Women are at a disadvantage when traveling alone. Con artists and criminals perceive women as weak and therefore easier prey. If you're a woman traveling alone, you need to be aware of this and be prepared. Use these tips to look like you'll be a difficult target and travel with your peace of mind (and everything else) intact.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
You can't let your guard down for a second. If you are parked in a lot or garage, don't leave a public place until you remember exactly where you parked and have your keys in your hand, and remember to look under and around your car as you approach, and in the back seat before you unlock the door. As you are walking, be aware of who is around you and of any noises or movement. If you are in a place where there are guards, be aware of where they are and how you can reach them.
- Employ your smartphone.
There are many useful apps available for your phone that will help you. From public transit schedules and route planning, to finding a free parking meter and remembering where you parked your car, plan ahead, download these apps and get familiar with them before you embark on your journey. Some of the most useful apps include:
- Parking apps (where did I park?)
- Timer (set it to go off every five minutes to remind you to check your surroundings)
- Public transportation route planners and schedules
- Flight route planners and schedules
- Notifications (to let friends or relatives know you arrived safely)
- Navigation (how to get from your hotel or rental to where you need to go)
- Hotel and restaurant reviews and reservations
- Crime statistics by neighborhood
- SeeClickFix, to check in advance for and report issues like broken streetlights, potholes, etc.
- Check for safety.
Before you leave a public place, make sure you know where your luggage, purse, etc. are and practice handling them all together. Make sure that your shoelaces are tied, your purse and luggage are zipped, and your glasses and anything else you may need are in easy reach. Too many people have been attacked when someone pointed out something to distract their target.
- Let your whereabouts be known.
Always tell someone trustworthy where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted relative or friend.
- Don't let your whereabouts be known.
Have your mail and deliveries held for you. Don't talk about your trip to strangers, or even too many of your friends and relatives. Schedule repairs for before you leave or after you come back. Put your home lights, radios, and TV on random timers. Never post about your trip on social media until after your return home.
- Use common sense.
If you don't know someone well enough to invite over to your house for dinner alone, don't let them know your address or hotel room number. If you need to meet with someone in a hotel, don't use your room. Reserve a conference room or meet at the restaurant. Have the desk clerk ring your room rather than your guest (so they don't know what room number you are in). And please don't invite a relative stranger into your hotel. Unless you know someone really well you should never have guests in your hotel room, especially unsupervised, even for just a few seconds.
- Store your belongings safely.
If you're in a hotel, leave your jewelry or other valuables in the safe. Don't run the risk of having anything stolen. If you are staying in a hotel in a foreign country, you will be asked to leave your passport at the desk. Insist that the hotel clerk not put it under the counter, but lock it away while you watch. If you are not in a hotel, one of the best places to leave valuables is in a train station or airport locker. These have reasonable security and are usually monitored by closed-circuit cameras. And if you don't need it, please leave it at home! If your home is not secure, put valuables in a safety-deposit box at the bank, or in a storage facility with good security (and don't forget to insure the contents!).
- Trust your instincts.
A friend of mine who is a criminal profiler says that the most common statement he hears from victims is "I knew something wasn't right," or "I knew I shouldn't have gone with him." If that little voice is telling you to beware, don't talk yourself out of it. Follow your instincts!
- Take a book.
A book will keep you from talking to strangers, and keep you amused for those times when your plane is delayed or someone is late for a meeting. A nonfiction book makes you look busy--it doesn't really matter what the subject is. It's also less easy to get absorbed in a nonfiction book to the extent that you are not aware of your surroundings.
- Plan, plan, plan!
Map out in advance everywhere you have, or want to go. Make sure you know the opening and closing times of places you want to go. Don't wander around lost and waste your valuable time. If the city you're travelling in is confusing, ask the clerk at the hotel, or AAA for directions. If you must take a taxi, do not get in a taxi until you have verified that the driver has a valid license and that the taxi company is regulated by some authority. If you take public transit, make sure that you plan out your route in advance. Know what time the last transport runs.
- Schedule smart.
Make sure that you leave plenty of time for everything--eating, sightseeing, travel, connections, and some "me" time, too! Don't rush around because that is when you will make mistakes.
- Buy Travel Insurance.
While you may think that nothing will happen to you, eventually, something might. The small cost of travel insurance will help not only with missed or delayed flights, social unrest, and epidemics, but if the worst should happen, it will cover the cost of getting you back home if you become sick, injured, or worse.
With these tips in mind, you should have a good trip and arrive home with everything in good order. Travel safely and have fun!
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