It was a long trek up the stairs from the Tegenungan waterfalls but as I was approached by a man with one of the most gorgeous smiles I had seen in a while, it was suddenly worth it. He was German, tall and handsome. Since his name eludes me now, let’s call him Hans (I know original right). I can still remember his smile as he insisted that we take a selfie together on my phone.
He wanted my phone number, but while charming, I stuck with my rule of never giving out my information and politely asked to take his instead. Besides, while handsome, I could tell he was much too young for me.
I smiled up at him as he attempted to woo me into having dinner with him that night. But our interaction was hastily cut short as our tour guide was waiting to take us to the next destination.
When I approached my travel buddy for the day, she nervously insisted that I didn’t call him. ‘Why?’ I asked.
It turns out that while I was with Hans, she had been speaking to one of the local street vendors, a woman that told my travel buddy that he was most likely seeking more than a date. It turns out he had been targeting and approaching women that seemingly were traveling alone the entire day.
It was left up to our imagination as to what he wanted but after much research, I found out that sex trafficking and organ harvesting were huge deals in southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia where I was.
I don’t tell you this story to discourage you from traveling to new countries, but to reinforce the need for safety while there. While Hans may have just been a guy looking for a fun time, it could have easily turned into something from a Taken movie.
Events like kidnappings seem so far away when you read about them online or see them on the news, but this event opened my eyes to the fact of just how close they can be. If you are a woman traveling solo to another country, where you most likely don’t speak the native language you must do what you can to protect yourself. These are 35 tips that I would recommend.
1. Know common scams, cons, and crimes in the area
I start with this because of my story. This is something that I did not do before what happened in Bali. But now I check out sites like Travel scamming.com that gives information on common scams and cons occurring in various parts of the world.
You can also look at the local news or research crime rates in the area you’ll be staying in. While anything can happen anywhere, it’s still good to know and be aware of the possibilities. Some of the scams are so far-fetched that they wouldn’t even cross a law-abiding citizen’s mind.
2. Don’t look like a lost tourist, ever
It is quite difficult for me not to look like a tourist in places like China or India, but I try my best to never look like I’m lost, even if I am. I won’t give it away by asking someone on the street where I can find a certain location. These are somethings that I do to not look like a lost tourist:
- If I need directions, I’ll hop into a nearby store and ask someone working there for directions
- If I just want to look at a map, I’ll still stop in a store or enclosed place and get my bearings there
- If I have access to WI-FI, I’ll put my maps on walking and have the directions going in my earbud while I’m walking. I do this a lot when traveling by train. I always make sure to have one earbud in so I can still hear what is going on around me clearly
- I never look take out a map or just stop on the street as if I’m lost
3. Take pictures of every important document
Usually before I take a trip I create an album on my phone specifically for pictures of my trip. Aside from all my fun pics, I also add important info there like a photo of my plane ticket, hotel information and parking spots (because I’m prone to forget where I park).
You can also grab a card from the front desk of your hotel to keep with you in case you forget.
4. Download apps before leaving
I never know how fast or slow the internet may be where I’m going so I always try to download any apps that I’ll need before traveling. This includes all of my safety, transit and translation apps.
5. Ask for more than one room key
I always ask for at least two room keys. One lives in my wallet and the other in my back pocket. If you have another place to keep one ask for three.
6. Stash money everywhere
I stash a couple of dollars in multiple places when traveling aside from the money I keep in my purse. I’ll put it in the hotel safe, my purse, luggage somewhere on my person like my shoe or bra. There are a ton of ways to stash your money inconspicuously while you’re out and about, below are some options on Amazon (note: these are affiliate links, so if you click on & purchase thanks for the support!)
7. Download a subway map on your phone
If I’m going somewhere like NYC or Boston where it’s easy to get around on the train, I’ll always download a map of the train to my phone. That way I’m not looking at the posted subway signs and like I’m doing something on my phone.
8. Get a privacy screen protector for your phone
When you are looking at any downloaded apps this is a must so that you can do so in private. Also, if someone is looking over your shoulder and personal information is on the screen they won’t be able to see it.
