The first thing to keep in mind as a solo female traveler is that you are not at home. You don't know the city or its neighborhoods when you travel. Some are safe, while others are not.
How often do you see tourists studying a map on a street corner, identifiable by their hiking boots and backpacks?
When something draws your attention away from your surroundings, you become a target. There are a few things that you can do to avoid being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Research your travel destination
- Before you leave home, be sure that you know which of the neighborhoods of the city that you are visiting are safe.
- Buy a travel guide book or read blogs to find out which areas to avoid completely and which to avoid at night.
- Make sure that your accommodation is in a safe neighborhood so that you can safely move around the area.
Study your city map
- Buy a cheap smartphone and download an offline map app such as Maps.me.
- Before you leave home, find the easiest way to your hotel on Google Maps.
- Use public transport if you are low on cash, but try to budget for a taxi or shuttle ride when you travel to your hotel.
- If you are using public transport, memorize the bus or train numbers and directions.
If you are taking a taxi, write the hotel destination on a piece of paper (your boarding pass will do). This way you avoid mispronouncing the name of your destination when you hand it to the taxi driver. This will make it less obvious that you don't know where you're going. Plot your destination on your offline map app and follow the route as you travel. If you see that the taxi driver is taking you off track, challenge him on it.
Study your city map in your hotel so that, when you leave, you know which way is which. If you are unsure, take out your cheap mobile phone to see where you are on your offline map app. A person standing with a mobile phone on the street is less conspicuous than a person standing with a giant unfolded map.
Plan ahead for your night-time excursions
There's no need to sit tight in your hotel at night. Traveling means exploring – and that includes the city nightlife. A good idea is to first visit your night-time destination during the day. You can check out some restaurants and also get a firm grasp on the layout of the area and the public transport routes leading to your destination.
You can ask the hotel staff for great dining options in safe areas, but use common sense when discussing plans with these strangers, as they always don't have your best interests in mind.
Trust your instincts
The most important thing to remember when you travel is to trust your gut. Sometimes the difference between safe and dodgy is two streets to the right. If you feel like someone is following you, enter a shop or a hotel lobby. If you suddenly find yourself in a street that gives you the chills, backtrack to the last place you felt safe. Make sure that your handbag is safely by your side at all times.
Take in the sights, but be aware of your surroundings at all times.