Safety and Security
A really good mantra for the female traveler is to trust your instincts. Don’t be paranoid about travel or destinations but be aware that bad things do happen. If you make smart choices and use your common sense you’ll know if something feels wrong or strange. If it does get out, move on, flee or scream and do it quickly.
Women traveling alone should not venture out much after dark, particularly in isolated areas or potentially volatile situations. Steer clear of alcohol as it can impair your judgment. Make sure you know when the sun will set, keep an eye on the time and make sure you aren’t in a quiet area after dark. If you must go somewhere, go with confidence and purpose, keep your head up and swing your arms so you won’t look like a lost or disoriented tourist. If you see a group of men or young boys approaching cross to the other side of the street so they have no reason to bother you. Always carry enough money with you so you are able to get out of a tight spot; for example getting a cab back to your lodging or a safe location.
Thieves often use razor blades to cut purse straps, do a snatch and run or pickpocket from bags in crowded situations. Wear a money belt to prevent this and pay close attention to your gear on busy metro stations, buses and shopping centers. If you avoid wearing expensive clothes and jewelry it will dissuade petty thieves from considering you as a target.
If you are really concerned about your personal safety, take a self-defense course.
It can be difficult to know what is considered offensive or suggestive in segregated societies. Be aware that in some cultures western women are considered immoral and you may be viewed as such and propositioned. Take your cues from local women; if they don’t make eye contact with men you shouldn’t either. If they aren’t out at night perhaps you shouldn’t be either. Check how they dress and try to blend in. Fashionable clothing at home can be provocative in other cultures. Dress smart but cover up and you’ll feel a lot less vulnerable.
If people offer you food or drink they are most probably just being kind but there are exceptions. In a bar it’s probably good judgment not to accept food or drink as date rape drugs are odourless, tasteless and colorless.
If something does happen to you don’t be afraid to ask for help. If someone is following you stop and tell other people walking in the street or duck into a shop and tell them. Try to stay close to other women or family groups, wear a wedding ring or even admonish the perpetrator of poor behavior in public. Most sleazy men do not want public attention.
Health and Vaccinations
Always see a doctor regarding vaccinations and health warnings to overseas destinations before you leave. Take the necessary medications and watch what food or water you put in your mouth. Getting sick overseas is no fun, particularly if you are traveling alone. Non-Western toilets are usually little more than a hole in the floor and in some locations there may be no toilet at all. It can be difficult to perform toiletries in other cultures but if you wear a skirt you’ll usually be able to manage. In a lot of cultures it’s perfectly common to squat by the road. Always carry tissues or napkins with you.
Keep in Touch
Give someone at home a copy of your itinerary and check in with them every few days so they can assure you are okay.
Vacations do require a basic level of fitness. You may have to carry your pack, jump on and off trains and buses, climb up hotel steps or even undertake adventure sports. A basic level of aerobic fitness is recommended for all vacations and possibly some specific training if you’re doing day-long treks, bike rides or canoeing.