Travelling alone, as a woman, is a great way to have an adventure of your own or exercise your status as a strong independent woman; whether you are going on a fun vacation, a business meeting, or educational conference, it can be an exhilarating experience. Other times, it can be utterly terrifying…and with good reason.
No matter how confident a woman you are, you are not above falling victim to any of the numerous risks and potential threats that come with traveling by yourself to an unfamiliar location: from robbery to kidnap, rape, assaults, attacks, and various other violent crimes. While the travel industry is adjusting to accommodate women travelers, they still are more vulnerable than men, especially when traveling by themselves.
Luckily, there are certain measures that women could take to ensure that they are protected and safe when traveling alone:
Arrange a private transfer from the airport
Before you arrive at your destination, arrange a private transport from the airport to your hotel or place of abode. Most times, the hotel would offer a package that includes airport pick up, you can opt for that. The idea is to manage your movements from the airport to your hotel upon arrival, especially if you are arriving at night or you do not know the city you are visiting quite well. This is a crucial safety precaution as it better ensures your security. And even while in the private arrangement, track your movements privately with your own GPS or your Google map, that way you are aware of any suspicious detours.
Travelling alone does not mean you have to be MIA. Thanks to technology, there are myriad ways you can stay connected to people back at home. You can roam on your cell phone (depending on your network plan) or make arrangement to get a SIM card once you arrive at your destination. If you have a smartphone, you can connect via the internet (email) or social media apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, e.t.c. Make sure at least one person back at home has your itinerary information, as well as your flight and hotel details, in case something goes wrong or they need to get in touch with you. Know where you are and where you’re going at all times so that you can schedule a regular check-in with them so they know you’re safe. It is a good safety precaution. And if you think it is tedious, look on the bright side, it will give you a chance to show off and gush about your adventures as they happen.
Keep valuables in separate places
You are bound to travel with valuables including money, jewellery, phones, credit cards, your passport e.t.c. And to keep them safe, it helps to keep them in separate places that way if you are robbed, you won’t be totally screwed. For instance: on travel day, carry your passport separately from your money and credit cards; and while sightseeing at your destination, take some money with you( you can split the cash and store one in your pocket and the other in your bag), but leave your credit card and some cash in the hotel. Remember to stash the money in a couple of hard-to-reach spots in your clothing.You can also carry only copies of your essential documents and keep originals locked in your hotel safe. If you are tech savvy, take pictures of all your documents and put them on a locked site like DropBox that you can access from your phone or your laptop.
Be on the low-key
The last thing you want to do is draw unnecessary attention to yourself. You don’t want to give off the impression that you are a super-rich tourist with a lot of money to spend, you also do not want to dress lavishly or elaborately enough to attract attention. Pack light. Avoid carrying a lot of cash. Also, ensure your daily spending cash is accessible so that you do not have to pull a wad of bills out of your bra to buy a simple lollipop from a kiosk. Also, keep the local customs and climate in mind and try to blend in. For instance, in some countries, keeping eye contact can invite aggressive behaviour. You don’t want that.
Don’t sleep outside your room
Sometimes you are tired and you tempted to catch a little nap while commuting to a certain destination, but you must not do that, especially if you’re a commuting at night. Whether it is a private car, a taxi cab, a bus, the train, stay awake through the journey. Take every possible precautionary measure possible before even entering the vehicle. First, try not to move at night. If you must, try and take a picture of your cab’s license plate before you get in it. The driver should not kick up a fuss over the picture if he is legit. And when you are in the car, make a real (or fake) phone call to say something “hey, I’m almost there. I’ll be there in about 20 minutes”, that way so the driver believes you are meeting someone at your destination, even if you’re not. No matter how sleepy you are, only let yourself sleep when you are back in your room and the doors are locked.
Be cautious with new friends and keep information vague
While it is a great idea to make friends while visiting a place, you have to be cautious. There is nothing wrong with hanging out with colleagues after the business meeting, going to grab lunch with people you met at the workshop or taking a walk with the dude you befriended at the hotel lobby, but you have to be wary of them anyway. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume in front of them, also do not leave your drink unattended or even in their care.
Stay purposefully vague when they ask you questions that may require details responses. Do not advertise your vulnerability. For instance, if they ask you to let them in on what hotel you are lodged at or they ask you if it is your first time in the city, either give them a false information or beat around the bush on it. Even more, never tell anyone that you’re traveling alone. Lie if you have to. Don’t worry, God will forgive you.
Kick up a fuss if you need to
There is no rule that says you have to be nice to everyone or concede to their requests when you visit a new place. It’s okay to refuse a gift or even help from a stranger. Trust your instincts at all time and if you feel a bad vibe about something or someone, do not hesitate to withdraw. It doesn’t matter if you have to be rude about it. You aim is to stay safe and protect yourself. Also, if someone is doing something to make you feel uncomfortable or threatened, don’t hesitate to move away, draw attention to the offender and, in more serious cases, report them to the authorities. The fact that you are an alien in a country does not mean you have to put up with provocation or harassment.
Women should be able to take as many risks as men when it comes to solo travel. They should be able to challenge certain gender binaries when visiting different locations, without fear. But the world we live in is hardly the perfect one that allows women to do and be all these things. That world does not exist yet. Women must strive to exist in the world that does and take measures protect themselves as much as they can, especially when on the road. The truth is, anyone can easily be attacked while traveling alone if they are ignorant enough to show disregard for their safety but with women, however, it is a much more dire situation.