Protect yourself: Not all travel has a happy ending

Women’s Safety Needs are Different 

by Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman

Sadly, each year there are female tourists who lose their lives or are the victims of social deviants as they explore the world. Thankfully these events are not the norm and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel. What it does mean is that you must educate yourself on self-protection long before you step out the door.

While women travel for the same reasons as men do, their social concerns, as well as their safety needs, can often be very different. Whether you are a female travelling within your own country or venturing abroad it makes sense that you keep these safety tips and tricks in mind.

Are you the perfect target?

The next time you’re walking in your city center, do this short mental exercise. It will serve you well when you’re in a foreign destination. Look around you and notice which women stand out. Who looks timid? Whose purse has an unzipped pocket? Is anybody checking a map or guidebook? This is exactly what an experienced thug does as he closes in on his prey. Hopefully, the insights you gain will help you to protect yourself from wrongdoers as you travel.

Be culturally correct in your dress

The best way for a thief to pick you out of a crowd is not the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes. It’s what you’re wearing. If you are dressed the way local women are dressed a pickpocket will not necessarily choose you first. He isn’t sure if you are actually someone who lives in the area and up to his tricks or an unsuspecting visitor. More often he’ll target a woman who doesn’t seem to fit in. She’ll more likely stand out in a crowd.

Be coy and carry a local shop’s shopping bag

At your destination, make a small purchase just so that you get a shopping bag with the store’s logo on it. Leave your backpack at the hotel and carry your camera and maps in this grocery bag. Thieves are far less prone to steal a local’s shopping bag than to grab a tourist’s backpack.

Don’t drink irresponsibly

In some countries, a crowded beach party with no control over what is mixed into your drinks can lead to grave illness or even death. It’s far better to enjoy your alcohol in a well-reputed pub or hotel bar but never leave your drink unattended. Criminals find this the perfect time to drop date rape drugs into your beverage. The good news is that there is now a product to test your own drink and foil these wrongdoers. www.drinksafetech.com

Don’t divulge too much personal information about yourself

When other travellers ask you what you do for a living and you’re not sure if they can be trusted, tell them you’re a policewoman on holiday. Wrong doers won’t stick around very long.

Make noise when necessary

Point your finger and shout, ‘go away’ at any male who is touching you or invading your personal space. The language you speak is not important. What affects these men is the negative attention being drawn to them.

Carry a whistle

Consider carrying a personal security alarm or whistle that emits a piercing sound to help ward off an attacker or deter an intruder.

Avoid going out after dark

In some cultures, a woman alone is considered a prostitute and therefore fair game for the local men. Sometimes, in that social climate, it’s best to have your big meal at lunchtime and to picnic in your room in the evening. There’s no harm in going to bed early so you can be up bright and early the next day ready for sightseeing in broad daylight.

Check Global Travel Alerts

See the site Nations Online Project, a site that collects travel warnings around the world to help travellers and citizens take their own decisions about their own travel plans.

Sex on the road

In your own country you understand it if a male is behaving in strange ways. You know how to pick up the social cues and question his emotional stability. In a foreign culture these clues aren’t readily apparent to you and you might be flirting with a social deviant.

Keep emergency money well hidden

Save your empty vitamin pill bottles. Roll up five twenty-dollar bills, put them into the bottle and add some loose pills. Shake this container and it still sounds like a pill bottle. Nobody will consider looking there and the contents remain safe should you ever need it.

Keep your accommodation safe

Don’t accept ground-floor rooms such as a balcony or fire escape.that have easy access from outside. Make sure the doors can be locked from the inside and can’t be opened from the outside with a key. Carry a rubber door stopper that can be used on an inward-opening door.

Avoid pickpockets at bus stations

These people generally work in pairs. As you sit waiting to board, one engages you in conversation while the other lifts your backpack. Foil them by bringing the first section of a Chinese newspaper from home. Pretend to read it and they’ll avoid you completely.

The most important advice of all

Trust your gut. A woman’s intuition is the best measure of all her decisions. If the person you meet or the hotel room you rent feels wrong in your gut, don’t be kind or timid or apologetic. Walk away right away and don’t look back.

Safe journeys, ladies!

Evelyn Hannon

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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