Safety First: Tips for Women Traveling Solo
Not only should you dress for the weather and for the activities you’ll be doing (leave those high heels at home!), but also you should dress for the culture if you want to blend in and avoid being hassled. Look to the locals and try to emulate how other women dress. If you don’t see any women with their shoulders, legs or cleavage showing, then it’s probably best to follow suit. It’s never a bad idea to err on the side of modesty no matter where you go.
In some countries like Egypt, many female travelers choose to cover up their hair. It’s not necessarily expected of foreigners, but hair is considered to be quite provocative in Egyptian culture and it may warrant you some uncomfortable attention and perhaps even some unwanted head stroking, especially if you’re fair-haired.
In some cultures making eye contact with a man is seen as an invitation. However staring at the ground doesn’t exactly exude the confidence that’s necessary when traveling alone. Wear dark sunglasses and you can stare back to your heart’s content.
Make some friends
Traveling alone is a great way to meet new people, whether they’re locals or fellow travelers. Daytime group tours are a great way to find a new dinner companion or a drinking buddy to spend your evening with. Staying at a hostel is another excellent way to make friends and feel less alone while traveling. Although be prepared for noisy nights as some hostels don’t offer individual rooms but instead house several travelers in a room with bunkbeds. Some hostels offer gender separate accommodations while others are co-ed — go with whatever you’re most comfortable with! And splurge for a locker to keep your possessions in if you can afford it.
Trust your instincts
If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, don’t feel as if you’re overreacting or being too cautious. Go with your gut and do what you feel is best. If you think you’re being followed, duck into a business or restaurant and wait it out. If you feel you’re being harassed, even if you don’t know for certain what is being said to you, don’t be afraid to be rude; just firmly say “no” in whatever the local language is and extract yourself from the situation. If men ask to accompany you somewhere, turn them down firmly. Ask to sit next to or share a compartment with another woman on a bus or a train if that makes you feel more comfortable. It’s better to be rude than to find yourself in a bad situation.