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Top Safety Tips for Women Travelers

Stay Safe, But Don't Stay Home

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La Ropa beach photo, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
© Kathleen Crislip

Women's Travel Tips to Take to Heart

It's a fact that women need to travel with a little special care; horror stories do exist and women, taught to have a care in life in general, can toss cares to the wind on vacation (like all travelers can) and lose that finely tuned caution edge that they keep honed on their own city streets.

Don't let concerns stop you, though - just remember to follow the same basic street rules you would at home (or learn them)... and, in the words of veteran female traveler Zahara Heckscher, "Stay safe but don't stay home!".

Avoiding Travel Theft

Thieves often perceive females as easier targets for theft than men. After all, aren't they the weaker sex? (Not!) The most obvious solution is sticking to the safer parts of town, but you'll certainly miss adventure if you do.

  • Carry a light

    Consider avoiding deserted streets after dark; if you can't, then carry a small, heavy flashlight in your hand. Be careful on dark streets even if you have a companion.

  • Watch the crowd

    Some thieves prefer crowded areas - stay alert in places like bus stations and during street celebrations, where you're likely to be jostled -- thieves use these circumstances to grab your stuff.

  • Consider your undies

    Muggers aren't interested in your bra. Sew pockets into it where you can keep some folded cash; if you do get mugged, you're not left helpless. A money belt works, too, but thieves know all about money belts (and would you really use one at home, or on the streets of New York or Chicago?). I also sometimes stash a couple of bigger bills in a sock after dark or anytime in some places, since I can be the world's most careless person about cash in pockets.

  • Don't bring the bling

    Avoid ostentatious jewelry; you could be injured if a thief yanks a bracelet from your wrist or a necklace from your throat.

  • Let the bag go

    Most experts say not to resist -- let your bag go and then shout for help rather than risk assault. Opening your wallet and handing over your money may be enough for the thief and you can keep your bag -- it also may make a thief think you're reaching for a weapon. Better to hand over the bag.

Consider Your Attire

Dressing well can make a thief think you have mounds of moolah in your bag. And women's dress can be a major issue in some developing countries. Remember that, until recently, Afghanistan women had to cover themselves from head to toe or risk legal repercussions. It's already pretty clear that you're a Westerner -- avoid looking like a rich Westerner to avoid creepy kinds of attention.

  • Dress like a local

    Learn the local dress code as soon as you arrive; buy appropriate clothing locally if neccesary. In some countries, typical American young women's attire like a shirt that shows your belly may be an offensive slap in the face to local women and an invitation for a come-on from the men. In Islamic countries, lay aside your own opinions and wear a head scarf - read more about clothing in Muslim countries.

Please go on to the next page to learn about avoiding unwanted attention from men and what to do if you're groped, assaulted or raped while traveling.

---> Return to Women Travelers category - Return to Student Travel

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