Solo female travel safety. It is an important topic! If you ask any woman who has travelled the world about her experience and after the usual declarations of how amazing world travel and gap years are, they will all tell you about the usual gauntlet of negativity that generally accompanies any declaration of women travelling independently. ‘It’s not safe’, ‘it’s too dangerous’, ‘women shouldn’t travel alone’.
If there is one thing I want all female travellers to get from reading this is that being a woman is in no way a barrier to travelling the world. You should never allow fear to stop you from travelling and you should never believe the hype that travelling anywhere as a woman, especially solo, will be dangerous, risky or scary. With the right knowledge and precaution, it isn’t.
Don’t listen to the fear.
The simple truth about travelling the world is that it is overwhelmingly safe, for both genders. Yes there are always risks in doing anything just as there is when staying at home, but those risks can be minimised and managed and should in no way stop or deter you from following your dreams of travel.
Okay, I understand the thought of taking on a huge adventure like round the world travel – especially if you are doing it solo – can be a little daunting, I get that. I think the vast majority of people feel like that before jumping into a big trip. But that can be a good thing too, conquering that fear and travelling the world will be one of the single most liberating, empowering and enjoyable things you can ever do for yourself.
Do things go wrong? Of course. Are there risks out there? Yes. To think otherwise would be foolish, but all you need to do to prepare and reduce any personal risk to yourself is the right knowledge, reasonable basic precautions and preparations and a good, solid dose of common sense.
For specific expert tips on how to keep yourself safe on your own adventures around the world, head to my solo female backpacker safety tips page.
For now, I just want to reassure you that you CAN travel the world and you CAN do it safely.
Don’t listen to the scaremongering.
The scaremongering around female travel is very real.
“Travel is too dangerous, especially for women!”
“Women have more to fear, more to deal with”.
“Women can’t travel, especially alone, it’s too dangerous!”
For crying out loud!
There are thousands of women who go backpacking alone every single year, setting off into the unknown with just their backpack and guidebook in hand, and the absolute vast majority of them have a great time with little or no hassle and return home completely safely. I have met countless women on the road, some of them who are now very good friends of mine, and they all say the same thing, that common sense, a bit of knowledge and reasonable and sensible precautions are all it takes to keep them safe.
Despite this, travel safety is perhaps one of the most common concerns by women before they set off, and travel forums, blogs and websites are constantly bombarded with women looking for advice and reassurance. There isn’t anything at all wrong with that, there is never anything wrong with giving advice and reassurance (that is partly what I am doing here after all), but on the whole the level of worry is unnecessary.
Sensible precaution is a good thing, out and out paranoia is not.
Travelling the world is generally safe! The statistics prove it!
Are there risks out there? Of course. Can they be reduced, avoided or dealt with? Absolutely! Is the world dangerous for women? In general terms and based just on gender? No.
There is a perceived notion – mostly from other women – that it is infinitely more dangerous to travel as a woman than it is to travel as a man, and that men – simply by virtue of that magical appendage between their legs – are automatically much safer.
Yet this isn’t borne out by the facts.
It is certainly true that women have a much greater fear of crime year after year. Well over 20 years of academic studies (including my own dissertation from my first degree in Criminology) and statistics from the Crime Survey of England and Wales (formerly known as the British Crime Survey) show this very consistently, year on year. There are certainly more female victims of two specific types of crime (often counted as one in many analyses), namely rape and sexual assault, but the reality is that it is men who are statistically much more likely to become the victims of all other types of violent crime overall, and much more likely to be severely injured or killed as a result. Yet despite that men do not fear becoming a victim as much as women do and are rarely perceived as being at risk at all.
So the fact is that women – although having risk factors generally specific to them, the same as men do – are not in more danger or at more risk overall based solely on their gender alone.
So let’s for arguments sake say that men and women have equal levels of risk or danger when they travel. Travel is still very safe for both genders and it is an absolute statistical fact that the actual risk of becoming a victim of crime – for both genders – is much lower than the levels of fear.
Using UK consular data and focusing on the crime that women are actually more at risk of for example, out of more than 65 million UK outbound travellers in the 2014 – 2015 period, there were just 106 rapes and 152 sexual assaults of travellers where police and consulate assistance was necessary. Worldwide. In the 2018 to 2019 period there were 71.7 million UK outbound travellers, and 116 rapes and 154 cases of sexual assaults that travellers needed police, medical or consular assistance for.
As always each and every one of those crimes will have been horrific for the victims involved, no one will ever deny that nor does this diminish that fact, but when you are talking in numbers in the hundreds compared to numbers in the millions, then you can’t really argue with that. And yes, the research conducted by the Crime survey of England and Wales is considered gold standard research that takes the problems of statistical analysis into account.
So it is safe to say that the facts show that statistically it is overwhelmingly safe for women to travel the world in general. The absolute majority of travellers can and do travel the world safely and without incident.
The female experience of travel.
It is also important to state that there are absolutely some fundamental practical differences between travelling as a man and travelling as a woman. Men and women are different after all and their experiences of travel will be obviously be slightly different. I cannot and am not talking about the specific gendered experience of travel itself here because I can only speak to the male perspective on that.
What I can say without doubt and based on actual statistical and academic evidence is that gendered experience alone does not automatically make it more dangerous for women to travel, and that is something that really needs to be emphasized.
There are obvious practical differences between male and female travel experiences, but that doesn’t conflate into meaning that women are more at risk.
In fact if you look at my general safety tips for women, and general safety tips for men, on the whole (with a couple of practical differences that reflect the different genders), they are almost universally the same, and there is a reason for that. Most safety advice and self defence advice – with a few exceptions – is universal and gender neutral and can be applied to men and women equally, and it is from this viewpoint as an expert on travel safety I am speaking from.
So how exactly do you prepare for any risk that is out there and reduce it to acceptable levels?
Mostly it is down to knowledge, preparation and common sense.
I have written many articles detailing the different levels of travel safety precautions you can take across this site, and your first stop should be to do your research for the destination(s) you are travelling to and understand the specific risks and scams that are potentially out there.
Knowing and understanding the destinations you are heading to specifically and adjusting your risk management strategy based on good, solid and reliable advice as opposed to fear mongering and rumour is essential too.
Then of course there are the basic common sense safety precautions anyone can and should take anywhere. In general these are the exact same for both genders, men and women alike, but just like in a self defence or martial arts class where technique can be tailored to take into account differences in height, weight and strength, there are a few gender specific differences and safety tips that can be tailored just for women too.
After that you should develop your own risk management strategy based on your own confidence, knowledge, skill and ability. Listen to and learn from the experts and incorporate expert strategies such as deescalation techniques and developing your own situational awareness, maybe learn how to defend yourself if necessary. All of these are high level safety tips and techniques, but can easily be learned and by doing these simple things you will reduce any risk and increase your chances of staying safe tenfold.
I really hope this article has eased your fears a little and given you the confidence to go backpacking around the world on your own terms. With reasonable common sense precautions it will be one of the best times of your life and you will not regret it if you do!
Change your perspective. Don’t be afraid. Learn how to keep yourself safe and view the world as it truly is. Wonderful, awesome and generally safe to travel.
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Gap Year Safety.
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