Being safe in a city, particularly as a women traveling alone, should always be a priority. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a group of strange men, late at night while I was alone.
Yes, I’m serious and no, nothing upsetting happened.
I was in college out at a bar when I decided I had enough for the night and wanted to walk home (my house was a 7 minute walk from the tiny strip of bars we had in my tiny college town).
I was 21 and stupid. I knew that walking home alone at night after a few beers was a really dumb idea and might mean I would end up in the papers in the morning, but I was tired and decided I was young and invincible.
So I told me friends I was leaving and headed out. Not far from the bar, I saw a group of 4 men walking toward me and I immediately thought about all the awful things that could happen.
I should have turned around and went back or at least crossed to the other side (it was a cobblestone walking ‘mall’ situation, so wouldn’t have done much but still) but instead I tried to make myself look small and uninteresting and continued to walk. Like a rabbit when it sees a fox. Maybe if I don’t make any sudden movements, they will just ignore me.
I was staring at my feet as I walked when I heard one of the men yell out, “Hey girl!” (yes, before the Ryan Gosling meme) “Pick your head up! There could be creeps out tonight.” And as I looked up, these 4 men crossed to the other side so I could continue unobstructed.
It was amazing not only because he made me think about my actions, but also that he saw I was afraid and got out of my way. So thanks random man, I hope you are living a wonderful life.
This is a real threat that women face, and I was lucky that these men were not assholes, but rather aware of how their presence affected me. And he was right. I shouldn’t have been starting at the ground.
To this day, I consciously walk head up and back straight whenever I am out alone, day or night. Body language speaks volumes to others. If you walk afraid, you look like a target, just like the rabbit. If you walk tall, you look confident and assured, which will make most of the creepies, ignore you. Same goes for solo male travelers, creepers are creepers.
Don’t be an idiot like me of course, call a taxi or find a friend. But even walking around a new city as a traveler in the day time is obvious to locals and can make you look like a target. So here are..
6 Helpful Tips to Travel Alone Safely:
Have a plan before you leave your hostel/hotel.
This will help so you don’t look lost and confused. Get a map out and get your bearings, certain street names and landmarks. Most hotels/hostels will have an area map, or pull it up on your smart device. Decide your destination (or destinations) for the day, and have a general idea of how to get there.
Don’t text and walk.
This is a bad idea at any time, but certainly if you have your face buried in your phone, it’s even harder to be aware of your surroundings. Take a selfie, and then put it away. Save your instagram moments obsessively picking just the right filter to give that “I care but I don’t care” feel for back at your sleeping quarters.
Go inside a store to ask for directions.
Asking for help on the street is not recommended if you can avoid it. I had a male friend of mine bring out his map in the middle of the day while traveling alone, and a young man offered to help. As he was distracted, this “helpful” individual called over his friends who beat him and robbed him. In a park, surrounded by people. Getting off the street is best if you’re alone.
Get a local taxi number.
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people find themselves out late without a ride. Get a business card from your hotel/hostel that includes the address and ask them for a taxi company they trust. Otherwise you might get into someone’s “taxi” and find out they’re taking you somewhere you’d rather not go. Not great when you’re alone.
Trust your instincts.
I have ignored all these rules from time to time because I have been lucky enough to interact with enough people to get a good read on someone quickly. If it’s your first time traveling alone, take extra precaution, certainly. Be cautious but allow yourself to be open to new experiences. There’s no point in going somewhere new and distrusting everyone.
Pick your head up.
Best piece of advice, and I was lucky to receive it in a non-aggressive way. Or as they say, fake it ‘til you make it. If you act confident, you give creepies less of a reason to mess with you because you don’t look like a target.
The point is to avoid ending up in the evening news. Bad things happen everywhere, even at home, but GREAT things happen everywhere too. Don’t be an idiot and plan ahead. That way you can really enjoy the wonderful place that you are in.
What are your best safety tips when you travel?