Solo female travel safety. It is an important topic, and an all consuming one. Any talk of women travelling the world will always focus overwhelmingly on safety. Not the experience of travelling as a woman, which obviously will be different to travelling as a man, but specifcally on safety and how much more dangerous it is as a woman, but is this fair or accurate? 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’, ‘women are always at more risk’.
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 specifically dangerous, risky or scary based on your gender alone. 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. There are some slight differences in risk between the genders but overall the level of risk is no better or worse simply down to being a woman. It is important to remember that there are always risks in doing anything just as there is when staying at home, and that doesn’t change when you are abroad, 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, a little bit of reasonable caution can help you minimise risk and 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.
The world is an amazing and challenging place in equal measure, and travelling through it will push you far out of your comfort zone, but do not be intimidated by it! Challenging yourself can be scary but that alone does not make it dangerous. Don’t let fear or overblown thoughts of safety stop you from discovering how amazing the world is or just how much you are actually capable of.
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!”
“X destination is ‘safe’ for women but Y and Z are not!”
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, 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 the internet is filled with articles about which destinations are ‘safe’ for women, and by extension which are not. 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 and with the exception of active conflict zones and disaster areas there is no such thing as a safe or dangerous destination for anyone. Bad things can happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere. Many western destinations that travellers come from, the UK or US for example, have among the highest crime rates in the world, far higher than many of the destinations they travel to. Staying safe is all about you as an individual, not the destination.
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. Are women at more risk of certain crimes? Yes, just as men are at more risk of other crimes. Can that risk 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 study (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. Every single year for at least 3 decades has shown that women have a far greater fear of crime, especially violent crime, and yet are significantly less likely to become a victim of it.
There are certainly more female victims of two specific types of crime (often counted as one in many analyses), namely rape and sexual assault. That is a fact but that tends to be inflated in the media to mean that women are more likely to become victims of all crime, but that is not true. 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. That paradigm really needs to stop.
Yes there is risk, yes it is important to make a reasonable risk assessment and take reasonable and sensible precautions, but it is important not to inflate that risk and perpetuate the myth that it is dangerous for women to travel, and especially the mesage that women should not do so as a result.
So let’s for arguments sake say that men and women have equal levels of risk or danger when they travel, it is important to remember that the risk or danger is in general low. 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 not as high as people believe.
Using UK consular data and focusing on the one crime that women are actually more at risk of just as an 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. These numbers are relatively consistent year on year, decade on decade.
So out of tens of millions, the actual cases where women were victims were in the hundreds. Hundreds. Out of tens of millions. Those are pretty good odds!
As always each and every one of those crimes are one too many. Each and every one 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 have to keep the potential risk in context. 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 all travellers can and do travel the world safely and without incident and that goes for the absolute majority of female travellers too. So let’s put a few stereotypes to rest right now.
“Travel is NOT dangerous, even for women!”
“Women do not have more to fear or more to deal with”.
“Women CAN travel, even alone. It is NOT dangerous!”
So now we have established that travel is in general very safe, and that women travellers can travel the world very safely, lets look at the specific risks that are out there, put them into context and look at minimising those risks as much as humanly possible.
The Female Experience Of Travel.
It is also important to state that we are not talking about the experience of travel itself here as the two things, the experience of travel and the risk of travelling are often conflated, and they shouldn’t be. 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. The experience of travel will also be a very individual thing, based on the simple paradigm that we are all individuals and not a collective hive mind. There is no doubt of those facts. What there is doubt of is the conflation of the travel experience and fear of crime to absolute statements that it is more dangerous for women as a collective whole to travel.
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?
The Actual Risk Of Female Travel.
Of course risk does exist, risk of theft, risk of being conned, risk of becoming a victim of all types of crime exists for all travellers. The risk of becoming a victim of all types of violent crime and being killed is lower in women than there is in men, but the risk of sexual assault and rape whilst still very low in general terms is higher for women.
So how exactly do women reduce that risk?
Mostly it is down to knowledge, preparation and common sense with reasonable precautions to minimise potential risk and avoid, deescelate or get out of risky situations.
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.
That means an already relatively low level of risk in general can be reduced to manageable levels, and your personal risk as an individual can be negated with your knowledge, your skills and your awareness can keep you safe even when there is risk.
For specific safety tips and techniques on how to reduce that risk, please check out these more specific articles.
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.
Get The 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, close quarter protection and 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.
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 there are practical and safety concerns that you have to deal with.
The solo female backpacker guide to world safety gives you expert advice and information on how you can keep yourself safe when travelling. It gives you the knowledge and tools you need to spot, avoid and deescalate trouble before it happens, and tells you what to do to keep yourself safe if something does go wrong. With advice and information on safety and personal security from qualified experts, the book also gives testimonials from female travellers who have been there and done that.
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, the Solo Female Backpacker guide 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.