Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.

Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

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Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.

Is it possible for a woman to travel the world and stay safe? Absolutely. Even if you steer clear of resorts. Even if you go to developing countries. Even if you don’t speak the local language. Even if you’re traveling alone.

I created this site so I could help women travel safely and independently around the world. And after five years, it’s working — I get daily emails from women who have gone on their first backpacking trips, their first non-resort trips, their first solo trips, all because sites like mine gave them the confidence to do so. They survived, they thrived, and they had the time of their lives.

But the women who took these trips did so well in part because they prioritized their safety while traveling. What does that mean? Well, this list of travel safety tips for women will give you an idea!

Here are my top 10 travel safety tips for women:

Kate on a Train

Research Your Destination Thoroughly Before Your Trip

For many travelers, planning and researching is almost as fun as actually traveling! In between scoping out the most beautiful beaches and coolest cities, take some time to look up safety information for where you are headed.

What are the best neighborhoods and the ones you should avoid? Are there only certain kinds of taxis you should take? Is there a medical center in the city, just in case?

When it comes to your lodging, how are its ratings for safety? What are former guests saying about their experiences? Are there any patterns emerging in the reviews you should be concerned about?

How are you going to get around? What is public transportation like in your destination? Do you need to rent a car? Does the situation change at night?

Visit a travel clinic beforehand and talk to a doctor or nurse where you’re going. Do you need any vaccinations or prescriptions? Are there local health issues for which you should prepare?

When it comes to activities, especially adventure sports, what are the risks? If you injure yourself, will you be covered by your travel insurance?

This is the stuff to find out in advance, well before your trip begins.

kate-in-pai-gallery

Keep Your Valuables On You While in Transit

But you shouldn’t bring valuables in the first place!

True. You shouldn’t bring anything you would be despondent to lose: family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, your birth certificate, and the like.

Today people travel with an amount of technology that was unfathomable a decade ago. Most travelers bring a smartphone at the very least; many bring laptops, tablets, Kindles or other e-readers, DSLR cameras with pricey lenses, and more. When you consider the costs to replace any one of those items, they definitely count as valuables.

You should have a day bag into which you can fit all of your important items: your passport, your camera, your medication, your jewelry, your credit cards, your smartphone, and any other technology, photography or otherwise valuable equipment.

Never put these items into your general backpack. Never put these items into the luggage hold on a bus. Never put any of those items into your checked luggage on a plane. If you let them out of your sight, there’s a fair chance that they could be taken away from you forever.

Kate Tubing in Vang Vieng

Only Take What You Need and Leave the Rest Locked Up

There’s no need to go out for a walk in the city with all of your credit cards, your passport, and the equivalent of $500 in cash. Take what you need for the day: maybe around $50, tops, and a debit card, and keep the rest locked up in your accommodation.

Almost every reputable hostel has lockers available for guests. Use them if they have them. In guesthouses, hotel rooms, or other places that don’t have a locker or safe for you, use a portable safe instead: a slashproof bag you fill with your valuables and lock to a pipe or something else sturdy in the room. Here’s a full review on the one I use and love.

While it doesn’t eliminate the risk 100% (if a professional criminal is determined to rob you, he will rob you), most criminals are opportunistic. If you remove the opportunity, they’ll go after someone else who left his or her valuables out in the open, much more easily accessible to them.

Kate and a Viking

Don’t Trust People Too Quickly

When you’re traveling in a new destination, and especially when you’re traveling on your own, it can be tempting to join up and find a tribe. Sometimes these tribes turn into lifelong friendships.

But they don’t always. Some con artists have mastered the art of befriending travelers, getting them to leave their valuables unattended, and robbing them before taking off.

When it comes to romance, you might want to crank up the speed when you meet someone outrageously sexy, but that’s not always the best idea. Sex is prevalent on the road, but be sure to protect yourself as much as possible.

Sometimes, we want to be part of a group so badly that we start trusting people before we should. Instead, err on the side of caution. If you’re just getting to know someone, don’t trust him or her to guard your expensive electronics while you’re in the bathroom.

It’s not rude to be cautious. Take things slowly, and if someone earns your trust, that’s when you depend on them.

Chris and Kate at Angkor WHAT?!

Watch Your Drinking

This is a tip that doesn’t get said often enough. It’s applicable whether you’re at home or on the road. When you drink alcohol, you dull your senses and slow your reaction time, which in turn makes you vulnerable to others.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid drinking altogether. Instead, drink slowly. Pace yourself. Eat beforehand or during. Have a glass of water in between each drink (your body will thank you in the morning). Be cognizant of what you are actually drinking, and always take drinks directly from the bartender. Constantly ask yourself, “Do I want to be less in control than I am right now?” and stop if the answer is no.

