Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Bemused Backpacker Solo Female Backpacker Safety

Travelling the world independently is one of the best things anyone can ever do for themselves. Apart from the fact that getting to see and explore the world is a reward in and of itself, allowing you to see and do things most people will only ever dream of, the experience will absolutely change you for the better. It will make you stronger, more worldly, more self confident, in short it will make you a better person and will empower you like nothing else will.

The problem is for half of the population who are dreaming of setting off on their very own round the world adventure, we all know that it is far too dangerous for a woman to dare to backpack around the world on her own, right?

 WRONG!

If you listen to all the uninformed doomsayers and the mass media, you could be forgiven for believing that the world is full of muggers, thieves, terrorists, pirates and murderers just waiting for all you naive, vulnerable, defenceless women to step out into the big scary world. Given the fear mongering and misinformation out there, it’s a surprise anyone goes anywhere.

Of course there are dangers out there, of course women have practical concerns and of course they should take reasonable safety precautions when travelling, but here’s the big secret …

It is just as safe for a woman to backpack around the world as any man.

Despite what the media and your fretting mothers might tell you, thousands of women travel around the world every single day and come back home safe and sound. Travelling the world is statistically very safe, and the probability of anything bad happening to you is pretty low.

The trick to keeping yourself safe simply lies in …

Understanding the risks and dangers,

and ..

Reducing the risk as much as possible.

There are many ways in which you can do this. Research is one of the biggest weapons in your arsenal of course, being aware of the dangers and how to avoid them, or knowing how to deal with them if things do go wrong is one of the best things you can do to prepare. To find out more, read here.

Apart from that there are a number of tips and tricks any woman can use when out on the road to reduce the risk of anything negative happening to them and to keep themselves safe.

Be confident!

Confidence is just a natural weapon against people who may potentially want to do you harm or take advantage of you. Acting like you know where you are, what you are doing and showing that you are confident, even if you may not feel like it inside, sets off a huge subconscious alert of ‘don’t mess with me’. Again this applies equally to both genders, but is something that women in particular tend not to do. Predators are in general looking for victims who look and appear weak, it is instinctive, so be the opposite! People who behave and look like targets are generally the ones who become victims, so don’t let this happen to you. Just be confident!

Use your common sense.

Yes, it really is that simple sometimes. Travelling alone can be very safe indeed if you just use your basic common sense. You do it all the time at home so there is no reason why you wouldn’t do it while travelling either. Don’t walk down that dark alley in the middle of the night on your own, don’t accept that lift from the three friendly guys you met in the middle of nowhere and don’t drink so much that you have no control over what you do. I know it can be easy to lower your guard when you are travelling and having fun, but simply use your instinct and common sense as a baseline and you will generally be fine. This really isn’t rocket science, and this really is all it can take to keep you safe most of the time.

Stay alert.

Again this is something that applies to both genders, but is so important that it is worth mentioning again here. Just be alert and aware of your surroundings, your belongings and the people around you at all times. Don’t take your eye of your pack, even if you do think it is absolutely safe. Be aware of the people approaching you and be mindful of the common scams or diversion tactics of pickpockets or thieves. When a stranger approaches you and starts chatting, odds are they may simply be curious about you and where you are from (in many parts of the world it is still highly unusual to see a woman travelling alone), but they may also be a tout leading up to one of the many scams they use to separate you from your cash. Be friendly, but be aware too. Of course you shouldn’t take this to the extremes of being overly paranoid and thinking everyone is out to get you, where even the most innocent of hello’s from a friendly traveller invokes screams of hysteria and cries of ‘rapist, mugger, murderer!’ Before you empty a can of pepper spray in the guys face and throw your pack at him for good measure before running off in hysterics. The poor guy just said hello for crying out loud! But a healthy dose of awareness, providing you don’t let it get to that paranoid level, can be a good thing.

Lower your profile.

