Expert Safety Tips for Female Travelers
At the 2019 New York Times Travel Show, we attended the Expert Safety Tips for Women Travelers seminar. It included a panel of four speakers: Tracey Breeden, head of Women’s Safety and Gender-based Violence Initiatives for Uber; Haley Woods, founder of Girls Love Travel; Annette Richmond, founder of Fat Girls Traveling; and Rhonda Sloan, head of Marketing & Travel Industry Relations for AIG Travel.
“Every woman deserves to be able to travel freely across this world without concern for their safety,” said Tracey Breeden.
The entire room cheered. Tracey, along with three other panelists, offered invaluable safety tips they’ve learned through their careers and adventures. Although women’s travel safety has been a widely discussed topic, women are still susceptible to violent crimes while traveling alone today.
Safety should still be our top priority now, until the day comes when we can all roam around the world freely without worrying about it.
Here are some safety tips for female travelers from the seminar and from us:
Gather Your Essentials
Preparedness is the keyword.
The simplest way to prepare is to take care of essential details before your trip.
Make copies of any important documents, like your passport and ID card. Consider registering for travel insurance even for a short trip. Many policies, like World Nomads, cover everything from lost luggage, delayed flights, to medical emergencies. If you’re traveling for a long time, you can get an annual policy at a lower rate.
If you’re a US citizen, you should register your trips with the State Department. You’ll receive a notification of any travel alerts or emergencies. Even if you don’t tell your family where you’re going, at least the government will have a record of your trip in case of emergency.
Do Your Research
If you’re a go-with-the-flow traveler, you might want to enjoy a place without an itinerary.
You might even resist the idea of Googling the destination before a trip, but researching is much different from planning. Researching gives you an idea of a country's culture, history, and political climate. With a quick search, you’ll learn more about the region’s laws and customs. You can get an idea of any medical issues you need to be aware of or any common scams used on tourists.
Researching is an important part of being a smart traveler. Don’t travel before getting an understanding of the laws, customs, and safety of the place you’re about to visit.
Be Social... Online
Join a Facebook group to meet fellow travelers or ask for tips about the destination you're visiting. Here are a few recommendations: Girls Love Travel for general travel inspirations and meeting up with other female travelers; Digital Nomad Girls for nomadic advice. Find a local group if you’re planning to stay in one place for a while.
Of course, you’re also welcome to join The Only Social’s Facebook group to connect with our writers and readers too!
You can also use social media to check in with your friends and family. Connect with someone back home on a regular basis (especially you solo travelers) to ensure someone else knows where you’re going. Better yet, forward a copy of your booking confirmation to a friend or a family member.
Try to avoid sharing your immediate location publicly on Facebook or Instagram, or turn off the location services completely. Otherwise, anyone can stalk you easily.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
If you take an Uber, click “Share Status” to send your ride’s information (ETA, driver's name, etc) to a friend. Give feedback at the end of your ride. Uber would investigate reports about suspicious drivers and take appropriate actions to keep riders safe.
In some cities, it’s better to arrange an airport pickup rather than jumping on a random taxi. If you’re calling an Uber, make sure the license plate matches up and always double check the driver’s name before getting into the car. You can click "Share Status" to send your ride's information (ETA, driver's name, etc) to a friend.
Give feedback at the end of your ride since Uber would investigate reports about suspicious drivers and take appropriate actions to keep riders safe.
Also, pay attention to the app to see if the driver “accidentally” canceled the ride midway through the trip. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation at any point, don’t be afraid to ask the driver to stop or call the police. This means you have to research these emergency numbers ahead of time.
Keep tabs on how much you're drinking when you go out with new friends. It's easy to let yourself loose in a new environment; however, if you get wasted around strangers, you never know if anyone cares enough to take you home safely.
There's no shortage of tourists (men and women) getting robbed or harassed while being drunk on the streets at 3 am. Know your limits and take charge of your own safety even for a wild night out.
When asked which countries to avoid, the panelists expressed the same idea: don’t be afraid to travel. Sure, some countries are more known for their safety concerns. But do your research and be a smart traveler. You can still travel to “dangerous” areas as long as you prepare.
The only way we can change the culture for future female travelers is to continue traveling. We need to go outside of our comfort zones and explore the areas that seem challenging. But value your safety as a priority along the way.
Educate yourself, prepare, and then... go.