There’s nothing worse than being duped or feeling misled, is there? It certainly shakes your confidence and makes you question your ignorance. As visitors to a foreign place, no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you may be, the act of preparation is a must. The notion of dashing all responsibilities to the wind and hopping on a plane is romantic, sure! But the reality is that it is more important than ever that women take the initiative to gather information about their dream destination before landing.
Before we get into it, a forewarning… yes, traveler scams are real and they do happen, but by no means should you feel scared or hesitant to travel because of them. We believe that women, just like men, should feel informed and empowered for their adventures. It’s important to note that the likelihood of being scammed is small, but taking the time and effort to avoid them is the smartest thing any traveler can do.
Here’s how to stay informed on popular traveler scams – so you can avoid the headache!
Register Your Trip on STEP
Have you heard of STEP? It’s a free service that U.S. citizens traveling abroad can enroll in with the local embassy/consulate they’re traveling to. It’s a safe step so that your itinerary and visit is on record!
Research Common Scams
Do your due diligence and heavily research common travelers scams, especially ones specific to your destination. You’ll be amazed at what you find! That being said, don’t let these scams scare you from visiting your destination!
Know The Details
Being cognisant of the details of your trip will make you feel informed and in power. That means, knowing the specific routes you will take, tickets you’ll need, directions from public transportation, the name of the host you’ll be meeting with – all of it! The more you know, the more confident and empowered you’ll be.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
Ask trusted locals you have interactions with for their experiences traveling around and throughout your destination. Many times, we take our curiosities to the internet to find answers. But, we miss out on a huge opportunity to connect with locals and hear their first hand experiences and tips/tricks. Ask the concierge at your hotel for recommendations and do’s/don’ts, ask a host or a tour guide their tricks… they’ll point you in the right direction and you have the unique chance to get to know someone new.
Being Informed = Being Empowered
At the end of the day, remember that being informed is the biggest step towards empowering yourself as a traveling woman. Being aware of potential risks is an unfortunate step of the process, but one that is critical both practically and emotionally.
On December 1st, 2018, I woke up to a robbed hotel room. My camera, lenses, laptop… everything I require for my livelihood.. gone.
A normal seeming day turned into a whirlwind disaster that felt like the ultimate cherry on top of a very challenging year for me. After dinner I came back to my hotel room, I awoke, glanced around and noticed something I had overlooked before resting. Over $8,000 worth of my gear was missing. As the blood rushed to my head, my blood turned cold. How had this happened? My heart shattered as tears began to fall.
Today, I wanted to share my experience of getting robbed abroad with the hopes to share the lessons I’ve learned from this horrific event.
Needless to say, I’m still so thankful that I was not hurt or violated physically. So many things could have gone even worse than losing material objects… but, it goes without saying that this type of incident was an ultimate violation of security and safety. The courage I once felt from being able to explore Paris on my own was replaced by anxiety and fear. I found myself feeling so afraid walking the streets of Paris when I once was empowered by living in Paris alone. I began to question everything. As an advocate for solo female traveler’s safety, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I was devastated. The overwhelming sense of sadness and loss was so hard to deal with.
Even worse, I received absolutely zero help from the hotel (La Pigalle Paris) or the French police. No cameras in the hallway to view, no remorse or apologies. Nothing. I felt completely isolated, violated and betrayed. How could any place not show any concern for their patrons? “Here’s your police report, there’s nothing else we can do at this point, it’s just for insurance purposes”.
The one take away from this lesson that I want to really push for is this – never skimp on travel insurance. It may seem like a frivolous expense to add when planning your adventures… but it can be a literal life-saver when you’re traveling in a foreign country.
A $50 policy can include $500,000 of Medical Evacuation coverage! But it’s important to read the fine print (or talk to someone in the industry) to really understand what you’re purchasing. For example, most comprehensive policies include thousands of dollars for Baggage Loss coverage but it’s important to note there’s almost always a special limitation on cameras and electronics (usually around $500). Do your research. Trust me when I say, it’s worth it.
The wonderful folks at Yonder Insurance were a guiding light throughout this whole horror. And I’m so thankful for the time and effort they put into assisting me through this. Their kindness and attention they gave to my case restored so much of my hope. I couldn’t love or recommend a travel insurance company more! Do yourself a favor and book a plan with them next time you’re traveling.
