13 safety tips for solo female travellers

Don't let safety worries put you off travelling alone. With hundreds of solo trips under her belt, Wanderlust's editor-in-chief shares her hard-won travel advice for lone females

6 mins

Despite the horror stories that make the headlines, one should bear in mind that you are usually at no more risk while travelling than you are at home. But we can feel more vulnerable when we travel, and sometimes put ourselves in dodgy situations through lack of local knowledge. So, here are a few common-sense rules that I set myself when travelling solo – and they should help to keep you safe on your own adventures, too.

1: Pre-arrange your first night's accommodation

This should be done at the very least. Where possible, try to pre-arrange your airport transfer too – especially if arriving at night.

2: Don’t hire a taxi off the street

This applies especially at night. Make the most of reliable local sources such as hotels and restaurants that are able to book legitimate and trustworthy public transport.

3: Dress appropriately

Unfortunately, in some societies, how you dress can make you a target. So, err on the side of caution and dress conservatively, whether that involves covering your legs, shoulders, arms or head.

Always let people know where you're heading (Dreamstime)

Always let people know where you're heading (Dreamstime)

4: It may help to wear a wedding band

And never admit you are single!

5: Look like you know your way around

Don’t look too obviously touristy: use a local carrier bag and avoid using maps or guidebooks on the street. Instead, find a safe place to step aside and find your bearings before moving off again.

6: Have confidence

Acting with confidence even when you are in an unfamiliar location or situation will go far. Walk and talk as if you know what you are on about.

7: Learn a few key phrases

Practice commonly-spoken words and phrases in the local language. Not only will it make you feel more familiar with your surroundings, but it will help you to engage with people in the area. Learn standard greetings and manners such as "please" and "thank you", as well as phrases that will raise awareness to those around you, including “go away” and “help”.

Avoid using maps in public places (Dreamstime)

Avoid using maps in public places (Dreamstime)

8: Don’t be afraid to call for help

Now you know some of the local language, don't be afraid to use it and make people aware if you are in trouble. More often than not, bystanders will step in if they know you’re in trouble.

9: Always let people know where you’re heading

Whether you check in on social media or send a simple message to family or friends back home – always make sure there is someone that knows your next stop. You don't have to be attached to your phone or calling home every day, but sharing where you plan to be and when will keep minds at rest.

10: Find out which places you should avoid

Ask your accommodation staff about any areas that you should avoid, and store the phone number and address of your hotel in your mobile phone. It's also worth having them written down in the local language, in case you get lost or your battery runs out.

Learn basic phrases such as "go away" (Dreamstime)

Learn basic phrases such as "go away" (Dreamstime)

11: Don't panic if you think you're being followed

Think you’re being followed? Cross the street and try to find a group of people you can join or talk to, for example in a café or shop. Either that, or head to a reliable-looking hotel to relax in the lobby for a while. This is always a good way to get your equilibrium back.

12: Make contacts in the destination you are visiting

Whether it's friends of friends, long-distant relatives or a travel community, make use of people that you know in the places you are visiting. 

13: Use your instinct

Your gut instinct is usually right. If you have any doubts about a situation or person, then just get out of there.

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