Solo female travelling, is it safe?

When I tell people that I’ve been travelling alone in Africa, Asia and Latin America a lot of people ask me “Is it safe?” Well compared to The Netherlands many other countries are less safe, but that’s a reason why I take some precautions. In this blog you can read the precautions I take.

First of all there are many places that have bad reputations, due to media and even places that weren’t safe many years ago and still have bad reputations. Some countries really are less safe to be, travel or live in, maybe a part of a certain country (or continent) isn’t safe, most countries are quite big and staying in safe places is a whole lot easier than going to unsafe places. Besides your family and friends, the local people want you to be safe too!

For example when I was in Colombia for 10 months, the unsafe places are the borders and some parts of the jungle, unless you specifically want to go to these places you’ll never get there, you won’t just accidently end up in these places.


Where to stay?

Well if you go to a country that doesn’t have a good reputation I’ll make sure your first night(s) are at a hotel/hostel/homestay that has good recommendations. When you have a good place to stay ask the people that work there or the locals “What do you recommend me to do?” tell them your plan and ask if they think it’s safe. Normally after the first night(s) I don’t book hotels/hostels/homestays anymore but if it feels better for you, then make a reservation. The one important thing in the hostels is that there are lockers where you can store your passport and your most important cards (credit card, debit card, etc.) most hostels have these lockers. Make sure you bring your own lock since many places offer lockers but no locks.

Besides the recommendations of websites asking other travellers where to stay is a very good way to find your best next accommodation. Just make sure they have more or less the same travel style as you have.


How to walk on the streets?

Of course you stand out! Other skin color and/or other length and/or other hair and eye color and/or other language or accent. Locals see you wondering around and they know, ‘you’re a tourist’. I think it’s one of the most important things while travelling, how you walk on the streets. Before going to a country be aware what kind of clothes the locals wear. In some Asian countries shoulders and knees need to be covered but you can walk around with more expensive accessories. In Latin America more skin is fine but don’t show too much of your expensive accessories or gadgets. In African countries it really depends from county to another country, in general I would recommend to not show a lot of skin.

So when you are in a country take a look around! And within countries it can change too, so keep being aware. For example in Indonesia it’s very different from Sumatra where people cover up to Bali where locals are used to see more skin. So, ‘When in Rome, do as romans do’.

Get a local sim-card that you can put in your phone, for me the best is a cheap phone that you can use to call, if you have a smartphone also make sure you always have some data when you’re going from one place to another. This way you can keep in contact with people when you are going from A to B.

I would recommend a shoulder bag that crosses over your body, a small one just big enough for a camera (or phone) a small wallet with only money (keep your passport and most important cards in a locker at your accommodation) If the place where you’re going to is really less safe then only take the amount of cash with you that you know you’ll need without a bag and without a camera.

Side note, the small string that most cameras have, put it around your wrist! That way you can’t drop your camera on the floor but also others can’t rob it out of your hands.


What about nighttime?

Going out together is more fun than alone, so find other people to join you! In the hostel by using Couchsurfing or Facebook. If somehow you end up going somewhere alone then go with public transport or take a taxi/Uber. Make sure some people know that you are coming over and around what time you’ll be there. And with the local sim-card you can keep in touch with the people you are going to meet.

Maybe you’ll end up just some blocks from the point where you have to go, then take a good look around are there many people on the street? Then walking might be ok. If it’s deserted or if you are carrying and lot of values then rather take a taxi or Uber.

About drinking, I like my drinks, but I would never get totally drunk. Just a bit tipsy so I’m still in control and I won’t be depending on others. This way people can’t take advantage of your drunkenness.

What about meeting new people?

Maybe you’re meeting people from Facebook or a date (from Tinder?). Make sure you’re meeting these people in public places. Go to a bar, restaurant or park. Don’t get tempted to meet somewhere private. And if it doesn’t feel ok then keep an eye on your drink or end the “meeting” and go home.

If you want to do Couchsurfing then make sure that the host has references. The host shouldn’t have only female but also male references, or you could choose specifically for a female or a family to host you.

All the precautions I take, it isn’t rocket science, but being aware is very important. Use you common sense that will get you very far. So be aware of your risks but don’t let it lead your travel, mostly enjoy your travels enjoy exploring the world!

So my recommendations are:

  • Book first nights ahead
  • Ask other travellers about accommodation recommendations
  • Leave most important paperwork and cards in your accommodation lockers
  • Adjust your outfit to local customs
  • Don’t show of your accessories and gadgets
  • Use the small string attached to your camera
  • Don’t go out alone
  • Let other people know where you’re going
  • Don’t get completely wasted (maybe just tipsy)
  • Meet new people in public
  • If possible look at the references (Couchsurfing)

And most important ‘Trust your instinct!’ If something doesn’t feel good then see how you can get safely out of the situation.


What to buy/bring:

  • A lock for accommodation lockers
  • Get a local sim-card and a cheap phone so you can call and maybe some data
  • Bring a small shoulder bag that goes across your body

So far I’ve been on the road for quite a while, I’ve been to more than 150 hostels or homestays, I’ve stayed at 10 Couchsurfers (in all the continents) and besides losing my wallet once while leaving my bag unguarded for hours (a rookie mistake) nothing bad ever happened to me while travelling.

Besides the safety people ask me a lot if travelling alone isn’t lonely. I wrote a blog ‘All by myself’ where I write experiences about solo travelling and meeting people.

Hasta la proxima! X

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