Most importantly, resist the pressure, gentle or otherwise, to keep up with others who might be able to drink more than you, especially in countries where it’s common to “shout” drinks for a group, like the British Isles. Don’t think you need to go drink for drink with your companions, especially if they happen to be beefy rugby players from New Zealand.

Kate at Petra

Blend in as Much as You Can

Want to have the attention of every pickpocket in Paris? Show up in shorts and a t-shirt. For extra credit, wear Birkenstocks.

As normal as shorts and a t-shirt would be in North America, you would never see that style in most of Europe. Shorts are rare and Europeans in general dress much more neatly than North Americans, especially in France and Italy.

The more you stand out, the more you brand yourself as someone who is unfamiliar with the location, which makes you more vulnerable to criminals.

Instead, research your destination in advance, observe how people dress, and try to pass as a local – or, if that’s impossible (like if you’re in Thailand or Mexico and look neither Thai nor Mexican), try to pass as a longtime expat.

That means eschewing the backpacker trail uniform of drop-crotch hippie pants and souvenir beer t-shirts in favor of casual but neat and tidy clothing. That means covering your arms, legs, and cleavage in Muslim countries, wearing loose clothing in India, and wearing long pants in Europe and Latin America.

In tandem with blending in, it’s important to maintain confidence at all times, and even if you’re not confident, at least maintain the appearance of confidence.

When you’re walking down the street, hold your head up and your shoulders back. Look straight ahead and walk with a purpose. Pretend that you have somewhere important to be, and if you fall prey to street harassment, ignore it and keep moving.

If you become lost and you need to find your way, slip into a shop or café to consult your map privately before continuing on.

Kate Paragliding in Switzerland

Spend Extra Money on Staying Safe

If you’re traveling long-term on a shoestring budget, it can be hard to justify spending extra cash when it could go toward so many more fun activities. But it’s a smart idea to financially invest in your own safety.

What does that mean?

It means that if your flight is scheduled to land in a rough city late at night, you should spend more money on a guesthouse that will pick you up right from the airport instead of taking a bus into town and trying to find a guesthouse on foot.

It means you should pay extra money to take a taxi home at night if you don’t feel comfortable walking through the neighborhood on your own.

It means paying more to stay in a central neighborhood with lots of lively activity instead of a cheaper, quiet residential area where you feel isolated.

It means you should choose the dive school with the stellar safety reputation and hundreds of positive TripAdvisor reviews instead of the rough-around-the-edges dive school that will do it for much cheaper.

Build an extra financial cushion into your trip and use it for situations like these: ones where you could be a little bit safer if you spent a little more.

Kate Shipwrecked

Prepare for the Worst with Documents and Secret Cash

In the event that the worst happens – your purse is stolen, your credit cards are suddenly maxed out, you get sick and need to go to the hospital – it’s good to have a backup plan.

For documents, keep front-and-back copies of your credit cards saved to cloud storage like Google Docs or Dropbox, as well as a copy of your passport. It’s a good idea to keep your bank and credit card phone numbers stored in a document as well.

In addition to the documents, keep a backup cash stash. Keep at least $50 in US dollars hidden in a secret spot deep inside your luggage, like inside a tampon or hidden in a sock. In a separate spot, keep a backup credit card. If your purse or day bag is stolen off your body and literally everything is taken away from you, this will provide you with a temporary financial cushion.

Adventurous Kate on the Bridgeclimb

Get Travel Insurance

Do you really need travel insurance? Absolutely. It could save your life, and in this day and age, with so many online providers, there’s no reason not to get it.

Whether your luggage is lost, you end up in a political coup or natural disaster, or you need to go to the hospital while on the road, travel insurance will reimburse your expenses. If you’re robbed, travel insurance will provide you with the security you need.

If the very worst happens and you end up losing your life, good travel insurance will allow your family to bring your body home without paying tens of thousands of dollars and getting wrapped up in mountains of red tape.

In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.

Be sure to examine prospective travel insurance policies in depth, because they might not cover your personal situation. Many insurance plans won’t cover certain adventure sports or particular countries or regions. Most plans will only cover a fraction of the value of your electronics.

Need a travel insurance suggestion? I personally use and recommend World Nomads.

