Safety Tips for Women Travelers

In view of the recent rape in India and concerns for women traveling worldwide, it’s even more important to be prepared and take precautions.

I plan my accommodations, daytime activities and clothing to avoid being a target. You may wonder why are women vulnerable targets for theft or random acts of violence when they travel?

What are should you know before you go?

What safety advice should you know before you go?

The three reasons women can be easy targets; lack of awareness of your surroundings, timid body language and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here’s what I learned traveling alone around the world for two years that transformed me from a naïve novice into a gutsy traveler.

Use your city smarts. You must know where you are and what’s going on around you at all times. Be aware that bad things do happen, and plan ahead. Know when the sun rises and sets. A bustling neighborhood that is safe during daylight hours may quickly transform into a dicey place with deserted streets after dark. Plan to be back to your lodging or in a safe, busy neighborhood by dark. If you are alone, don’t walk down empty streets or drive in bad neighborhoods at night. The best safety insurance is to have people around you.

Trust your instincts. They are well-honed from living in the USA. If you feel something is off, wrong, strange – get out, move on, flee, scream, whatever is appropriate. Do it quickly.


Fashionable and appropriate attire at home may cause problems in India and other countries.

Fashionable and appropriate attire at home may cause problems in India and other countries.

Clothing that is fashionable and appropriate in the USA may project a provocative image in another culture. It can be difficult to know what is considered offensive or suggestive in segregated societies, such as in Orthodox Muslim areas. At times you may feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. You may not know if the local men view you as a sex symbol representing the immoral Western World. Take your cues from the local women. Watch them. If they don’t make eye-to-eye contact with men, follow their example. Blend in. Dress appropriately. When in doubt, leave the revealing clothing at home.

At home, when you go out for an evening, carry a long sweater or jacket to cover up if you have to fill up with gas late at night.

 Body language: keep your head up, swing your arms and act confident. Adopt a no nonsense attitude. Walk with purpose and you’ll be less of a target for hustlers who prey on disoriented or timid tourists.Remember that women can be decoys to distract you while someone else robs you.

If you are being followed in the street and you feel threatened, duck into a shop and firmly tell the clerk: “I am a foreigner and someone is following me. I am frightened and need help.” If need be, have the clerk call a cab or police officer for you.hotel

Try to sit or stand next to other women or family groups in restaurants, on trains or buses, and in other public places. It is unlikely that you will be approached or harassed if you’re in the company of other people.

For countries like India, I recommend wearing a wedding ring, if you don’t already and travel overseas. It will help you avoid unwanted attention.

There is power in vocal embarrassment. I have found that many men are shamed by a verbal, loud woman admonishing them in public. Practice screaming before you leave home! Also shame them by shaking your finger in their faces. Even if the crowd doesn’t understand your words, they will understand your indignation and gestures.

Ask for help or company if you feel uncomfortable.

 It is common for a would-be thief to use razor blades to cut purse straps, take the purse, and then get away in a thick sea of bodies. Wear a money belt or buy a purse with a reinforced strap to avoid this happening.

How do you avoid being a target?

How do you avoid being a target?

Anticipate potential problems. For example: if a group of men or young boys approaches you on the sidewalk on your side of the street, cross to the other side to give them space and you peace of mind.

Carry enough money in your shoe or money pouch to get you out of a tight spot. Be willing to spend this money on a cab in order to get you to a safe place or back to your lodging. Do not take unnecessary risks.

Most of the people who offer you food or drink are just being kind. However, the rare exception exists – drugging occasionally happens. Try not to leave your drink unattended in bars, and exercise good judgment when accepting food or drink from people. Rophynol, the date rape drug, is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It is a tranquilizer that can be slipped into your drink by a man who would like to have sex with a woman who is heavily sedated. If you are at a party, don’t accept a glass of punch unless you trust the host. Don’t think this won’t happen to you. Some women don’t even know they have been raped until it’s too late.

If in doubt, take a self defense course.

Safety Tips for Women    All rights reserved. © Marybeth Bond



Category: Safety Tips, Travel Tips, Women

About the Author ()

Marybeth Bond, the Gutsy Traveler, National Geographic author of 11 travel books, featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and founder of the Online Travel Magazine She has been featured over 1,000 times on TV, radio and print. She is a Contributor to CNN, CNN Airport Network and Speaker, spokesperson, author, travel expert, Marybeth, the Gutsy Traveler walks the talk. She's an adventurer; biked two months across the USA, traveler to over 90 countries, media travel expert for CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, NPR and National Geographic.

Comments (4)

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  1. Anja says:

    India is a very dangerous place. When I lived there 2 French backpackers traveling together were raped and badly beaten. They went to the Police Station (always a bad idea in India) to file a police report. This is when their nightmare got even worse.

    In India is NOT POSSIBLE to file a police report unless you pay Baksheesh. Baksheesh is a fancy word for “Bribe.” You pay Baksheesh so the police will write a police report. You pay Baksheesh again for them to START to do something. You pay Baksheesh every single day and they do nothing as that shuts off the tap. People instead visit a Private Investigator to recover their stolen car, stolen goods from their home due to a burglary / break in, to recover their relative who has been kidnapped, etc. The PI is faster and cheaper than a cop.

    In the event of a rape the police REFUSE to make a report as any female who reports a rape is assumed to be a prostitute or slut. Therefore, no report is made. This is the first problem. The second problem is the cops view a rape as…what is 30 more times? You were raped once. We can do a gang rape on you of every cop in the station.

