Travel safety for woman is the number one concern for students, seniors and world adventurers. I’ve written chapters in my books and spoken at universities and at travel shows about “how to stay safe and travel the world”. Here are ways to be prepared and avoid trouble.
1. We can be aware of our surrounding. We can avoid questionable neighborhoods and we can communicate that we’re self-assured by walking confidently with our heads up.
2. Track your location. We often take Uber or Lyft, especially at night so our location is tracked.
3. Research the Airbnb host and location. We are cautious about the Airbnb’s we book, reading all the reviews, checking out the location and using those that have earned Superhost Status.
2. Trust your instincts. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and trust your instincts. For example, one night when I was alone, I entered an elevator in a car parking lot and felt threatened by the other occupant. I just stepped back out and waited for the next elevator. If you feel something is off, wrong, strange – get out, move on, flee, scream, whatever is appropriate. Do it quickly.
3. 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.
4. Rophynol, the date rape drug
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 is an odorless, tasteless and colorless tranquilizer that can be slipped into your drink by someone 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.
5. 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.
6.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.
7. Consider wearing a wedding ring, if you are traveling alone. Even if you don’t already wear a ring. It will deter unwanted attention.
8. There is power in vocal embarrassment. I discovered this in India when I had issues with a man following me. 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. Most sleazy men do not want public attention.
Ask for help or company if you feel uncomfortable.
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.
9. Blend in. Dress appropriately. Clothing that is fashionable and appropriate in the USA may project a provocative image in another culture. Leave the revealing clothing at home.
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.
If you are traveling alone, be sure to know when the sun rises and sets. A bustling market can quickly empty out and be transformed into dark deserted streets. Plan to be back to your lodging or in a safe, busy neighborhood by dark.
10. Carry enough money in your shoe or a hidden pocket 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.
If in doubt, take a self defense course.
Be prepared, but don’t let safety concerns keep you at home. I have traveled the world, (yes, 7 continents and over 100 countries) and had very few negative experiences. I was very cautious and prepared. You can be too. So happy travels.