More than ever, women travelers are venturing out on their own and exploring all corners of the world. More women are buying tickets, boarding planes and setting out on solo vacations each year. When it comes to solo travel, there are essential pieces of information women need to know to stay safe and enjoy their trip. Whether you've booked through a tour group or just plan to wander aimlessly on your own, consider these important travel tips.
Pack smartly: Leave expensive jewelry and valuables at home. Thieves are on the lookout for easy targets, and most of those targets are wearing something shiny. You could be physically hurt if a thief attempts to swipe a bracelet or necklace from your body. The general rule when it comes to best packing practices: if you care about it, don't travel with it.
Watch your (body) language: The right body language can mean the difference between enjoying a great night out and becoming the victim of theft or assault. Self-defense coaches teach women to always walk with their head up, arms swinging and with an attitude. Even if you don't know where you're going, image is everything – thieves look for tourists and the most obvious ones are those who seem lost, confused or timid.
Survey the scene: Some of the best trip experiences take place in flea markets, packed football stadiums, or rowdy street parties. Unfortunately, your memorable night out and the rest of your vacation could be ruined if your wallet is stolen in the midst of a crowd. Be sure to keep your wits about you before joining the festivities in a crowded scene: close contact with strangers is guaranteed, so the opportunities for a thief to sneak in and snag your valuables unnoticed multiply with the increasing headcount. It’s perfectly fine for you to enjoy crowded events, but keep your belongings close and have a watchful eye.
Blend in: Though halter tops and shorts are appropriate in some venues, your summer wardrobe may attract unwanted attention abroad. For example, sites of religious worship require covered legs, heads, or shoulders, and for women in Northern African and Middle Eastern countries it's customary for women to cover their heads while out in public. Read up on customary dress for the region you're visiting before you start packing: granted, you won't have to don traditional garb throughout your vacation, but avoid getting targeted as a tourist by dressing more conservatively and with consideration for your destination.
Transportation with women in mind: Tokyo, the fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled capital of Japan, is infamous for instances of public groping on crowded subway cars. To protect female commuters, there are now "Women Only" subway cars that, though still crowded, ensure a subway ride free of groping and sexual assault. The threat of groping should not deter you from using public transportation in Tokyo: drawing attention to yourself to shame your attacker by crying "chikan!" is the way to go should you encounter an uncomfortable situation. After Tokyo, the major systems of public transportation in Egypt, South Korea, India, Taiwan and Mexico have hopped on board with promoting "Women Only" commuter cars.
Prepare for the worst case scenario: Carrying a comfortable amount of cash on you when you're traveling on your own is a safe move. The cash you keep in your sock or money belt will help out in scenarios where your wallet or purse goes missing, for instance, and you need to take a taxi back to where you're staying. Also, it's important to keep your emergency contact numbers for your credit card and the Embassy closest to your travel destination in a place that's not in your wallet or your luggage. That way, should your passport, wallet, or luggage be lost or stolen, your helpful contacts won't go with them.