Here you are ladies. 9 tips if you’re traveling alone.
Whether you’re a female traveling alone, in a group or simply someone who would like to avoid becoming a target, the following tips will help you become more in control should you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Remember, life is predicated on timing and probability. It only takes once for something to go terribly wrong.
This list is not exhaustive and may come across a bit harsh and many of these tips may seem like overkill to some. This article is designed to stress these points so you can avoid becoming a victim.
Many would argue that solo international travel is perfectly safe and that you do not have anything to worry about. They are right, for the most part it can be safe and chances are you will be fine.
Millions of people travel alone, incident free every year to hundreds of countries. That’s great to rely on the kindness of humanity, but you have to be pretty naive to think everyone, every time is going to have altruistic tendencies.
Are you comfortable with this figure? Statistics show that 1 out of every 6 women have been a victim of either attempted or completed rape. If I told you that 1 out of every 6 flight you take is going to crash, would you still fly? We’re not trying to discourage women from traveling solo, in fact it’s a great opportunity and can be an awesome adventure. Just be smart about it. Let’s get started.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
Tip 1: Make digital copies of your passport and travel documents
This is a no brainer. We’re not going to go into detail and tell you why. I think you know why!
Email them to yourself, store them on a personal cloud. Just be sure you can access them if needed.
Tip 2: Know your destinations prior to arrival
Its not hard to figure out whether someone is just visiting a city/country or lives there. For the most part, a tourist is pretty easy to pick out. As a solo traveler, it is imperative to know exactly where your first destination (ie. Hotel, residence etc) is once you get off the plane. Do not look like you are lost and unaware of where you are. There are people who look for opportunistic moments to prey on individuals during vulnerable situations.
Knowing where you are going will often times prevent someone from coming up to you and trying to elicit you for information. The less they know the better. Do not give them a reason.
Tip 3: Register with the embassy and International Medical Group
We highly recommend registering with the US embassy’s Smart Traveler program (STEP)
Very few people actually take the time to do this. This is a good way to get notifications about safety in the area, assisting family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency as well as other benefits. Its quick, easy and provides an added layer of awareness. On that, know where the consulate is in the city you will be traveling to.
Look into the International Medical Group plans should you need medical services overseas. We are not going to make recommendations; and this link is one of a few out there, however, it is worth giving them a call.
Tip 4: Two points of contact w/ scheduled check ins (Primary, secondary, tertiary time windows)
Choose TWO people who you will check in with on a scheduled basis. Make sure you set up hard times for a check in and time windows. For example; I choose two people and tell them I will check in on this __day either through, text, voice, or email. If I miss this time window then my next check in will be the next day. If I miss my second check-in then a third time window will be attempted 2 days after. If I miss my third time window, unless specifically noted for some reason (ie. traveling to remote island etc.) the contacts are instructed to notify embassy and let then know that I have missed three scheduled check in windows. Often times the embassy will do a welfare check.
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Tip 5: Do not look like a target
What we mean by “do not look like a target” is do not walk around looking timid. Studies show that perpetrators do not randomly target their victims and often chose their victims based on how they carry themselves. If a potential perpetrator/abductor sees you, you want to appear to them that you will put up a fight. It takes a criminal a few seconds to assess whether you will be a target of interest or not.
Two issues that attackers are concerned with are will they get caught and will they get hurt.
Carry yourself with confidence and walk with good posture. Does not matter how big or small you are. This is one of the most important actions you can take.
As you walk make eye contact with people, look at their hands, own your space. Don’t forget to look behind you every once in a while. Next time you’re out take a minute to look around and you’ll see that very few people actually look to see who is behind them. Let people know that you are situationally aware. Doing so can prevent a surprise attack.
Tip 6: Use a money belt for personal items
Can you see the money belt on the above woman?
Not much detail to get into here but when traveling in a foreign city, we highly recommend using a money belt when out and about. Especially, if you’re going to Rome, Barcelona or Prague where the pick pocketing is prevalent. These are made to keep your most valuable docs close to you and out of sight.
Tip 7: If approached by an aggressor
If someone approaches you and tries to pull you away, fight with extreme violence, yell and scream. You need to unleash your inner psycho. Violently attack the eyes, nose and groin while yelling.
Disclaimer: This is not a self-defense course, however, these are effective techniques in the heat of the moment.
If you are simply approached and are being asked for your purse then, as stated earlier, look at their hands. Do they have a weapon or not? If they simply are asking you for your purse or wallet then throw your purse in one direction and run in the other. Its difficult to determine at that moment what their intentions are (robbery, assault, abduction).
If you are approached by someone and they have a gun and want you to get in the car, DO NOT GET IN THE CAR. Establish eye contact with them, and be compliant at first. They may just want your purse. Give it to them. If they want you to get in the car. Nope, not happening. Look past their shoulder as if you are looking at someone that is coming up behind them. If they happen to look behind them, turn around and start running and yelling. This isn’t full proof but can create just enough of a distraction for you to escape. You may want to carry a whistle for this reason. A frantic whistle will certainly turn heads. For this reason, women should never be walking by themselves in low populated areas wearing heels.
Tip 8: Situational awareness
This simply means, be aware of what and who is around you. Look for patterns. If you spot the same person at multiple locations over distance and time you may want to keep an eye out. It’s probably not a coincidence. These are things we already do subconsciously.
Realize when someone is trying to get information. By all means if you need to make up a story and say you’re meeting your husband or boyfriend then do it. Situation awareness applies to your hotel room as well. While your room can be a safe place, it can compromise your safety. Check out the below video on how set up your hotel room and detect if someone has been there.
Tip 9: Know your smartphone’s emergency SOS feature
Both Android and Iphone have an emergency feature that will call/text your emergency contacts as well as record video and voice and send location pings.
Traveling alone is freeing. You can do what you want, when you want. Follow the above tips and stack the chips in your favor. Enjoy yourself but remember, no one is going to look after you more than yourself.