Ripped from the headlines:
“Female Traveler Disappears While Touring Europe”
You saved and saved and finally have enough money to travel internationally on your dream vacation across Europe. But your family is worrying about you becoming the next headline of a World News Report or the sequel to the Liam Nieson movie “Taken”.
No worries … We have you covered!
We’ve compiled several tips to help you stay safe while traveling alone – anywhere. You don’t need to be paranoid, but you can never be too safe or overly cautious.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State. It takes a few minutes to fill out the online form and if something newsworthy (and not in a good way) goes down in your destination, they’ll be the first to let you (or a contact at home) know.
- Travel with a tour group. There are travel groups that cater to females only and put other single female travelers together in larger groups.
- Call your cell phone service provider. Get a temporary (yet affordable) overseas data plan that will allow you to use your smart phone without getting hit with exorbitant roaming charges. Having access to maps, Google and other resources on the internet to be invaluable to your peace-of-mind and safety.
- Learn key words and phrases in the language where you are traveling. Most importantly Police or Help me!
- Pack light! Packing too many things not only weighs you down, but also slows you down. The less stuff you bring with you, the easier it is to move around quickly should you end up in a situation that you need to get out of fast.
- Carry a whistle in a place you can get to easily. Blowing a whistle will bring awareness to you should you need it in an emergency. (It will also deter monkeys!)
- Dress modestly. Dress to fit in. Loud colors and prints always signal a tourist. Don’t wear commercialized clothing advertising major US brands, and keep more skin covered to fit in with locals. Google local style and culture to see what the locals wear.
- Ask the hotel staff some key questions. Upon check-in ask which streets to stay away from, what cab service they recommend, closing times of local establishments, and any other information or common scams to be aware of, that can be helpful navigating a new area.
- Use only legal and licensed taxis. Never hire a taxi if the driver approaches you in an airport arrival area. Such services are usually illegal and may be unsafe. Ask your hotel to recommend taxi services and avoid the risk of hailing an unlicensed cab on the street. Take advantage of women-only taxis in such cities as London, Cairo, and Moscow.
- Carry a business card for the place you are staying at all times. Hotel names can sound the same and it’s easier to find your way back, especially if you enjoyed a cocktail or two.
- Wear a fake wedding ring to signal they are traveling with a partner, or companion, and to ward off advances from the locals.
- Use your phone’s built-in GPS system. Getting lost is commonly the first step toward trouble. With a little bit of techie-help from your smart phone you can always know where you are and where you’re going.
- Carry a rubber door stop/wedge to place under your door, this way housekeeping or anyone else can not enter if there isn’t a chain on the door.
- Save your empty vitamin pill bottles (not see through). Roll up five twenty dollar bills, put them into the bottle and add some old loose pills. If you shake the bottle it still sounds like a pill bottle and nobody would consider looking in it for money. You can leave this bottle in your backpack, your hotel room or in your cosmetic case. The contents remain safe and ready for you should you need it.
- Consider taking a self-defense course for women. You’ll embark on your journey with added confidence.
- Have a Medical Evacuation plan in place before you leave for a foreign country like Air Ambulance Card. Make your family aware of this service and provide them with the information should they need to use such a company on your behalf.
- Stay off the side streets and alleys. Use the major roads and busy streets. When using public transportation, never keep things in your pockets. Pick-pockets use public transportation too, and in such tight space it’s easy to get to your money, etc. Women and children are pick-pockets as well, so always keep that in mind.
- Be vague about your hostel/guesthouse. Sometimes a casual conversation will lead to a question about what hostel you are at, or where you are headed next. It’s wise to stay purposefully vague, or have a backup hostel or guesthouse in mind for those situations.
- Never share a taxi with someone you don’t already know before your trip, even if they seem harmless and nice. It’s the perfect way for someone to see that you are traveling alone, where you are staying, and come back later to rob you, or worse.
- Use your street smarts. If it feels weird, awkward, or off in any way, change your plan and direction immediately. If you feel you are being followed go into the next available location where you feel safe.
- Walk with purpose and your head held high. Looking like you know exactly where you are even if you are lost is a good strategy. Be sure to smile. Friendly people are always more approachable and locals will be more incline to help if you if appear approachable.
- Eye contact in some countries can invite aggressive behavior. This isn’t usually the case at home, but it can be the case in a foreign place.
- Accepting Food/Drink from Strangers. Picture this: You are traveling solo on an overnight train in Europe. A couple seated beside you are very chatty and offer lots of great advice about what to do and see at your destination. They unpack a wonderful picnic of sausage, cheese, fresh bread and wine. They offer to share their food and wine. Evaluate very carefully before you partake. Understand that drugging is always a possibility. You don’t want to wake up to find your friendly neighbors gone along with all your belongings.
OTHER GREAT TIPS
- Arriving in a New Location After Dark. Taking a flight that gets in at 3:00 a.m. may be cheaper, but do you really want to arrive in an unfamiliar city for the first time when the streets are dark and empty? Arriving in daylight makes it easier to find your accommodation and gives you time to change it if you find that it is unsuitable.
- Avoid ground-floor accommodations or any room that has easy access from outside, such as from a balcony or fire escape. Book a room that is close to an elevator and away from exits.
- When checking in write your name with only your first initial, without a title, such as Ms., Miss, or Mrs. Don’t accept a room if the check-in clerk calls out your name or room number. Others within hearing distance may use this information to call you or get access to your room. Keep your key out of view to prevent anyone from noting your room number.
- Ask for an additional plate and 2 waters when ordering room service – to share what you have just ordered. As a precaution close the bathroom door and leave the shower running: as if your travel companion is just feet away.
- Stay in contact with someone from home on a daily basis. Establish a contact time you will speak each day and have a plan of action or key word/safe word. Should you encounter trouble they will secretly be tipped off that you are in some kind of trouble.
Do you have other tips, tricks, ideas, or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you! We’d like to keep expanding this list so it becomes a comprehensive guide for women travelers.