Lowering your profile is a major part of keeping yourself safe. It is just as true for men too, as are the majority of these tips in fact, but applied specifically to women this basically can be translated into be selective in what you wear, dressing according to local custom and being respectful to local culture and norms in your behaviour. Melt into the crowd, don’t stand out and you won’t make yourself a target.

Wearing a bikini top and shorts may be appropriate in Malibu for example where a lot of women will be wearing the same, but it just isn’t appropriate walking around Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran.

Most of the problems women face when backpacking stem from drawing unwanted attention to themselves by wearing inappropriate clothing and not conforming to cultural norms. Simple, comfortable clothing such as cargo pants or shorts and a T shirt that covers the shoulders and is not too revealing is more than adequate in most situations, with the added precaution of a shawl or sarong so you can cover up your head, lower legs or any exposed skin if you visit a mosque or if the situation requires it. Visiting any religious building or site in many countries will sometimes require you to dress in a certain way, whether that is removing shoes, wearing a specific sarong, covering up exposed skin or covering your hair or any number of other traditional norms. This is an issue for men too, although often to a much lesser extent, and is often an issue of respect for religion and customs as it is about gender. It is my experience that people are generally very welcoming and will excuse the odd faux pax such as forgetting to take your shoes off in places of worship (someone will usually politely let you know if you have forgotten), providing that an effort is being made to respect local culture.

Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Along the same lines as lowering your profile, not drawing attention to yourself will mean you are much less likely to be singled out as a target for trouble.

Unfortunately there are sometimes some things that you cannot change about your appearance and you will always stand out to some extent. If you are tall, white and blonde for example, you will get attention in parts of Asia, South or Central America and the Middle East purely because you are different from the norm. Most of the time this goes no further than stares or long looks, and whilst this can sometimes be a little disconcerting, is generally nothing to worry about.

There are some things you can do however, and again, most of this goes back to basic common sense. Even if you normally look like a jewellery shop has exploded all over you at home, it isn’t exactly the smartest idea to wear all your bling on your travels.  Just leave all the fancy rings and bracelets at home. Don’t be flashing huge wads of cash about or walk around carrying a massive £3000 DSLR camera around your neck while staring at the latest iPad. You may as well just be wearing a big neon sign that says ‘I’m a target!’

But not drawing attention to yourself can go far beyond appearance and can also mean moderating your behaviour. This doesn’t even mean you have to conform to local standards or expectations of women, just be polite and respectful. For example, don’t drink too much and get loud, obnoxious and abusive, especially if you are in a traditionally conservative, polite country, you’ll just attract a lot of attention you don’t want.

Be sensitive to local custom and tradition.

Understanding the place you are in and the culture you are visiting is essential when backpacking so you can be sensitive to local customs and manners. For women it does take on a slightly added dimension as there are many places, particularly but not limited to in the Middle East, where social norms and conventions demand certain considerations from women, and for backpackers it is wise to know what they are and make concessions to them. Many Muslim countries for example, especially those where Sharia law operates more stringently, are very conservative and regimented when it comes to women and this can manifest itself for backpackers in terms of what you choose to wear and how you behave. There will never be an expectation for you to cover up completely the way some Muslim women do, especially if you are not a Muslim, you are a guest there after all. But if you show respect to your host country by making some concessions to modesty then you will lower your profile and divert attention away from yourself as well as being able to delve deeper into the heart and culture of the places you are visiting. If you wear wildly inappropriate clothing, such as the oblivious women who walk off the cruise ships in Egypt wearing hot pants and bikini tops in a predominantly Muslim country, then you will draw unwanted attention to yourself. The further away from touristy areas you get, the more attention inappropriate dress will draw to you.

Also be aware of cultural differences when travelling. Catching a guy’s eye and giving a friendly smile back home may be considered completely innocent and friendly, but can often be interpreted as a sexual advance in the Middle East for example. If you are unsure it can often be a good idea to look around and follow the social cues of the local women.