    The two French girls were locked in a cell for 24 hours and raped by every cop who came on duty. Europe was in an uproar. Nothing was said in the US.

    No cops were removed from duty. No cops were jailed. No cops were fined. It is a man’s world in India. Women are chattel available to be bought and sold by whoever owns them: father, husband or some other male relative. Yes, chattel means property and a female can be bought and sold at any time for any reason. It is legal. Females hold less value than a cow or a rat as the cow and rat are gods.

    The South is very, very, very conservative. I sent my neighborhood into an uproar by wearing a sleeveless shirt and showing my upper arms. That is the same thing as making a porn film in the middle of the street. Everyone stopped to stare at me, point and I had 8 auto rickshaws following me in a creepy way.

    I wore walking shorts down to my knees. This freaked out the whole neighborhood as well. Again…I was followed by creepy men.

    I learned I can not show any more skin than my hands, face, neck, on the arms I can show the elbows to the hands, but nothing above the elbow. Showing leg is forbidden. Showing the upper arm is forbidden. Showing cleavage or a low back is surely forbidden. Wearing tight clothing is a mistake. Clothing should be loose and flowing. If the clothing is tight it is seen as slutty and you are a hooker. If you want to be seen as respectable cover up and wear loose clothing.

    Forbidden clothing:
    Tank Tops
    Mini Skirts
    Spaghetti Straps
    Short dresses (need to come to the floor as a Maxi Dress or at the very least be tea length.)
    Midriff Baring Tops
    Tight Clothing
    Low Cut Tops, Dresses
    Sleeveless Tops, Dresses

    Dress like you are going to church on Sun and cover up. Club clothing is not appropriate for India and is inviting problems.

    Eve Teasing – Pinching, groping, mauling, pawing a female despite her protests. Called Even Teasing as it used to take place under the cover of darkness. Now it takes place 24/7. Eve Teasing can happen in the train station, airport, shopping mall, market, on the street and pretty much any place where another person has access to you. There is nothing that can be done about it. Get used to the idea that a walk through the train station in Mumbai can mean your butt will be covered in bruises from being pinched so much.

    Train – Take the LADIES CAR for women and children ONLY. NO MEN ALLOWED to avoid more Even Teasing. Ladies Car is a car only the women and children are allowed to ride. No men allowed on the Ladies Car. This will save you headaches and save you from more bruises.

    The lighter your hair color is, the lighter your eye color is and the lighter your skin is the higher value you are to Human Trafficker kidnappers. Be extra cautious.

    Auto rickshaws are safer than a cab. Taxi cabs can drive to a Human Trafficker (slave trader) and sell you to them. With an auto rick you can jump out and get away. Auto ricks are safer. Auto ricks are often owned by the cops and driver leases the auto rick from the cop. Be careful about arguing with an auto rick driver due to the cop connection. You don’t want to end up in jail. Then a whole new set of problems starts in jail. You will not escape rape-free.

    Jail = rape by the cops

    DO NOT go to the cops for any reason. Cop contact is an opportunity for the cops to rape you. Avoid the cops. They are corrupt, ask for Baksheesh, rape you and never help you. Call the American Embassy instead. That is what I did when I needed help with a corrupt government official.

  2. Anja says:

    RE: Wearing a wedding ring in India

    I lived in India. I wore my wedding ring. It made NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL!

    Why? Because it is not their custom to wearing a wedding band or wedding ring in India. A ring means nothing to them.

    Indian Custom How the women show they are married: (1) Toe rings on the 2nd toe of both feet. This is their equivalent to a wedding ring in the West. However this is not enough. (2) A gold chain around the neck with a charm on it. This is also equivalent to a wedding ring in the west, but still #1 and #2 are not enough. (3) Dye placed in the center part of the hair such as fuchsia, bright blue or purple. The color in the part means they are MARRIED. No dye means they are single.

    These 3 things combined signal all that a woman is married.

    These will not work for a Westerner as no Indian will take you seriously with dye in your hair.

    The dye in the hair has meaning. It is not just for looks or just because. It means the woman is married and taken.

  3. inka says:

    I particularly applaud your last piece of advice: take a self defense course. I did, starting at the ripe old age of 55 and liking it so much that I went on to get three kick boxing belts. You gain such confidence simply knowing that you can DO something if in a tight spot. But, as out instructor said in the very first lesson: the best defense is to avoid a tricky situation. It’s not cowardice, it’s common sense.But, if attacked: hit back.

  4. Juliet White says:

    This is a really helpful post. I’d never considered the value of accompanying yelling with universally understood gestures like finger wagging. Women’s rights, and what they are expected to endure, vary widely around the world.

    I remember describing an incident in China to our male tour guide. My partner and I were walking back to our hotel when a man grabbed my shoulder. I’m fairly sure he just wanted to touch my hair, which is reddish. I pulled away and ran off, without incident.

    When I mentioned this to the tour guide and explained that I’d been moments away from responding with a right hook, he was shocked (at my instinctive reaction). ‘The man was just trying to show he liked you,’ he said. It didn’t matter that I didn’t like being grabbed by a stranger. I was supposed to accept it. My tour guide was an educated man, who I respected. If even he could not understand that grabbing is a no-no, I dread to imagine the views in the rest of the world.

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