Tips for Solo Female Travelers
Though solo traveling can be challenging in itself, there are a few more risks as a woman that you need to be aware of. I'm not here to scare you but it would be irresponsible of me to pretend that the world is 100% safe...for anyone! When you're alone you need to look out for yourself. So, in this post, I'm going to give you both possible situations and real situations that I have personally encountered, and ways to get out of them.
The Creeps & Vendors
There are certain creepers who will cat-call you (Hey sexy! Nice tits. Where's your boyfriend?) and some might approach or follow you, trying to get your attention. Unless they're persistent, you can simply ignore them, avoid eye contact and use short answers. Don't encourage flirting by smiling when they call you pretty or giggling when they ask where your wedding band is. Saying that you have a boyfriend might deter them from advancing if they think he might be coming to meet you, but it also subconsciously suggests that if you were single his behaviour would be okay.
Not all creepsters want your goodies. On the contrary, some want you to buy theirs! One guy in Central Park, New York tried to take my sister's hand and put a bracelet around her wrist. I snatched her away and said 'no, thanks' on her behalf because I had heard stories about street vendors in Paris looking to charge you money for accepting the bracelet. Never be afraid to say 'no'.
One guy selling tickets to a show in Times Square crossed 2 streets with me, trying to convince me to buy a ticket. I said I was going to eat and then get cash out, two logical excuses to make a sharp turn away from him. The trick is to dash before they respond with 'we take card!'
If I wanted to, I could have escaped by walking into the nearest shop because they have security and staff that can help. Feel free to walk up to someone and ask for help. You can say something like, 'can you pretend to know me?' or 'help; this person is harrassing me'.
Road Safety & Getting Around
Keep your eyes on the road to avoid getting hit or bumping into things. In England, not all cars will stop for you at zebra crossings. In America and Japan, there are roads where cars can turn on a red light, and in South Korea, motobikes sometimes drive on the pavement! Keep your eyes up, earphones out, phone away and stay alert.
If you use GPS and Google Maps Offline like I do, have the map on screen and hold your phone in your pocket - out of sight. Check the map at red lights, stay on main roads where there are more people, and count the amount of streets you have until you turn to avoid checking your phone as often.
Going Out & Drinking
If you couldn't tell from my Instagram stories when I travel, or gathered from my entry on Korean nightlife, I like drinking, going out, meeting people, and clubbing. As I do it fairly often, I want you too to be safe and smart during your next late-night excursion. I was planning on making this a separate blog post hence the different format but please bear with it.
If you're going drinking then make sure you know when the last train is, where the bus stop is, what the number for a taxi is, how to get back to your accommodation and how long it will take to do so.
You need cash for the journey back. If you think you might spend it then put your taxi fare in the zipper pocket of your bag or if you're in England, hide a fiver in your bra for 2am cheesy chips.
Make sure you ask for water every few drinks, and eat before, during and after drinking so that the effects of alcohol don't hit you all at once.
Know your signs and limits. I knew I wasn't drunk enough to take my bra off for free shots in Lisbon but I knew I was drunk when I had broken the seal and needed to pee every other song at the club in Japan.
Speaking of alcohol, never accept a drink you didn't see being made. If someone offers to buy you a drink and you accept (and remember, you can refuse), get up, go to the bar, watch your drink being made, be the first to take it, say thanks, and cheers.
Know that you are not indebted to any stranger that buys you a drink. You don't owe them your attention, your time, your money, your phone number or your body. When I studied in Japan, one guy danced with me, offered to buy me a drink, told me to have a nice night and then went back to the dancefloor. This actually happened every weekend for a year! He does some hip-hop so I think he figured out pretty quickly that I dance more when I've had a drink!
Back to drinks, bottled drinks are safer when you're in a club or bar because you can safely cover the bottle top with your thumb to avoid your drink being spiked.
Set a mental (or physical!) timer to make sure you're not having another tequila shot before the first one has even hit you.
For the unwanted grinders and ass-grabbers on the dancefloor, ‘accidentally’ jabbing them with your elbow or stepping on their foot can create some distance and also issue a warning that you’re aware of their unwanted prescence and aren’t having any of it.
Sometimes that doesn’t work which is why I ended up slapping a guy who had turned to me after grabbing several other girls’ butts. I warned him several times to back off and told security but he continued. It was only after he grabbed me and I slapped him that he was removed from the premises. Final straw - deeyandra don’t play.
Have a designated lost-and-found spot if you're clubbing with another person or persons and you can't find each other after a while.
When it comes to making your way back, if it's cold, dark, or you have some skin on show then wearing a coat or putting a cardigan in a locker or cloakroom could make you feel more comfortable and warm on your journey back.
Look behind you when you're walking at night. Women, especially those in heels should pay more attention because you are seen as more vulnerable as you are unable to run away quickly. I highly suggest bringing flats in your bag, getting a certified taxi or returning in a group say after a pub crawl with your hostel mates.
If you're being followed by drunkards then stay on the main road, safely cross the street, linger by crowds of people or return to the club where they have bouncers. Remember that some drunk people turn violent so try not to provoke anyone under the influence.
I have no first-hand advice on what to do if you're black-out drunk or too drunk to fend for yourself. I can only implore you to take precautions to avoid getting to that state, and pray that there are good people around to help you. For even more guidance, I've written a post on tips for first-time travelers and tips for solo travelers, respectively. Feel free to take as many ideas for your next adventure!