Kate with her Galaxy SIII

Check in Regularly

It’s a good idea for at least one designated friend or family member to have a copy of your itinerary in advance: your flight numbers, your accommodation, and a general schedule of where you’ll be on which dates, as well as information on your travel insurance, credit cards, and a bank account number.

Plan ahead of time how you’ll check in and how often, whether it’s through daily emails, texts, social media updates, or regular Skype chats. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep a consistent schedule.

Staying in touch is a way to assuage the fears of your loved ones, but if you find yourself in trouble, they would be able to locate you much more easily than if you had been vague about your whereabouts.


Know where you’re going?

Check out our solo female travel guides!

Highly detailed guides to solo female travel in Paris and New York, Thailand and Japan, Europe, MexicoCentral America, and many more!


Travel Safety Tips for Women

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116 thoughts on “Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women”

  1. It is so important for women to be careful in the world we live in today. Your travel guide which involves tips for women’s safety is such an eye opener. I am going to share this post’s link with all my women friends so that they learn from these easy and helpful tips.

  2. I know you wrote that travel insurance is a must, but do you think that in terms of moving temporarily to a new location? I’m “moving” to Jordan (as opposed to traveling around), and I’ve already checked that my American health insurance covers me while abroad….so what’s the benefit of also having travel insurance?

    1. Health insurance only protects you for health — travel insurance protects you from things like theft. Look into insurance like Clements in addition to your health insurance; it’s good for expats in particular.

  3. Hey Kate!
    A well tailored and briefed writing much required for women who travel these days. Good you mentioned the drinking act (I think tat’s very important). The blending- in and spending on safety measures are rightfully included. A friendly caution for all the female adventurists out there

  4. Personal safety and self defense is so important for us women travellers and we should all be prepared to fight back effectively if the need ever arises.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years now and we teach a very effective technique which should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and this is what we teach to women of all ages.

    This is the “groin grab” self defense technique to be used against a male attacker which is taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    You’re going to take your hand and grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. Do not let go of them. This is important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. Don’t. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men) try to convince you otherwise.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepapred to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I think research is such a big part of travelling that people often forget. I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of drinking too much which didn’t turn out well at all. I love what you said about travel insurance – “if you cant afford insurance you probably shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.” so true!! it baffles me how people don’t take out insurance before they travel! I used it twice in my 3 month trip about Europe. The hospital would’ve cost me a fortune without insurance! I hope people really take note of what you’ve said.

  6. Thank you for sharing this; it is so helpful for me, as i am planning to visit Dominican republic, i will take what your write seriously because you have experiences and thanks for sharing them.

  7. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for all the wonderful tips!

    Another thing to take note of is when walking along the roadside, try to carry your bag on the inner side and not the side closer to the road. Snatch thieves can come on bikes or cars and it is quite rampant in certain countries in South East Asia.

  8. Loved reading your blog!! Looks like you’ve traveled so much and have some good tips! I’m just starting out but I’d love it if you could check out my blog! It’s at theblondetraveler.com Thank you!!

  9. Thanks for the great tips kate!

    I am a fan of keeping extra cash tucked away somewhere n ur backpack that ONLY YOU know of!
    Walking smart and confident is a keeper and blending in!

  10. Hi, Kate

    Your posts would be quite inspiring to girls out there who had inhibitions uptill now to travel alone.
    A researched post with a message and that is to always laugh and smile. After all, what more to expect after seeing a charming personality with a glowing face and I am sure, it is something which comes naturally to you.

  11. #9 is indeed an important point that many fail to follow. Travel insurance is very much necessary especially for those frequently traveling alone. Thank you, Kat, for providing the aspiring travelers like me with an excellent checklist like this. Also, first things first, I will definitely get a travel insurance done.

  12. Thank you for writing this super helpful article, Kate. I’ve included a link to your page on my recent post about travelling to Europe (6 countries in 10 days) because people just love lecturing us on how to be safe.

  13. Very useful for women or men. I have a lot of experience backpacking alone and I agree with your tips. In my opinion, don’t drink alcohol helps you a lot to be safe. The biggest problems that I have seen were related to people getting drunk. They get into a fight or get robbed or worse. Also being alone on the street late at night. It really depends on where you are, but try to avoid it.
    Cheers,

  14. Hey Kate,

    In some Southest Asian countries like Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam, we need to be careful because there are tons of thieves and scammers on the road. They tend to charge foreigners more money and I think that everyone needs to know about that to avoid.

  15. Hey! So I was just wondering do you happen to know the date you published this, I’m sorry to bother but I’m a 13 year old who is doing a health project of Safety Tips, and I need to create a bibliography, thank you!

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