Safety and awareness when travelling should be a priority for everyone, but for females travelling solo, you could be at an increased risk and therefore need to be extra aware and prepared.
Here are a few things to bear in mind before you head out on your next trip:
Before you leave
- Make sure that you do some research on any cultural norms, traditions or attitudes towards women in the country that you are travelling to. That way you will be fully in the know of what is socially acceptable. For example, in many cultures any form of physical contact is seen as disrespectful and in some places, even eye contact can be forbidden. It definitely pays to know these things, so do your research!
Arrival and Accommodation
- Book a hotel that offers airport pickup to avoid having to hang around at the airport waiting for a taxi or risk being approached by anyone lingering in the arrivals hall.
- Try to plan your journey so that you arrive at your destination around mid-day or at least before dark so that you can see clearly where you are going and to avoid getting lost in the dark.
- Ask if your accommodation has a safety deposit box that you can use. Lots of hotels and hostels have these for free or at a small additional cost. Using a safe means that you can leave your passport, money or any other personal and important documents at your accommodation and still have peace of mind. This saves you carrying everything around with you all the time and risk losing everything if you lose or have your bag stolen.
Out and About
- If you are getting public transport like a bus or metro, carefully choose where you stand or sit. For example, don’t choose a seat right at the back and isolate yourself; instead, choose somewhere near the front or near the driver, and ideally somewhere where there is a light if your journey is at night. You don’t want to get stuck sitting in a dark space next to someone who you are not comfortable with.
- If you’re getting into a local taxi by yourself, try to sound like you know where you are going or know the area well when you are asking to be taken somewhere. This will discourage your driver from taking you ‘the long way round’ and charging you extra. It will also help you to appear less vulnerable.
- When you are walking around in an unfamiliar area, make sure that you still walk with an air of confidence. If you look vulnerable, you are more likely to attract unwanted attention. If you get lost or are unsure of where to go, take some time and go somewhere safe like a shop or cafe for you to work out your next move, then hold your head up high and walk with confidence. Also, be aware of who you are asking for directions or advice, this is letting someone know that you are vulnerable and in uncharted territory. Make sure that anyone you ask is safe!
- Wear a hand bag where the strap goes across your body and has secure fastenings. If you are wearing a backpack, make sure that you know where the fastenings and zips are so that you can check easily that your bag is secure.
- Make sure that you consider where you will be travelling to when packing your clothes. Always pack something that you can use to cover your head or shoulders in case you find yourself in a culturally sensitive environment. And always dress modestly – the way you dress can say a lot about you when travelling around and being immersed in different cultures. It’s always better to play it safe than to offend anyone or to make yourself feel uncomfortable!
- Always be extra aware of pick-pockets when on busy streets, in busy stations or on public transport
- Remove any name tags, badges or lanyards when you leave your meeting or conference to avoid people gaining information about your name or where you work – you never know who is watching!
The 112 emergency services number operates exactly the same as your local emergency services and directs you to an emergency call centre (in most instances they speak English or if called within the EU, they must provide a translation service). You can call this number from almost any country (all European countries and lots of non-European countries are part of 112) and they will be able to help. It’s a free service and you can call from any landline or mobile phone. Even locked mobile phones work!
Don’t flaunt your wealth
Be extra conscious about what jewellery or designer gear you are wearing. Don’t wear anything too expensive or eye-catching.
Try not to be on your phone too much when you’re out and about. This is a walking advertisement to potential thieves that you are not fully concentrating on your surroundings (if you are distracted by your phone) and that you are carrying expensive technology.
- Keep a torch by your bed in case you need it in the night or on the off chance that there is a black out. Power cuts can be more common than you’d think depending on where you are travelling to!
- Always make sure that someone knows where you are staying or what your schedule is like. Let them know when you have returned safely to your accommodation at the end of your day.
- Consider carrying a personal safety alarm to alert people if you are not safe or being approached by someone. These can be bought very cheaply online or some local police stations give them out for free on request.
- Keep some extra local money separate from your purse (maybe in your coat pocket or in a small change purse). That way, if your purse is lost or stolen, you still have access to some emergency funds to ensure that you can get back to your accommodation safely.
- Make two photocopies of your passport and all other important travel documents. Give one copy to someone who you trust (a family member or friend back home) and carry the other copy separately from your original documents. This will be a huge help to you in case anything gets lost or stolen.
- Be aware of any local customs so as to not offend anyone or attract any unwanted attention.
- If you’re in a bar, café or just having a drink in a public space, make sure to keep an eye on your drink so that no-one can do anything to it while you are not looking.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid any unwanted eye contact!
And finally, always trust your instincts. If you feel that a person or place isn’t safe, don’t put yourself at risk and ignore your gut feeling. Putting yourself in danger because you’re trying to be polite or don’t want to offend someone is just not worth it!
Like what you just read?
Subscribe to our weekly blog for all your travel management and procurement news, views and facts.