Prior to my expat experience in India, I had rarely traveled solo. Family or friends accompanied me. This lessened my vulnerability. However, when I ventured off to be an international teacher in Bangalore, India, I realized that I had to be savvy. Living in a Third World country would require a reevaluation of my safety standards. I’d like to share 15 safety tips for women traveling solo to a foreign place.
- Take Time to Research. Find out about your new culture. Read travel forums, Internet articles and talk to people who have lived or traveled to the region. If time allows, read memoirs and non-fiction books about the city and/or country. Familiarize yourself with local customs. Do women go from place-to-place on their own or with others? Are women expected to dress a certain way? Ideally, you would like to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Find if there are places that you should avoid.
- Arrive During Daylight Hours. This may or may not be possible. Some international destinations only schedule arrivals at nighttime. If this is the case, try to arrange a private pickup from the airport.
- Minimize Jewelry and Flashy Items. Avoid bringing anything that draws attention. Designer clothing, expensive purses, large diamonds, and luxurious watches are magnets for thieves. Dress modestly and accessorize minimally.
- Credit Cards and Passport. Limit the number of credit cards that you carry and leave the rest safely at home. Make scanned copies of your credit cards and front page of your passport and email the files to yourself. This will be a handy resource in the event that your credit cards or passport get stolen or misplaced. Have a secondary place to keep extra cash and/or a credit card. if your wallet is stolen, this would become a vital resource.
- Pack Snacks. Having healthy snacks on hand will prevent having to make a stop on the way to your hotel. It will also keep you from venturing out by yourself at night when you’re hungry.
- Baggage Exposure. Mobility will be limited if you are overburden with luggage and carry-on bags. Designer bags will likewise draw unnecessary attention.
- Hotel Reservation. Research available options and select a place that includes some safety measures. Request a room that is near the elevator, not on the ground floor, and far away from safety exits and stairwells. If a hotel is not available, consider a bed and breakfast (homestay) or inn rather than a motel.
TRAVELING TO AND FROM DESTINATION
- Appear not to be solo. A woman traveling alone is more vulnerable than a woman traveling with others. When talking with strangers make it seem like you are meeting your husband or friends.
- Organize Valuables. Put all of the things that you will need for your travels in a handy location. Distribute your credit cards and money so that everything is not in the same place. Carry only a minimal amount of cash. Put a printed copy of the front page of your passport in place that is least likely to be stolen. Some experts recommend placing it in your shoe. This might be an uncomfortable location.
- Bring Snacks. Having healthy snacks on hand will prevent having to make a stop on the way to your hotel.
AT YOUR DESTINATION
- Avoid loitering at the airport. A prearranged driver or a quick visit to the taxi stand will eliminate your being spotted by people who prey on solo travelers.
- Dress Conservatively. If the majority of the women do not wear knee length dresses, choose ankle length outfits.
- Remain Aware. Be cheerful and keep your head up. Plan your travel routes and know landmarks. Make it seem like you know where you are located. Avoid staring at a map and looking lost. Socializing with others is a perk of traveling. However be leery of total strangers, including some foreign police. It is important to remain sober and to not leave a drink unattended. Be aware of the people surrounding you, especially when withdrawing money from an ATM.
- Avoid Traveling Alone at Night. Do not accept rides from strangers after dark or in rural areas. Dinner may be problematic if sundown is early. Consider eating a late lunch when it is still light out. Ordering carryout or room service may be another option.
- Hotel Safety. Check to make sure the windows and patio doors are locked. Leave the TV or radio on so it appears that your room is occupied. Bring a rubber doorstop to wedge under the room door to prevent unwanted intruders from entering. However, this could become an issue in the event of an emergency rescue. Do not provide any visible evidence that you are alone. For example, don’t leave the breakfast card on your room door or talk to strangers about your solo journey. Carry the hotel contact information with you.
- Missing Passport. If your passport is stolen, you will need to notify the nearest embassy or consulate. It will be necessary to provide details from the front page of the passport. The email attachment that you sent yourself will come in handy.
Traveling alone is a great way to explore the world. Nevertheless, extra care needs to be taken in order to avoid being targeted as a vulnerable solo traveler.
Guest Blogger at a Place for Readers and Writers (Stepping Outside Comfort Zone)
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.