This isn’t to say that you should completely deny yourself the opportunities to meet or interact with locals. If you do that out of fear or an over exaggerated sense of personal safety then you would be doing yourself a huge disservice and will deny yourself one of the best things about backpacking. So again, be reasonably cautious, but not paranoid.

Wear a wedding ring.

Seriously I know this sounds strange but I have it on good authority, even if you are not married wear a wedding ring. I have met many women on the road, travelling solo or with friends, and many of them have told me they have found that wearing a cheap ring on their wedding finger really does stop some unwanted attention, particularly in countries where there may be a culture of machismo and some men may be particularly forward, especially if they think you are single. A simple flash of the wedding ring should make any guy making unwanted advances politely move on to someone else.

You can pre book from time to time.

The accepted independent traveller norm is to just turn up, find a place to stay that suits your taste and budget, and barter for a room. This is absolutely the best way to travel the majority of the time, it is cheaper, easier, more flexible, you will find much nicer places to stay, and it is completely safe for anyone, man or woman, to do.

There are occasional exceptions to this rule though. When you are just arriving in a new country for example, it can be a good idea to pre book a nice private room for a few nights as you rest, acclimatize and get used to your new surroundings. The same is true for those times when you are travelling when you simply can’t avoid arriving in a new town or city late at night. The last thing you want to be doing is wondering about a strange new place in the dark when most businesses are shut and not many people are about. Just get to an internet cafe or somewhere with wifi and book one night somewhere. You can easily find somewhere else the next day if you like.

This does obviously have safety applications, but it also gives you a lot of peace of mind, and that can be just as important as self confidence.

Take advantage of gendered transport options.

In many countries across the world, you will find that there are public transport options that are for women only. Generally these take the form of women only carriages on trains or female only seats on buses, but can be found right across Japan, Malaysia, India, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and parts of Indonesia and the Philippines amongst many others. They are not universal however, some parts of each country may have them and some may not, and there are a whole range of social, legal, moral and ethical debates about their usefulness and existence in the first place that I will not get into here. But they are technically designed to stop harassment and make women feel safe on public transport, so where they are available – if you feel the need to use them and you have the option to do so – then it is not going to do you any harm.

Bemused Backpacker solo female backpacker safety airport 

I really hope these simple tips and encouragement have eased your fears a little and given you the confidence to go backpacking, with reasonable common sense precautions you will reduce a lot of the already low amount of risk to your personal safety and security. Backpacking the world will be one of the best times of your life, and you should not let simple fear of what may or may not happen stop you from discovering not only what is out there, but who you are as a woman too.

So go, grab your backpack and get that plane ticket! Explore. Dream. Discover!

Girl studying map

Related Articldes

5 Easy Tricks To Avoid Being Robbed On Your Gap Year.

Solo Female Backpacker.

Top Tips For The Solo Traveller.

Why Solo Travel Is Awesome!

Further Reading

Gap Year Safety Books

Gap Year Safety.

If you want to gain a more in depth knowledge and understanding about how to reduce the risks of travelling and keep yourself safe on the road then you need this book.

Gap Year Safety is the essential, comprehensive safety resource for anyone about to embark on their first gap year. Delving much deeper into issues such as how to stay safe and not become a victim, how to recognise, avoid and deescalate potentially violent situations and what to do and where to get help if things do go wrong, Gap Year Safety is an invaluable resource to keep yourself safe on your travels.

It is here to answer all your practical safety and security questions, relieve you of your fears and worries of what may happen and provide you with the tools, knowledge and information you will need to make sure you stay safe on your trip. With the information and knowledge contained in this book, many dangers and troubles can be avoided altogether, or at least dealt with safely if they do occur.

With comprehensive advice from ex military personnel, self defence experts as well as qualified health care professionals and utilising the unique REACTE system of personal safety, this book is an absolute must read for anyone about to set off on their gap year or round the world adventure.

Gap Year Safety: The ultimate guide to safely travelling the world is available in traditional paperback, or in eBook format across all platforms including Kindle, Apple and many more.

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Solo Female Backpacker Guide To Safely Travelling The World. 

