. Or if I have enough budget for myself, I would opt for a cheap hotel that isn’t located in a dodgy area or have a sleazy feels to it.
3. Get a travel insurance
You’re pretty much don’t wanna get stranded in a foreign land, injured, and not being able to pay for your medical expenses. I’ve seen a lot of women without a license who decided to rent a bike and ride it in Bali. I can’t blame them, it’s so easy to rent a bike there anyway. Some of them are doing fine, but there are also those who got into an accident eventually. Not that they’re driving recklessly, but driving in Bali means that you’ll have to share the same road with drunken Aussie guys who are like literally hotheaded, topless daredevils. Seriously, buying yourself a travel insurance will save you from having to pay all the hospital fees because of a crime that you didn’t even commit.
One of the most highly recommended travel insurance is World Nomads. It’s kinda pricey, tbh, so if you can’t afford it, you can always buy the ones available in your home / base country.
4. Pack the right items
Once you find out what locals would wear on a daily basis, it’s easy to tailor your packing according to that. To be safe, try packing clothes that are considered modest. My friends and I feel that it’s important to blend in and stay as invisible as possible to minimize the chances of getting harmed. Even though that means you’ll have to bring an extra item with you.
Bringing a spare long scarf or a pashmina is a great idea because you can cover your face and hide your status as a tourist. Covering my face with a scarf saved me from a lot of trouble in Varanasi, India because I got to avoid men who were trying to sell me their boat ride. And if you’re traveling in Asian countries, Syifa mentioned that you'd see a lot of women covering their face because they’re scared of getting tanned, which makes it pretty normal if you decide to do the same.
Another thing that you should consider bringing is a safety item — lock, taser, swiss knife, pepper spray, or perhaps chili powder. I will usually carry all of these because I’m always ready to fight. Yoke, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of lock because not all hostel have locks installed on their locker.
I would suggest finding out what safety items you can bring into the country before deciding to carry one, though. Singapore bans taser and pepper spray, so they have the authority to seize your items. In India, you can bring any of them, make sure that your taser is not battery powered, or they won’t allow you to carry it inside the check-in baggage.
5. Learn self-defense
This is just a suggestion, but I went to India prepared with a skill of self-defense. I learned Muay Thai for two months before my trip, so I’m more equipped to face a physical threat. I remembered I was getting chased down or followed by some guys in Varanasi for a few times, and I can at least feel better knowing that I can protect myself just in case they decided to touch me. Learning to protect yourself is always good for you, but if it’s not something you’d like to do, at least research what you should do if a stranger tries to harm you physically.
For our next article, we’re going to tell you some safety tips that are useful once you have arrived in the area! If you have a few tips that you’d like to add in the article, write it in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and safe travel, girls! 🌟🌴
Hello, I'm Canti!
I am a nomadic tarot reader, Reiki Master, and an eclectic witch, providing online tarot reading and healing service for the mindful soul-searchers. Contact me at www.foxglovetarot.com to book a private counseling session with me.