travel advice & savings
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helpful safety hints thread
segacs's profile picture
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Since this question gets asked a lot, I thought of starting a "helpful safety hints" thread for solo women travellers (kind of like the "helpful hints thread" in the general discussion topic). I’ve included the kind of common-sense safety precautions that people are frequently asking about.

1) Don’t panic. Europe is safe. Excessive paranoia will get you nowhere. 99.99% of the time, nothing will happen and you’ll be perfectly fine, so no need to overreact.

2) Wear a money belt. Under your clothes. Store your passport, some emergency cash, a spare credit card or bank card and any important documents in it. If your bag is stolen at least you won’t lose those.

3) If your hotel or hostel has a secure safe, lock up your passport and valuables there when you head out on the town.

4) Remember that everything is replaceable except you. If you get into a sticky situation, just hand it over. It’s not worth it.

5) You will probably stick out as a tourist, no matter how hard you try to "blend in". Just be aware that as a tourist, you may be a target of petty thieves, so keep your wits about you.

6) Never accept drinks from strangers unless you have personally witnessed them being poured. Don’t leave your drink unattended.

7) If you decide to get completely drunk and stumble home, or allow yourself to be picked up by some random guy, this isn’t a good idea but it’s up to you. Make sure at least someone you trust knows where you are and where you’re going. If you’re completely solo and don’t know anyone, conspicuously walk up to another woman in the bar and tell her loudly that you’re going with "this guy" – even if you don’t know her, the guy will think you do and he’ll think that someone is watching out for you.

8) Bring condoms with you if you’re even thinking about hooking up with someone – local or tourist. STDs are just as prominent abroad as at home. Be smart.

9) When in crowded areas like train stations, tourist sites, etcetera, wear your daypack in front.

10) On a night train, be careful of empty compartments where you’re the only woman, and try to get on early so you can share a compartment with other women. Make sure your valuables are safely stashed under your clothes in a money belt.

11) Remember that your passport is the most important document you have on you. Take precautions to make sure it’s not stolen.

12) Trust your instincts. If a certain area is making your skin crawl or your antenna quiver, don’t walk there alone at night.

13) When you arrive in a new city, ask the hostel staff or other travellers of good ideas for nightlife, and also ask them if there are any particular areas to avoid or things to watch out for.

14) Walk alertly, like you know where you’re going. If you need to pull out a map or consult a guidebook, duck into a shop or sit down at a cafe before doing so.

15) Unwanted male attention can happen anywhere. Your best bet is to just ignore it. If it’s persistent or it starts to scare you, walk quickly into a nearby restaurant, cafe, store or other place, or leave the bar if that’s where you are. Remember that 99% of the time, guys have no intentions more sinister than trying to pick you up.

16) Be subtly aware of your belongings even when you’re not paying complete attention. Loop your bag strap around you when you’re at an internet cafe or a restaurant. Keep your foot around it if you’re sleeping on a bus. Etcetera.

17) Again, don’t panic. These are just basic safety precautions but don’t spend all your time worrying about all the horrible things that could happen. Most people never have any problems whatsoever. Just have a good time, enjoy, and don’t worry so much.

Feel free to add yours!

MeredithBlueEyes's profile picture
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(1) wear sunglasses to avoid inavertantly making eye contact with strange men.

(2)Ignore most street harassment and catcalling, but if someone is following you or being really persistent, turn around and tell him loudly to go away. English or the local language will both work.

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1) I agree with Meredith about eye contact. The smile, eye contact and greeting from a single female may be seen as simply friendly on an American college campus. It’s more likely to be interpreted as a come-on on a city street in Europe (or anywhere off-campus).

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On that note, yes, stay confident, and try to ignore those guys.

Last year in Paris a guy came up and spoke to me in French (i hadn’t even seen him, so there were no looks) but i didn’t understand him. He goes "Oh, youre American? Well, how would you like to go and have sex?" Ha! I couldn’t believe it, and started to freak out because I was alone. Kept my composure and tried to laugh/brush it off, but he kept asking "why not?" and following me… It soon took all my might to keep him from knowing I was scared. I found a metro station, somewhere telling him my parents were meeting me at the next stop. and he disappeared into the crowds…. feu!

Anyway, it was ridiculous, but still creepy. I think it really helped that I ignored him and kind of brushed off the things he said like they were only mildly amusing.

Its all about exuding confidence (even if youre a wreck inside) !!!!!
And, yeah, try not to look lost..

Happy travels girls!

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If you’re getting unwanted attention by men, i’ve learned just to COMPELTELY ignore them. continue doing whatever you’re doing, walk away, whatever. don’t even look at them. a response only increases the harrassment.

i’ve also heard that wearing a simple wedding ring (married or not) does a lot to prevent unwanted attention (though i’ve never tried it myself)

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oh also, whenever i backpack totally solo, i never have a set itinerary (i just go with the flow), so i try to send an email home as often as i can, just letting people know where i am and where im headed. that way my family at least knows where in europe i am in case anything ever happens.

Dark Angel
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Some advice about being on your own in cities… I lived in London for a year and often had to walk home by myself after dark or take the tube in the evenings.

- wear good, sturdy shoes. Nothing screams ‘victim!’ like wobbling along on awkward shoes.
– Make sure you know where you’re going ahead of time, so you look confident.
– Walk a steady, comfortable pace, not rushing or ambling.
– keep check of your environment without looking nervous or worried; just calmly let your eyes glide over your surroundings.

I can recommend anyone to take some classes in selfdefence before their trip; not because you’ll need it more than at home, but because it gives most women and air of confidence that makes them look like ‘more trouble than it’s worth’.

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This is all very good advice to keep in mind.

Make sure to also dress appropriately to avoid unwanted attention and to get into the places you want to see.

And of course while you are thinking of all of these things, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

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All good advice and it all makes sense. I have traveled a lot and have (knock on wood) been safe but in January I took a friend with me to London and despite everything I told her she still did not zip up her purse and sure enough coming off the subway and walking up the steps at Paddington I heard something and turned around to see two guys approaching I stepped completly out of the way and motioned her to do the same but she didn’t and one brushed up against her and sure enough back at the hotel her wallet was missing! This is not something that you want to have to go through in a foreign country so beware. They are good at what they do, and it takes a split second.