According to Solo Traveler, 72 percent of US women – roughly nine million women – travel alone. While this trend is exciting, there are risks to traveling alone that women should work to avoid.
While men also experience potential dangers while traveling alone, women tend to be at higher risk for kidnapping, sexual assault, and even murder.
The following tips can help travelers plan a safe and comfortable trip.
Before the trip
Find out how women are viewed and treated in your destination country. Different countries and cultures have different attitudes about and expectations of women. Learn about customs, appropriate attire, and stereotypes before traveling. Review the Thomson Reuters Foundation list which rates the danger to women in 19 of the world’s largest cities. In addition, The State Department‘s website lists safety and security information for each country.
Share your travel information with someone. Share your flight, schedule and hotel info with at least one friend or loved one. Include the address and phone number of your hotel.
Research transportation. Look into taxi and ridesharing companies that are available and reputable in the area. Also, find out about your public transportation options and the costs for each.
Stay informed. Visit the State Department’s resources for international travelers and find out where the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate is located. Consular officers are typically available for emergency assistance 24/7 so be sure to store their contact information.
During the trip
Be alert. The point of vacation is to relax and be in the moment, but you should still keep your guard up. Be observant of what’s happening around you. Avoid dark and isolated places and never share information about where you are staying with strangers.
Be mindful of your liquor intake. Keep track of how much you drink. It helps to set a limit on how many drinks you will have at any one time. Most of us know our limits and should be mindful of them – particularly when traveling solo. Never leave your drink unattended and only drink beverages that you see being made. You can also buy kits that allow you to test your drink to make sure it has not been spiked.
Get familiar with the area. Learn local landmarks like drugstores and restaurants to help you feel grounded. Also, find out where the closest hospital and police station is so you’ll know where to turn for help should something happen.
Be careful with money. Depending on your destination, it may be unsafe to carry and reveal large amounts of money. Try to use a credit card where possible and use cash in small denominations. Split your cash up and store it in various places so that if you are a victim of theft, you won’t necessarily lose everything.
After an assault
If you’re the victim of sexual assault while traveling abroad, seek safety as soon as possible. Call the US Embassy and Pathways to Safety International to see what your legal and medical options are. Pathways often helps victims manage the legal system of the foreign country and covers travel costs if the victim must come back to court.
As tempting as it may be to wash the assault away, try not to bathe or brush your teeth until consulting with officials. If a medical exam is conducted, they may be able to find the perpetrator through DNA. If you do remove your clothes, put them in a new paper bag to avoid contaminating the evidence.