9. Make friends with the hotel staff
My reason for making friends with the hotel staff isn’t solely for the purpose of them looking out for me, but it does help. Usually, by the end of my stay (depending on length) they know my name and greet me with welcoming smiles as I come and go from the hotel.
Get to know you’re the front desk staff and the concierge so that they get to know your face and will maybe even check on you if they haven’t seen you in a while. They will also be more apt to tell you where to go and what areas to stay away from.
10. Put on a grumpy face
There are times when a smile will get you through doors you never thought would open. But there are also times when you have to bring out your inner tough girl and put on that your RBF. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation you may have to put on your don’t mess with me face. Don’t be afraid of drawing attention to yourself or getting loud if someone is bothering you either.
11. Be aware of your surroundings
This is pretty obvious, but there are times when we find ourselves relaxing on the beach or sauntering down what looks like a safe area and we let our guard down. Crime does happen in paradise, unfortunately.
12. Always be cautious when using rideshares
When traveling, I usually use rideshares instead of taxis. This is because they are a little cheaper, there is no physical money exchanged and you have some added safety options when using the app.
When taking rideshares, I’ll follow these rules. It seems like a lot, but once you get used to doing it, it takes no time
- I always, always make sure to check the license plate number, make and model prior to getting in the car, even if this means taking a couple of extra steps around the car to verify
- I make sure the person pictured is the driver
- I’ll say the persons name and wait for them to confirm mine
- I always follow along on the map in the app with the driver or put my maps
- I’ve started putting all of my belongings in the back seat with me, rather than the trunk. This is in case I have to make a quick exit
- I share my ride with someone or give someone the drivers information
- I always sit in the back seat, again for quick exit
- I make sure the child safety locks are not on in the car
- Just an FYI Uber has an in-app 911 emergency button if needed
13. Let someone know where you are
Before my dad passing, I would always let him and my mom know the details of my trips. Primarily my hotels and flight information. There are also several apps like Life360 or ADT Go, that can share your immediate whereabouts with someone you trust.
14. Invest in a smart back bag with RFID blocking
Preferably one like the PacSafe slash-proof bag, that has wires throughout so no one can cut them. Also, make sure it has a lock so no one can come up and open your bag. These usually come in handy if you run out of battery life on your phone as well
15. Bring a spare credit card
Bring a spare credit card and leave it in the room safe or locker to use as an in case of emergency card.
16. Use cash when possible
I always use cash when possible wherever I go. It’s harder for people to get my information and I won’t have to deal with subsequent fraudulent charges. There are plenty of banks and credit cards that don’t charge fees when taking money out of an ATM now.
17. Download A VPN
If at all possible refrain from using public Wi-Fi without being secured first. Use a virtual private network or VPN to encrypt your information like passwords and personal data. They generally run about $60-$100 per year and I use Norton, but research diligently to see which would fit with your budget and needs.
18. Have a back-up plan
If you are going far, don’t speak the same language or are staying with someone I would always have a back-up plan. Especially if you are using apps like courchsurfing.com, where you may not know the person.
19. Don’t assume the worst
Things aren’t always as they seem and many times we may pre-judge a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable then by all means leave but don’t just assume everyone is bad or out to get you. Energy is so important in life and we have to be careful of what we attract.
20. Get a lay of the land
Look at maps of your hotel and the surrounding area or book a city tour before you arrive to help you get a lay of the land. In addition, I would also research your arrival airport before going if you aren’t familiar. You can go directly to the airport’s website or check out a site like Tripit.com.
21. Don’t skimp on your accommodations
Pay a little more for safety. If you’re a woman and have the option of staying at an all-female hostel then, by all means, do so. If there is a hotel with 24-hour security, book that one over one without. Your safety is priority number one while traveling.
22. Carry a dummy wallet with you
Have a wallet with a couple of dollars in it and stash your major money elsewhere. This will come in handy if you run into a pick-pocketer.
