Safety Guide for Female Solo Travelers Backpacking In Europe
The main reason females don’t travel alone usually boils down to safety concerns, and it is smart to be vigilant when you’re traveling alone. European cities are much safer than most US cities. The advice in this section is all pretty common sense, but it is a good idea to read through these things so they’re fresh in your mind.
The best safety advice we could give a solo traveler, or any traveler for that matter, is to simply be aware of your surroundings. That doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid about everything, but it is important to have an idea of what is going on around you.
PROTECT YOUR BAG OR PURSE
Probably the biggest threat to traveling women is getting your purse or bag snatched. We suggest keeping your bag in your lap. If you have a larger bag that is uncomfortable to keep in your lap, make sure you loop the shoulder strap around the leg of your chair so someone can’t run by and snatch it away.
FIND A BUDDY (OR A GROUP) WHEN GOING OUT AT NIGHT
It might not be fair, but women need to be more vigilant when they’re out at night. That is why we advise you to always go out with other people. Remember… safety in numbers.
ACT LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE
It seems that timid travelers are the ones who usually get taken advantage of. Their fear and timidness show through, and predators can pick up on this. That is why you need to always act like you belong. Act like you know exactly where you are going. Exude confidence! Walk with purpose — even if you are lost. As a female traveling alone, this is an important thing to remember.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
When you’re traveling alone, it’s important to listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
AVOID DANGEROUS SITUATIONS WITH ALCOHOL
We’ve all done some dumb things while drinking, but we’re usually around friends. We don’t have to tell you that getting really drunk in an unfamiliar city with a bunch of people you don’t know very well isn’t the best idea.
DON’T FLASH MONEY/VALUABLES
It is always smart to be careful about not flashing money and valuables around for people to see. Leave fancy jewelry at home, try to not use your phone alone on the street (especially at night or on public transportation), and if something feels wrong, try to hop into a store or get close to a group of people. The main thing is to not make yourself a target.
PICKPOCKET PROOF BAGS
A lot of travelers like these pickpocket proof bags from Pacsafe. They have features like puncture proof and lockable zippers, steel mesh is sewn into the bag’s fabric the bag can’t be cut open, and a few other anti-theft features.
BE CAREFUL WHEN USING THE ATM
As a solo traveler, one of your most vulnerable moments will be when you’re withdrawing money from an ATM because you don’t have anyone to watch your back.
Try to use an ATM that’s inside a bank This will minimize the risk of getting pickpocketed by strangers.
PAY ATTENTION IN CONFUSING SITUATIONS
Thieves rely on creating confusion to get you to let your guard down. They’ll do things like putting a newspaper in front of your face while someone else takes things from your bag, or a group of people will all push onto a Metro car at the last minute while they try to pickpocket you, or a cashier will purposely give you the incorrect change back. There are all kinds of things thieves will do. Your best defense is keeping calm and making sure you know what is going on.
WRITE DOWN THE ADDRESS OF YOUR ACCOMMODATION
It is a good idea to write down the name and address or take a business card from the hostel, hotel, or apartment where you’re staying. This is important because it is pretty easy to get lost in many European cities — their streets don’t use the grid system, so finding your way home isn’t always easy. Plus, good luck trying to tell your taxi driver to take you to 27 Scheepstimmermanstraat (yes, this is a real street name).
ARRIVE IN NEW LOCATIONS DURING THE DAY
Whether it’s at a train station or an airport, one of the most confusing and frustrating moments of traveling is when you first arrive in a new city. But things get much more difficult when you arrive at night. Help desks are often closed, most other travelers are gone, and people seem a little more sketchy.
Try to always arrive during the day to avoid getting locked out of your hotel and risking your safety in the streets.
MAKE (DIGITAL) COPIES OF PASSPORTS, CREDIT CARDS, AND OTHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
You’ve probably already read about the importance of keeping a few photocopies of your passport. Additionally, we suggest you email yourself a scan or save a copy to Google Docs. That way you have a copy of it easily available if you somehow lose the physical copies. This also works great with any other important documents or credit cards.
CHOOSE ACCOMMODATION IN A POPULAR AREA
As a solo female traveler, you might feel safer if your hostel is located in a fairly popular part of town. It's much better to be walking around in a busy neighborhood than totally alone. This is something to watch out for when booking accommodation because some of the cheaper options are in less desirable locations.
KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Before you head out for the day, take a look at a map to get familiar with your route, the areas you’re visiting, and the neighborhood you’re staying in.
FEMALE-ONLY DORMS (OPTIONAL)
Most hostel rooms are mixed gender, but many offer a few female-only rooms. If you have felt completely safe in hostel dorms because there was always a pretty equal mix of both sexes, it's ok. But if you feel safer in a female-only dorm, you should choose that option.