The businesses I respect the most are the ones with heart and soul and Yonder is defintely one of those businesses. Founders Terry and Ryan returned from a trip to Myanmar where they witnessed the struggle of the refugees, with a commitment to provide a week’s worth of food to a child refugee for every policy sold. So you can travel well, and do well when you go Yonder.
In addition to giving Yonder a HUGE thank you, I’d also like to give a big shoutout to Adorama, who kindly helped me with replacing some of my equipment. It’s the companies like this that helped me change my perspective and feel more grateful than ever for the good people in this world.
I hope if you’re reading this that you can see just how important your safety is while traveling. There certainly are beautiful moments and life changing experiences to be had while abroad, but its so, so crucial to be prepared and informed on safety and never overlook your well being when exploring. Now that some time has passed, I can look back at this experience and acknowledge how much personal growth has occurred for me. I’m still so empowered by traveling solo around the globe, and I have a keener sense of personal and material security. My anxiety and fear has slowly adapted into deeper awareness and less nervousness. As days and months pass, I’m reminded what joy and beauty comes from travel… and that although this experience was painful and sad, I am capable of moving past it with grace and courageousness to learn more from this world.
Thank you so much for reading my story. I hope from the bottom of my heart that none of you ever have to experience getting robbed while abroad (or any other type of safety issue).
Have you ever had to overcome getting robbed while abroad? How did you deal with the repercussions?
One of the most popular questions we receive is – what do we do to ensure that we’re staying safe when traveling solo? It’s a horrible, but accurate fact that women traveling alone will face more danger than any of their male counterparts. So, how do we do it? How do we continue to explore this world with compassion and curiosity? Simply put – we exercise intelligent caution and always stick to these 23 savvy safety tips for women who travel.
Book Hotels With Lots Of Reviews
Do your research. If your lodgings is too good to be true – it probably really is. Shady hotels and AirBnbs will offer great prices in prime locations, but without the cost you’d expect.
If you’re feeling unsure about a place, read through the reviews carefully and with a discerning eye. Most lodgings should have twenty or more reviews from confirmed guests just to start! See if any reviews are coming from women traveling solo. Their thoughts will guide you the right way!
Ask Flight Attendants & Female Concierge Staff About Their Feelings On Safety
It may seem a little uncomfortable for us shy travelers, but it could make a world of difference. Ask the women you encounter throughout your travels on their honest opinions on safety. A female concierge, flight attendant, waitress, hostess, etc. will tell you what to look out for or if they’ve had any scary incidents in the area you are staying in.
Never, Ever Use An Unmarked Taxi
You may be tempted by a cheaper, less stressful ride… but DON’T do it. Unmarked taxis are completely unmonitored and unregulated, leaving you unprotected in a potentially horrible situation.
Know Your Destination’s Emergency Phone Numbers
Do a quick Google search before you depart. Saving your foreign emergency phone numbers into your phone could save your life! Especially in a situation that requires you to act fast.
Take Note Of Sunrise/Sunset
Make sure you are aware of when sunrise and sunset will be occurring. Just check your weather app! If you know you’ll need to be navigating by foot (hiking, taking a long walk when there’s no public transportation) in an unknown area, you’ll know when you need to be on your way.
Research If There Is A Front Desk Open 24 Hours
Hotels with a 24 hour concierge will most likely be monitored by guards or security. Plus, you can rest assured that someone is always present downstairs in your hotel providing protection while you rest peacefully.
Hang Your “Do Not Disturb” Sign Even When You Are Gone
When you hang your “please make up room” sign – it’s a dead give away to thieves that you are not inside. So, do the opposite! If you hang your “do not disturb” sign 24 hours a day, thieves are most likely to overlook your room because they won’t want to risk you being inside. Call downstairs and ask for your room to be cleaned instead of making your room a potential robber’s easy target!
Be Wary Of Your Purse At All Times
I once put my purse right below my feet at a cafe, only to find a man behind me slowly pulling my crossbody strap towards him. Catching him red handed gave him a shock and really gave me the insight on how relaxed I had gotten on tracking my purse! No matter how comfortable or safe you feel, be wary of your purse, ladies! Keep it on your lap in cafes, hands resting on the top zipper while you maneuver through busy streets, and on your body when you use the bathroom.
