6 safety tips for women traveling solo
MANILA, Philippines - Solo travel can be richly rewarding, and is a whole different experience from traveling with family or friends. As someone who traveled solo for almost two months and also met amazing Filipinas who did, I highly recommend to everyone to try solo travel at least once, whether it’s a weekend or a long-term adventure.
But there are safety precautions to take, especially for women.
Here are some measures I have tried in my travels and that some experienced solo Filipina travelers also take:
1. Follow the usual safety measures as when you travel with a group – and more
Actions like keeping your money in different places and securing your passport and having a photocopy of it are even more important when you’re alone and may not easily be able to get help if something untoward happens.
Aleah Taboclaon, who backpacked Europe for 70 days by herself and is now traveling in India solo as of writing, also recommends keeping a scanned copy of your passport in your e-mail for additional security.
2. Research, research, research
This step will help you determine first if it’s safe to go to the country or city you’re planning to visit, plus the security measures you need to take. Researching can protect you from scams and crimes which may be common in some areas.
For example, Aleah says she would have fallen for a scam when she was in Bangkok had she not researched in advance. “My tuktuk driver told me the Grand Palace was closed that day,” she recalls, when in fact it was not. In this type of scam, the drivers then usually take unsuspecting tourists to establishments where they will be forced to make expensive purchases.
3. Respect the culture
There are some countries, for example, where wearing short skirts or plunging necklines are not the norm and may draw attention. This especially applies to temples or other places of worship. So dress appropriately also to avoid calling unwanted attention to yourself.
4. Take extra protective measures
Inform at least one person you trust about your location. Also, bring contact information of the person to call in case of emergency with you wherever you go. Keep a back-up of the important numbers in your phone book as an insurance in case your phone gets stolen.
You can also bring items for additional security. Gael Hilotin, who travels mostly solo around the Philippines and in Asian countries, recommends bringing a whistle or a pepper spray to attract attention when you’re in trouble.
5. Use your common sense and trust your instincts
Here are more detailed tips on how women can stay safe on the road:
Always be alert and don’t leave yourself vulnerable through actions like getting absorbed in your map in a public place. Don’t easily disclose to strangers information like the accommodation you are staying at, or that you are traveling alone. Be mindful of your food and drinks, especially if you are hanging out in bars where other people might slip something into it.
And, don’t get drunk!
Above all, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, get yourself out of that situation as fast as possible, as what Lilliane Cobiao, who traveled solo around the world for 14 months, advises. On the other hand, if your gut tells you it’s right – though it may be against your logic – you may actually need to listen to it. I’ve accepted travel invitations from some strangers which led to some of my most memorable experiences.
6. Know your limits
While solo travel is about getting out of your comfort zone, don’t do things which you feel you may not be able to handle or would rather avoid. Prime Sarmiento, who has been traveling solo around Asia Pacific and North America, says she prefers to go to places where English is widely spoken. As a woman, she also avoids countries which she feels has a “strong culture of machismo” and thus may not be too safe for women.
What are you waiting for? Why not plan a solo adventure and set off? It does not have to be a long trip or overseas. You can actually start small, with just a day or overnight trip here in the Philippines.
Even round-the-world travelers like Lilliane Cobiao say they started out with short, easy trips. You can do it, too! - Rappler.com
Claire Madarang backpacked Visayas for 7 weeks and continues to set off on new adventures, both solo and with friends, from remote islands and picturesque mountains to bustling cities. Follow her adventures, tips, and epiphanies at Traveling Light.