In recent history, there’s been a huge increase in solo travel among women, both for pleasure and for business.
The Women’s Travel Club, founded in 1992, looks to empower this solo travel. We’re sharing with you the club’s 65 best member-sourced tips, and while many of these tips are great for any solo traveler, regardless of age and gender, there are often real dangers that face women of a certain age that don’t necessarily affect men to the same degree.
Here’s what members have gleaned over the years:
-Aim for a well-trafficked street (neighborhood restaurants and late-night stores mean traffic, corporate offices mean darkness). Affluent residential areas tend to have more efficient transportation and fewer threatening street people.
-Smaller is smarter: you want the staff to be familiar with guests and with you. The smaller the lobby, the more noticeable the loiterers.
-The hotel should have sufficient staff to walk you to your room late at night. Inquire when you book and you’ll get an idea of how woman-friendly the hotel is.
-Inquire about private airport transfer options, especially if you will be arriving at night.
-Packing light can actually be a safety tip: Nothing says “rob me” like someone wheeling four large bags along the side of a street. You’ll also be more mobile with a smaller bag in case you need to move quickly.
-Use covered luggage tags. Instead of your home address, write that of your office.
-Lock all suitcases. If you make a lot of purchases on your trip, secure the bag with strong tape.
-Stay close to your valuables when passing through airport security.
-Talk to female passengers and flight attendants on the plane about the safety of your destination.
-Request a room on an upper floor near the elevators and away from any renovation work. Have your key out when you leave the elevator.
-The door should have double locks—one of which is a deadbolt—and a peephole. Bring along a rubber doorstop for extra security.
-Leave the “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on your door and the TV on when you leave your hotel room to make it seem occupied.
-The PLEASE MAKE UP THIS ROOM sign tells everyone you’re not there. Call housekeeping instead.
-If you order room service or something from a hotel, never identify that you are alone. If you have to, say the other person will “be right back,” or open the door only part way.
USING THE CONCIERGE
-A reception and concierge desk near the entrance, and/or the elevators, is more likely to deter non-guest undesirables.
-Insist on privacy at checking in: no one should be able to overhear a name, room number, or other personal information.
-Room numbers should be written on the key envelope, not mentioned aloud or inscribed on the key—this way, anyone finding your key won’t have access to your room.
-Ask the concierge to make any restaurant reservations, and have him or her say, “Please take care of our guest, she’s coming alone and will need a taxi home.”
-If you’re concerned about the surrounding area, befriend a female employee—perhaps not one in reservations—and ask her whether she walks around at night. (Call the restaurant, for instance.)
TRANSIT BY CAR
-Fill up your gas tank when it’s half full to avoid running low when you’re in a sketchy area (or a place with no gas at all).
-Look for a parking lot that is well lit and secure. When possible, park so you won’t have to back out. It makes for a speedier departure. Find out if there’s valet parking and if it will be available when you need it.
– In a busy area, if you deposit your belongings on your car’s passenger seat, lock the door before walking around to the driver’s side.
-On the road, if someone tries to get your attention or your car is bumped, don’t stop until you arrive at a well-lit and busy area, or lacking that, stay in the car and blow the horn until someone comes to your aid.
-If suspicious about “phony” police, don’t open the window. Instead, hold your license against the glass.
TRANSIT BY TAXI
-Build a financial cushion into your budget so you can take cabs when you feel unsafe walking.
-Don’t use an unmarked taxi; if necessary, take public transportation to a city center.
-Snap a picture of your cab’s license plate before you get in it.
-When you’re in the cab, make a real (or fake) phone call to say “Yep, I’m almost there. I’ll be there by XXX” so the driver thinks you are meeting someone at your destination, even if you’re not.
-Don’t exit a taxi until you’re sure you’ve arrived at your destination. Pay while still in the car so that you can be sure you’ve gotten the proper change.
TRANSIT BY BUS/TRAIN
-Always go in a train car that has other people in it. On buses or trains, sit close to the front and close to other women.
-Take your bag with you to the bathroom every time, even on buses and trains.
-Don’t sleep on trains, and don’t take night trains alone if you can help it.
-Tear your name and address off magazines before leaving them on the bus/train/plane. Why announce to the world that you’re away?
-Be wary when getting off a bus or train, or riding stairs and escalators; that’s when pickpockets tend to strike.
-A car with GPS installed is extremely handy.
-Your hotel’s concierge or a female employee can mark any dangerous areas on your map.
-Have the address of your hotel or hostel written down to hand to taxi drivers. Doesn’t hurt to do this for anywhere you’ll be taking a taxi if you don’t speak the language.
-Study a map before going out; once on the street, use a pocket-sized guidebook to avoid looking like a tourist. Just duck into a café or shop and check there if you must.
-If you need to ask for directions, approach families or women with children. To be extra safe, say, “Where is the XXX? I’m meeting my husband there,” even if you’re not.
-Dress down, and try to dress like a local (or at least a long-time expat). It will prevent you from getting a lot of unwanted attention. And if you don’t look like an obvious tourist, you won’t be the first target for swindlers or pickpockets.
-Avoid jewelry—even a chain that’s fake gold can be ripped off your neck. Do consider wearing a wedding ring: the U.S. State Department recommends it to single women traveling in the Middle East especially.
-Bring a “selfie stick” for those times when you don’t want to hand your camera or phone to someone to snap a picture for you.
-Should a car start to follow you, immediately turn and walk the opposite way.
-Don’t just check the weather at your destination; also make a note of when the sun rises and sets.
-Keep two hotel keys with you—one in your bag and one on your person. That way if your bag gets nabbed, you’re not locked out.
-Use prepaid phone cards instead of carrying your card number. International phone plans are worth it for emergencies. If you don’t want to spring for a whole plan, at least pack a couple of international phone cards with you in case you need them.
-Take pictures of all your documents (Passport, IDs, ticket numbers, reservations, etc.) and put them on a locked site like DropBox that you can access from any computer. That way, if you lose them and your computer or phone, you won’t be entirely inconvenienced.
-On sidewalks, keep your handbag and other valuables away from the street side (and on escalators, away from the opposite ramp).
-If you place your carry-on bag on the floor when sitting in a restaurant or other public area, put your foot through the strap; don’t leave it loose.
-Loop a money belt around your belt loops so that if someone cuts it, it won’t fall from your waist.
-Carry just one credit card and photocopies of important documents.
-Become familiar with foreign currency before you need to use it.
-Don’t keep all your money in one place. Keep some cash and a card on your person and some in your bag and some back at your hotel. Divide money for small and larger purchases so you don’t have to expose a wad of bills every time you dig for cash.
-Have gratuities ready for porters and doormen.
For additional tips for safe travelling in 2018, our friends at Bookmundi.com have put together a fantastic article which you can find at https://www.bookmundi.com/t/top-travel-safety-tips-for-2018.