23. Use an alarm door stop
Since it’s a doorstop it will help hinder the entry of anyone wanting to enter into your room and also sound an alarm when they attempt to. Most run on batteries, so make sure to place them in before you leave and take spare batteries with you. I have the Sabre HS-DSA Wedge Door Stop, they are fairly cheap and easy to pack.
24. Use a personal safety alarm
You can keep one in your pocket and if needed activate it. They make a lot of noise to alert others to your trouble.
25. Make a copy of everything
I always make multiple copies of pertinent information and leave them in various (safe) places. This includes copies of my passport, travel itinerary and credit cards. In case your credit cards are stolen, you have all the information you need to call and report it right then.
I keep a copy of my passport on my person and copies of other things in my hotel safe. I would recommend leaving copies at home with someone you trust as well in case they have to send them to your location.
26. Use the safe
And make sure you lock it. Not everyone uses the safe afforded them in their rooms many times. I feel this is a huge missed opportunity for added safety. If you’re staying at a hostel, pay extra to use the locker if there’s a fee. Never leave your information laying around or in an unlocked suitcase, even a locked suitcase wouldn’t be my first option as someone can simply take off with the luggage.
27. Watch out for animals
No seriously, when traveling to various countries sometimes there are animals roaming the streets to watch out for as well. Some that will steal your belongings as well or put you in other types of jeopardy.
Make sure to keep an eye out for signs such as ‘elephant crossing’ if you decide to explore off the beaten path. When in Bali, we went to Monkey Forest and they would jump down and simply take what they wanted, in my case, it was my travel buddies keys. The monkey actually got pretty angry when he couldn’t get them and attempted to bite her head. Make sure to put any shiny objects like keys away and pay attention to the directions posted or given by your guide.
28. Know what is illegal to bring into different countries
You might be pretty surprised at what can land you in hot water when traveling to other countries. For instance, you can’t bring personal medicines into Australia without a letter or copy of the prescription from the doctor, layered fishing nets aren’t welcome into UAE and vintage products are restricted when flying into India.
29. Don’t be too social
I tend not to share the fact that I’m on vacation until I get back home or at least until I leave a specific location. I refrain from posting a ton of photos until I get home and never check-in online.
30. Practice self-defense
I take Boxing and Hapkido, it is a slight confidence booster as far as self-care goes, so I highly recommend it. But I still know that my goal is to get out of any sticky situations, so your number one defense is always going to be to run.
31. Have travel insurance
Especially if your trip is expensive and you can’t afford to lose out on your investment. Make sure to read all the terms before purchase so you know what is covered and what isn’t
32. Use your intuition
You know that little feeling in the pit of your stomach that sometimes give you pause before making a decision, always listen to that!
33. Arrive at an optimal time
Don’t book a flight that gets to your destination at 2 am just because it was cheaper. Arrive when it’s daylight outside, and there are plenty of people and travel options around. Unless you’re in a place like New York or another major city you may have a more difficult time getting around. P
34. Have an arsenal of answers ready.
No matter where you go, you will probably encounter pushy people, this includes pushy street vendors or suitors. If you aren’t comfortable saying no, make sure to have a couple of answers prepared.
35. Act like you know someone
If you ever find yourself in a sticky situation and there happens to be a couple of people or a group nearby. You can go over and act as if you’re with them, start a conversation, chat, and smile as if you’re good friends.
Bonus 1: Don’t leave with strangers
Stay in a public, well lit (if possible) places. And if you meet someone you may want to connect with further use the same savvy date techniques you would at home. Meet them out in public, during the daytime, refrain from drinking excessively, and never let them know where you are staying.
BONUS 2: Bring multiple chargers and cords
I always have at least two portable phone chargers, cords and plugs so while things are charging back in my room, I have one with me. If the one I have with me runs out of juice, I always have a plug if I happen upon a way to charge it. When I get back in my room and I’m going back out, I simply switch out the portable charger that I’ve been using for the fully charged one!
Sadly, people prey on tourists, women and solo travelers but you must remain vigilant about your safety. While no plan is 100% foolproof, having one is better than none at all.
Is there anything you would add to this list that could help others stay safe?