Travelling the world independently as a solo female backpacker is one of the most amazing, rewarding and empowering things you can do for yourself, but as a woman there are practical and safety concerns that you have to deal with.

Solo Female Backpacker deals with all these issues and more specifically from a woman’s perspective. With essential safety tips and advice from ex military personnel and self defence experts as well as inspirational stories from women who have travelled independently around the world, there is no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t set off on your own independent round the world trip.

So if you are dreaming of setting off on your very own gap year but you are a little nervous about travelling solo or as a woman, you need to buy this eBook! Full of practical advice for you to ensure your backpacking trip is as safe as possible, Solo Female Backpacker will also give you the inspiration and the push you need to travel the world on your own terms.

The Solo Female Backpacker guide to safely travelling the world eBook is available as an instant download to your Kindle device.

 

OneToOne

 

 

Announcing The New Gap Year Safety Consultation.

If after reading this article you need more detailed information or if you want one to one safety advice from an experienced expert, then please feel free to use the Bemused Backpacker Gap Year Safety Consultation service.

You will get an hours consultation with dedicated one to one tuition designed to ease your worries, arm you with the knowledge you need to keep you safe and prepare you as much as possible before your trip so you can simply get on with enjoying your round the world adventure of a lifetime.

Covering everything from what you need to know before you go, how to stay safe on the road, how to deal with and avoid danger or difficult situations and what to do if something does go wrong, this consultation service is an absolute must for anyone about to embark on their first gap year or round the world adventure!

Learn More

Did you enjoy this article? Have you found the books or the consultation service useful? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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Posted in Travel Safety
28 comments on “Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.
  1. vickyinglis says:

    Great advice. Like you say, in general the places we visit are no less safe than home, for men as well as women, and a good deal of common sense and awareness of your surroundings will keep you out of harm’s way, just as you would do day-to-day at home.

    Confidence is another key thing. Most people that show interest in you will not have malicious intent, and instead be curious to find out about you, where you came from and what you think of their country. Don’t be too afraid or over cautious to speak to them and make friends as this could lead to some of your best travel experiences of your trip.

    • Thank you. You are absolutely right, in fact many of the places backpackers visit are actually a lot safer than many Western countries if you compare the crime rates. Great advice on not allowing fear to stop you from interacting with people too. Caution can be a good thing, but only if it doesn’t spill over into paranoia. Thank you for the comment.

  2. Globalmouse says:

    This is such a great post and one anyone considering going solo travelling for the first time should read. Some brilliant advice to help stay safe and really help with confidence – which I think is one the best ways to stay safe. (Love the wedding ring tip!!)

    • Thank you so much globalmouse, I really hope the article inspires confidence in potential solo travellers everywhere into feeling safe on their travels, because you are right that confidence is absolutely one of the best ways to stay safe.

  3. Great post! So many myths and tales about women travelling on their own, which just aren’t true. You need a good head on you, you’ll need to do some things that seem strange but will keep you safe. I always wear a ring on my wedding finger now, I also if travelling in eastern countries, dye my hair (not permanent), as I have reddish hair which is strange to some cultures as is blonde. I wack on a dark brown semi permanent hair dye that lasts for about a month, just so I blend in a bit more and don’t draw attention to myself.
    Also If I am somewhere where I feel uncomfortable, I grab a local newspaper or magazine and just sit and “read” it, nothing shouts tourist more than someone reading something in English or reading a map but if your sat their reading something in their language, they’ll most likely pass you by :)

    • That’s a fantastic tip! I’ve never thought of that one. Newspaper or dyeing your hair! But you are right blending in and looking like someone who belongs will deflect a lot of attention away from you. Thank you for the comment and for the extra tips both are appreciated!

  4. DevisCarla says:

    Great article, traveling solo has a very different experience as compared to family traveling. Very well said that you should be sensitive to local customs. The tips are really helpful, thanks for sharing.

