There is a magic to exploring the world on your own. Free of a partner, children, and the need to be accountable to other people, following the call of your heart to see what adventures and wisdom you can discover can be one of the most liberating experiences of life. But women traveling alone have a unique challenge in many parts of the world. While in some countries all travelers are treated the same, in some areas female travelers are particularly susceptible to schemes and attacks. Whether you are on your way to a retreat for women such as the Wise Woman Retreat in Limon, Costa Rica, looking for an outdoor adventure like the Mundo Adventures Empowerment Retreat in Columbia, it is a smart move to be prepared and follow a few safety tips as you travel.
Talk to other female travelers. Information is power, especially when it comes to traveling alone. Connect with other women who have recently visited countries you are planning to explore. Ask them about the safest routes, areas and situations in which to be wary, items they wish they had packed, where it is crucial to travel with a group, and how they navigated their journeys. It is especially important to know what the local women wear, so that you can avoid unwanted attention by blending in as much as possible.
Share your itinerary. Telling your loved ones where you are going will make them and you feel more comfortable. Share flight numbers, the names of retreat centers and hotels at which you will be staying and the dates, and any other information you have ahead of time. This will give your family or friends the opportunity to vicariously enjoy your journey, and the ability to tell authorities when you are not where you should be at any time. Just be sure to keep them updated if your plans change.
Leave copies of important documents. Give a paper and digital copy of your passport, flight tickets, birth certificate, medical information, and other important documents to at least one trusted person who is not traveling with you. Be sure this is someone who lives in your home country and can be easily reached in case of emergency. Also keep copies of these important documents in different hidden places in your luggage.
Keep your money and valuables hidden. This is smart for all travelers, but women seem to be particularly susceptible to theft because we tend to keep our money in purses instead of on our bodies. In many countries, it is a wise idea to hide most of your money, along with your passport and bank card, in a money belt that you can wear under your clothes. And leave the expensive jewelry at home.
Practice nighttime safety. In many parts of the world nighttime can be especially dangerous for women. Unless you know the area you are visiting is safe at night, always travel in groups after dark, and carry a flashlight.
Save the drinking for home. Assaults tend to happen more frequently to travelers who are under the influence of alcohol. Some women travelers have had their drinks spiked with narcotics when they are not paying attention, or received a drink that was a lot stronger than they had intended. Enjoy your trip as an educational and perhaps enlightening experience, and wait until you are in a place that you know is safe to imbibe.
Safety over price. The cheapest travel or accommodations option is rarely the safest, especially in developing countries. When you are traveling alone is not a time you want to be counting pennies. It is worth it to pay a little bit more to take a shuttle over a “chicken bus” in Central America, for example, or to pay for the “tourist class” cars on trains in India.
Learn the local language basics. While you can get away with only knowing English (or your native tongue) in most of the world, your trip may be a lot more enjoyable if you can have a real conversation with the locals. At the very least, it is smart to be able to clearly communicate some basic phrases and questions, and understand the answers. Before you go learn how to ask for help, and how to find your country’s embassy, a hospital or medical center, a police officer, and telephone, and how to communicate any specific medical needs or conditions you may have.
Traveling solo can be exhilarating, liberating, and even evolutionary for your mind and heart. You can learn more about yourself, and even learn skills that you can share with others, such as teaching yoga. But it is still dangerous for women to travel alone in many parts of the world. Practicing a few safety tips before and during your journey can help you make the most of your trip, and ensure that you make it home.