Safety tips and tricks for (solo) female travelers
Always carry your phone with you
Girls, ALWAYS. Make sure you have plenty of battery left and make sure you never run out of power. Put your phone off in case you feel like you are not going to make it through the day, so that in case you need your phone you are still able to use it. I always carry my charger or a power bank with me, even when I just go out for a drink at night. You never know what might happen. With a phone you are able to sent your location, call someone when you are in need of help and you have navigation.
Maps.me has been my life-saver multiple times and it is a must have app on your phone when you are traveling abroad. This free app allows you to download offline maps of the country you are visiting and works without internet once you’ve downloaded it. I prefer this over the regular offline maps from Google Maps because even hostels (with rating) are visible on Maps.me. You can even find “secret” hiking routes and entrances on there, as well as the best viewpoint spots.
ALWAYS keep track of your whereabouts
When it comes to backpacking women and safety, this one is very important too. Make sure you always check where you are and where you are going when you take public transport or a taxi. (maps.me) It won’t be the first time a taxi takes the long (expensive) route to the airport or that you are in the wrong bus or missed the right stop. When you keep track of your whereabouts you are much more likely to not get lost or scammed (or worse). I always put my maps.me navigation on when I go somewhere and make sure the driver is taking that route. Apart from using it in taxis, it is also convenient when taking a (night)bus or train. You always know where you are and you can see exactly if it might be time to leave bus because you are close to your destination.
Don’t get drunk when you are traveling solo
Especially when traveling solo! NEVER. Whether you are in on a beach party at Koh Phi Phi or in a quiet pub in Budapest. Don’t drink too much! You lose control over your body and your self controle and you are making yourself very voneravle and an easy target for someone with bad intentions. We all know having a good time with a drink and ending up completely wasted can happen in the blink of an eye, so make sure you don’t let it go that far. After a long time of traveling you might start to think “nothing ever happened to me, so let’s just have a good time tonight”. Abort mission, I repeat: abort mission! Don’t trust anyone you just met in the hostel either: you don’t know what they are really like. Trust me, I learned from this the hard way.
Listen to your heart
If something in your body or mind is telling you it might be a bad idea. Or if something just feels off, you are most likely right. Don’t do it, as attractive as it might sound. Skip the idea, skip the date, skip whatever it is you were planning on.
Let someone know where you are going
If you do decide to go out when your heart tells you it might not be the best idea: tell someone where you are going. This could be a dorm-roomie or a fiend from home. I find the feeling of having someone knowing where I am comforting in case something happens.
Use the fake phone call trick when you are in a bad situation
Saved my ass a couple of times too. If you are in an very unfortunate situation (someone harassing you, following you, watching your every move or just keeping you somewhere where you don’t want to be..) call – or pretend to be on the phone. You can talk to friends before you go on a trip and tell them to call you straight away when you sent them the “magic text”. This could give you an excuse to get away from the situation. If no one answers to your message: FAKE IT. Just answer the phone normally and be like “WHAT? Oh noo.. Shit you are kidding me! I AM COMING RIGHT NOW” or if you have no possibility to leave: “I am (say where you are) with (say who, or tell what he/she looks like) and tell the person you are with: “I need to go, my friend is waiting for me because something happened, can you take me back?” And again, sent your live location to a friend. If the situation is really dangerous: call the police in the bathroom.
Always take your purse with you to the toilet
When you are traveling solo, it’s likely you meet new people every day. Again, you don’t know them so always bring your belongings with you when you leave the room. You won’t be the first person going to the toilet in a restaurant and find out when you walk back inside that the person you were with + your belongings are missing. Always be pro cautious.
Hide your Money
Hide your money in multiple places. I am not a big fan of traveling with huge stack of cash, but in some countries with not that many ATM’s, its unavoidable. Even on my body I hide the money in different places, as well as in my backpack. I always use this one, this one and also this one to hide it. Same with bank cards; don’t put all of them in the same place. It you have both in your wallet and you end up losing it; you have nothing.
Have a backup-accommodation plan
There is always a change you aren’t able to find the hostel, or that you don’t even arrive in the place you intended on going. Make sure you have saved a couple of hostels on your Maps.me if you want to play save. For example: you are traveling from Pai to Chiang Rai in Thailand. There is no direct bus so you need to go to Chiang Mai first. But, what if you weren’t able to find the right bus in time in Chiang Mai? Or there is no bus going that day? You need to think about a back-up plan. Save an accommodation on your maps.me in Chiang Mai (don’t book it, just save one) and have one or two back ups for Chiang Rai too. It will save you a lot of stress when the accommodation is fully booked, or for some reason, you aren’t able to get to the one you’ve booked. Personally, I never book anything in advance and I just show up, but that’s a story for later.
Get yourself a local sim card
If you’ve read the points above, you’ll see having a phone with you is very important. Nowadays there are more and more free WiFi spots, but still not everywhere. Having WiFi means you can sent a WhatsApp or just quickly look online for good restaurants nearby. In a lot of countries like Georgia and Azerbaijan, the WiFi is only usable when you have a local sim card. Sim cards in general are very cheap and easy to get.
Never tell someone you are alone
I always tell people I am here with someone else. I am too afraid to travel solo and my friend is in the hotel now because he/she is feeling sick today. When I travel from one city to another and someone is asking me: I am here with my virtual husband and he is already there because of work or whatever. He is waiting for me and knows I am on my way. Unless I am talking with a fellow backpacker of course.
Always make it look like you know what you are doing
Don’t go flaunting down the streets looking lost with or without navigation on. Bring earphones and listen to your navigation. It will tell you when it is time to go left or right and you don’t give strange men the impression you are new here (meaning vulnerable). If you are lost as fuck and start to panic: take a seat, check your maps and if you really can’t find it: ask someone who looks reliable to help you.
Use taxi apps over regular taxis
When you are using services like Uber or Grab, you know who is picking you up, as well as authorities in case something strange would happen to you. Another plus is that you know you are paying a fair price. Don’t get in with pushy taxi drives on the street when you are alone.
Avoid traveling at night
If possible, travel during the day. Make sure that you don’t arrive in a new place when it’s already dark and late. First of all: it makes it harder to navigate in a new place. And second: you could come across drunk or strange people. There are less people on the streets and if someone wanted to do harm to you, the change is higher when it’s dark.