  5. alicesgapyearadventures says:

    I actually bought the book and it was really good and inspiring! Just like you said in the post it gave me so much confidence! I totally recommend it to any woman who is thinking of travelling!

  6. According to statistics and facts, males are the ones who are often killed during their travels.

    • Very true Raphael. The British Crime Survey (my first degree was in Criminology and I did my dissertation on gender differences and the fear of crime) states that young men are statistically more at risk of most types of violent assault, yet women have a much higher perceived fear of the crime. The exact same thing can be translated to this issue, where women’s perceived fear of what may happen is often far greater than the actual risk. Reasonable and sensible safety precautions should still always be taken of course, but that doesn’t mean that fear should turn into paranoia and stop women from travelling. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. Marysia says:

    I have been bragging about it for ages. Common sense, common sense! Majority of places we visit are not more dangerous than home. Always pack your common sense with you and you will be fine!

  8. This is a great article, and after buying and reading your book I just wanted to say it was so reassuring for my own trip! I totally recommend it to anyone who is thinking of getting it. The section on scams to watch out for was super helpful, so thank you! Really glad I found your website!

  9. Hey I loved the post. Thanks for some great advices. I have a kind of a silly question though: Wouldn’t people wonder why you are wearing a wedding ring and not traveling with your husband? I have traveled a while, I know some dangers about traveling alone and the precautions you need to take. And also have found sometimes strange people that won’t take no for an answer. How can you manage a situation like that?

    • Hi Vane, thanks for the comment, I’m really glad you liked it. :) It isn’t a silly question at all, so many women ask the same questions and worry about the same things, this is why I wrote the books. In answer to your first question yes I’m sure some people may wonder that, but the majority of low level attention – such as men hitting on you for example – can be deflected by simple tricks such as a ring, most people will assume your husband is around somewhere and leave you be. For those people it doesn’t work on straight away a simple explanation or excuse such as ‘I’m meeting him’ or something similar will suffice. Now, when someone really doesn’t take no for an answer that is a whole different matter and you will need to know how to recognise, avoid and even deescalate increasing risk or even potentially violent situations, and that is something I wrote about extensively in the Gap Year Safety book. Feel free to email me on the contact page if you want more detailed information. :)

  10. Nera says:

    way back in 1992 I started backpacking. I was young, Sri Lankan – born, lived all my life where I was born, and studied here too – and doing something that South Asians (male or female) rarely did back then, and female south Asians certainly did not. Since then been many times to northern India, Myanmar, Europe, Kenya, Phillipines, Nepal, Luxanburg …loads. ALWAYS had good experiences. And unexpectedly i discovered that being – and looking every inch – a South Asian, actually helped a lot. Other travelers found me entertaining, locals found it highly interesting. So I’d say to young female South Asians ( I know by now a lot more do travel ) – get on the road! It may be a bit off our culture – but its great fun and very doable!

  11. Elena says:

    Wearing a wedding ring is a pretty good one, especialy in Muslim countries…

  12. himachal says:

    Travelling is the best thing for several people in whole of this world.I really hope the post inspires confidence in potential solo travellers everywhere into feeling safe on their travels.

  13. I think this is great advice for any type of female traveller not just backpackers. Its these types of posts that inspire (and reassure) people who may not have been confident enough to take the solo travel leap before.

    • Thank you Kate, and you are absolutely right. Backpacker or traveller, it doesn’t matter. I hope women are inspired and reassured by the article and the books too. :) Solo travel can be amazing, and with the right knowledge and preparation, very safe too, regardless of gender. :)

  14. I hate it when bloggers write articles about the danger of certain places, and tell readers about their muggings and why they would never go to said place again. Most of these bloggers got mugged because they behaved stupidly. Like you said it just scares people off and doesn’t do anybody a favour. If you behave the right way you will find that locals will be nothing but friendly to you.

    • I know exactly what you mean. One person had one bad experience or got unlucky, so that inevitably means that everyone else who goes there will have the same experience, right? Some people just don’t think.

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