Walk Confidently With Eye Contact
Men looking to cause harm to a woman search for signals that they will not fight or cause a scene. Do the opposite. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with a person walking towards you on a quiet street, walk confidently and lock eyes with them. Predators looking for an “easy” target will be more likely to leave you alone.
Pre-plan Your Way Through Public Transportation
Before you head out for the day, research your methods of getting around using public transportation. Which stops will you need to take? How long is your journey? How many blocks will you need to walk? Just having the knowledge of what to expect on your way will give you the confidence to maneuver through the city and avoid any dicey characters who want to offer you “help.”
Leave Your Travel Details With Family/Friends At Home
Always, always, always leave behind your travel details with someone at home. Things you should include are: your rough itinerary, the places you’ll be staying (hotel name, address, phone number, host, etc.), the flights you’ll be taking (flight numbers and airline, destination and arrival airports, layovers, etc.), emergency phone numbers of your destination and any trains, busses or other means of transportation you’ll be taking.
It may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it could save you your life! One trustworthy person knowing your schedule will eliminate many headaches and worries should anything go wrong on your journey!
Exercise Caution When Posting Your Vacay Pics
It can be tempting to immediately share your vacation pictures, but exercise some caution. Let me explain!
Sharing your vacay Instagrams signal to robbers back home that you are not there (leaving them with an abandoned home to shop from). And, in addition to that, it also gives a timeline and location for anyone wanting to do you harm. Be careful about tagging specific locations, including the hotels you are staying in! If you have to post on your journey, choose more vague location tags or wait a few days until posting. It may seem overly cautious, but do you really want to risk it?
Exercise Caution To Anyone Being “Too” Friendly
Optimism has gotten me into trouble in my past. Be careful with anyone who offers you anything too good to be true, or too friendly without any natural friendship made or conversation had beforehand.
What I mean is, if you’re struggling to print your boarding ticket – don’t accept help from a random person who isn’t getting a ticket themselves. If you’re having problems handling your suitcases and backpacks – don’t accept help from a person who isn’t also carrying one and on their way to their station or gate.
If You’re Lost, Ask A Family Or A Woman For Directions
Let your intuition guide you, but if you are lost, ask a family with children or a woman your own age for directions.
Always Mention That You’re Meeting With Someone
Just a quick “yeah, I’m meeting my friend there,” or “my boyfriend is expecting a call from me” will immediately cause a trouble maker to slam their breaks. Knowing that you have someone who is awaiting you to be somewhere or check in will raise a red flag.
Trust Your Gut
Last but not least, never doubt your intuition. If something is telling you to leave, if your gut is telling you something is up, if you even have a nagging voice warning you that you are unsafe – listen to it. Don’t doubt yourself.
Obviously, this is just the beginning of safety tips! There’s so many simple, yet effective ways to ensure your own safety while out on the road.
There are amazing amounts of women travelers exploring our world. This comes as no surprise to us Dame Travelers. We’re ready to see it all, savor it all, explore and learn and grow with each new destination we travel to. Being the bold, adventurous women we are… we know that being prepared, educated and safe are the three main cornerstones of our days exploring. There are so many safety tips for female travelers, specifically, out there. However, these are our favorite, simplest of simple tricks for avoiding unsafe situations and being prepared for whatever comes your way!
Before You Go
Stay at hotels, Airbnbs and hostels with LOTS of reviews. This seems obvious, but don’t let your budget dictate your safety. Always read through the reviews of Airbnb hosts, hotel guests and see what other female travelers have shared from their experience.
If possible, stay with female hosts! Look into verified hosts who not only have sparkling reviews, but also are women.
Visit a travel clinic before departing. Finding out about the vaccinations or prescriptions you should prepare for is one excellent way to resist sickness or illness while abroad.
Research common scams in your destination. A simple Google search will bring up lots of circumstances from past visitors. Do your research and be tuned into what to watch out for!
Take pictures of all your documents and put them on Dropbox. We love Dropbox because it is a two-step verification locked system that can be accessed anywhere there is Internet. In case, god forbid, that you lose your passport, ID or itinerary information… you’ll always have a digital back up!
Have hard copies of your itinerary and important phone numbers with you at all times. Identification is fine, but having an address and emergency contact list is one excellent way to be safe.
In some places, it helps to wear a fake wedding ring. Spend a dollar at Forever21 and avoid the conflict. This is one of the safety tips for female travelers we wish weren’t an actual reality!
