Traveling the world alone – my ten best safety tips for women
Nowadays, where Work-Life-Balance becomes more and more important, where Sabbaticals, Work & Travel or Gap years are almost normal and travel blogs and businesses spring up like mushrooms, the possibilities for individual longterm traveling off the beaten path are bigger than ever.
Traveling solo as a woman – many of us dream about it but do not do it because they are afraid of being mugged, sexually harassed or worse. Everyone of us women has different reasons that prevent us from following our heart: lacking language skills, little self-confidence, fear of the unknown, inhibitions to step up to foreigners, fear of crime and violence, little or no travel experience – the list is endless but there’s one we all have in common: fear.
However, it should not keep us from traveling the world. Let’s face it: crime, violence or nasty things can happen everywhere – even right at your doorstep, in your hometown on the way to friends or while shopping. And: we can only grow if we face our fears. In comfort and habit there is no growth. If we move towards our fear and do exactly what frightens us most – only to see in the end what we are capable of, that things are not as bad as we imagined them to be and that often situations and circumstances show up we did not anticipate before. This experience enriches us so much and we are grateful we faced our fears.
There is no better school for your self-development than traveling the world and discover new places and cultures. I wrote this two-part blog post about my ten best travel safety tips for you so that you can enjoy your travels. Always make your personal safety your top priority. Be vigilant, attentive and use your common sense no matter where you are. Always.
1. Be like a horse and pay attention to your environment!
Handbag over your shoulder, smartphone in your hand and the most trendy headphones on your ears – sounds familiar? Most of us have been walking the streets like this some time, even if it was just the short way home from the gym or to the supermarket.
Let’s put ourselves in the place of a potential assaulter for a minute – what would we see? A woman with an expensive smartphone in her hand and a handbag over her shoulder in which most likely is some money. A woman that walks the streets alone and is so distracted and deaf that she would probably not notice a person coming up behind her, grabbing her and pulling her on the ground. This is like a direct invitation to finally free her from the weight of her handbag and phone!
Dear ladies, please do not do that! Always be vigilant and pay attention to your environment. Would we be a horse, we’d turn one ear backwards and the other forwards and would listen carefully in every direction. With your smartphone in hand and headphones on your ears you not only demonstrate that you carry valuables with you that someone else would like to have, too, but also you are unable to be aware of any suspicious people, movements or noises.
Fazit: take out your earphones, put your phone into your pocket and never carry your handbag over your shoulder or arm, always have it diagonal around your neck and and shoulder close to your body. And: be like a horse and pay attention to your environment!
2. Always keep your valuables with you
Everyone who has ever been the last one waiting for the luggage at the baggage claim just to find out in the end that his backpack didn’t make it from the plane to the belt knows the feeling of the slight upcoming panic while thinking about what is lost in case the luggage does not turn up again.
And everyone who is traveling the world nowadays probably has a smartphone, laptop, ebook reader, credit cards, passports, money, a camera etc. and doesn’t want to be separated from these things unintentionally, neither because of chaotic airlines nor corrupt airport staff or other unlucky circumstances.
Please: always put your valuables into your carry-on luggage. Travel with as little valuables as possible and create back-up solutions for the worst case.
3. How to prepare for the worst case
Even if you follow all the rules and always pay attention to your personal belongings – there is always a small chance that things can go wrong. But that is fine as long as you are prepared for the worst case scenario:
- Take pictures of your passport, driving license, personal ID and credit cards (both sides) and save them in the Cloud or Dropbox
- Have a spare credit card and a small amount of cash in US Dollar or Euro in a secret place (for example sewn into your backpack, in a dirty sock or another every-day-item)
- Create a list with emergency phone numbers such as your bank for blocking your credit card, phone company, doctor etc and save it in the Cloud or Dropbox.
- Have at least two biometric photos with you in case you need to apply for a new passport at some foreign embassy
- Under certain circumstances, eg. a letter from your boss/company that you have to travel a lot for your job, it is possible to apply for a second passport. Contact your local administration board to find out the conditions.
- Lock away all valuables and only carry with you what you really need
- Synchronize as much as possible your photos, videos, documents etc with the Cloud or Dropbox
4. Do a self defense seminar for traveling women
There are numerous self defense courses for women but especially for traveling women there are only few or no courses at all. How do you protect yourself with a backpack on? Or a bag around your neck? Or in a crowd with little space like in a bus or metro? How do you use a seemingly harmless object like your keys as a weapon? Where do you learn something about situation awareness, country specific do’s and don’ts, foreign cultures and religions or hygienic issues? How do you know how to protect yourself without being accused of assault? What about the legal aspects?
Go and look for self defense classes for travelers and/or do a Martial Art regularly. It strengthens your self confidence, desensitizes your pain perception and helps you overcome the natural timidity of touching strangers. Self defense shows your mental and physical limits and teaches you a lot about yourself – for example estimating your abilities and developing self confidence.
Visit www.mango-verde.com and find self defense classes, many tips and useful info for female travelers!
5. Invest money in your personal safety
It is 3am, you are leaving a really good party and are slightly drunk but it’s only two blocks to walk. Not far. What can happen in just two blocks.
To be honest: a lot! Don’t risk your safety and take a taxi!
Don’t take the private car of that nice guy that told you a touching story about how hard it is to feed a family of five and that you would help to fill the fridge for his small children for another week. Only use registered taxis with a passport and a photograph and name of the driver and company. Inform yourself beforehand about the official operating companies for city transportation and how they look like. One example: on www.bangkok.com you can find “Getting around Bangkok” with a lot of useful information and safety tips http://www.bangkok.com/information-travel-around/
Your health and safety is the most important thing in the world. Don’t be silly and save money at the expense of your safety. This starts with a good self defense class and ends with the choice of your travel gear and equipment. Your backpack was cheap and looks funky but unfortunately it is heavy, complicated, not easy to get on and off? Sorry, but here you save money at the wrong end. Functionality and quality has a price but it’s worth it!
More tips for your personal safety you will find in the second part of this post – coming soon!
You have questions or you would like to share some experience or ideas? Leave a comment!