Always communicate your itinerary with someone at home. In fact, print them out an itinerary to have on hand. Having a hard copy of your flight numbers, lodging and the names of who you’ll be staying with or visiting keeps everyone on the same page.
Schedule a regular check-in with someone back home. Whether it’s a daily text to share what you’re up to or a FaceTime date with a consistent figure in your life, having a regular time to communicate is a great safety tip for female travelers.
Pack light and inconspicuously. This seems obvious, but don’t bring attention to yourself with your Louis Vuitton luggage and bedazzled gold bag. Doing this only draws attention to you in a negative way.
Research public transportation in your location. Research into your destination’s public transportation. Is it reliable? What are the hours they operate? Will you need to rely on Ubers or taxis? Being informed before you go allows you to budget for transportation costs but also gives you peace mind.
Pack an external phone charger. The simplest of our safety tips for female travelers. It today’s day and age, losing power to your phone is pretty much taking you off the radar. As nice as that may sound, it also heightens your risk. Don’t forget to bring an extra or external phone charger that you can slip into your purse!
Grab the business card or ask front desk/concierge to write down the name, address, and phone number of your accommodation in their language. Especially if you’re in a location that speaks and writes in a different language. I’ll never forget having to attempt at translating the WRONG address to a Japanese cab driver. Most of the time, the business cards hotels have are written in both English and the native language. If you’re staying with a host, ask them to do the same just in case!
Befriend female hotel/hostel employees.
Don’t keep all your money in one place. If you’re bringing a purse to carry around in the day time, place your money scattered throughout it (in your wallet, in your side pocket, inside a tampon applicator). Even bringing a concealable wallet that can go on your body ensures that if you are pick-pocketed, not all will go to waste.
If you’re listening to music, don’t wear both headphones. Many people use headphones as a signal that they would rather not be interrupted, but others may see this as any easy distraction to take advantage of.
Always go in a train car that has other people in it. New Yorkers know this tip very well.
Learn a few key phrases in the local language… including “hello” and “thank you,” but also “STOP” and “help”.
Make a real (or fake) phone call to say “yep, I’m in a cab… I’ll be there in five minutes.” Make it very clear to your driver that you are expected to be seen by another person.
Walk relatively close to a couple or a family after dark. There’s safety in numbers. So if you’re feeling unsafe, buddy up with a group of other people. You don’t have to be walking in tandem with them, but walk a close distance.
Don’t hire a taxi off the street at night if you can. Some circumstances are unavoidable, and depending on your location, this might not be an option. But if you can, prearrange pick ups and drop offs!
Fill up your gas tank when it’s half full. Avoid riding on “empty” in a sketchy place.
Take your bag with you to the bathroom every time, even on buses and trains. Never and I mean never, leave behind your valuables when going to the bathroom. Even if it’s for a quick break.
Carry a personal safety alarm. Instead of running into “fire arm” territory with mace and pepper spray (these can be considered illegal weapons), buy a noise creating alarm like this one. If you need to use it, all you need to do is rip the cord and prepare your ears!
Pop into the nearest restaurant, store or hotel if you feel uncomfortable with someone near you. If you’re feeling watched or followed, ducking into a store with other people looks like you’re meeting up with someone. And this also gives you an opportunity to tell a local that you feel unsafe.
Pack a day bag with all your important items and don’t let it leave your side. Passport, wallet, laptop, camera. These are my most valuable items I travel with. You better believe that that bag is NEVER going underneath a bus or on a luggage rack. It will literally be glued to my hip. If I’m not planning on working, I’ll stow away my items in my suitcase (which locks) or with the hotel safe.
Trust your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s for a reason. Don’t doubt your inner judgement. And don’t feel guilty for making decisions based on your safety!
Try to dress like a local. Blending in will ensure that you draw as little attention to yourself as possible. So, say goodbye to your Birkenstocks with socks, Hawaiian shirts and safari hats.
Walk with confidence. Head held high, looking people right in the eye when they pass by. Most crimes against women are crimes of opportunity. Exude confidence and nip that in the bud.
Don’t feel guilty about saying no to anything. Let me say it again for the people in the back. Do not, under any circumstances, feel guilty for saying no to anything. You do not have to meet up with the guy at the bar. Under no circumstances do you have to follow a group to a shady location. You do have the right to say no to anything.
What are some of your stand-by safety tips for female travelers?