Movies like 2008's Taken painted solo female international travel as a life-threatening activity, much to the chagrin of young women and their parents everywhere.
Here's the reality: You don't need to have an a**-kicking father like Liam Neeson to see the world on your own. However, traveling alone can be challenging and in all instances, women must be aware and protect themselves. Here are some easy tips for a safe and healthy solo trip abroad.
Before you set foot on an airplane, prepare an itinerary with your flight information, contact information for the places you'll be staying, contact information for friends you may be meeting abroad and send it to your family and close friends. Set up a Skype account and set specific times to check in with your family back home.
Traveling for more than a few days? Consider registering with the U.S. Embassy of the country you are visiting. Make copies of each important document like your passport, credit cards, state ID and travel documents. Finally, do your research. Check in with the U.S. Department of State for travel advisories on everything from terrorist activity to dangerous weather. Also check the tourism website for the country or even the city you are visiting to help plan activities and view local maps before you arrive.
While out and about exploring a new place, dress on the conservative side by keeping your shoulders and knees covered. Not only will this help deter unwanted attention, it will also help guarantee entrance to certain landmarks or holy sites that enforce dress codes. Keep jewelry to a minimum and you may want to consider wearing a simple (fake!) wedding band. Don't carry all of your valuables in your purse since pickpocketing is a common occurrence in many countries. Keep some cash and any tickets you may need in your bag, but store your passport and credit cards (or their copies) somewhere on your body. We love the Clever Travel Companion line of women's underwear and tank tops with secret pockets to store important documents. Try to avoid the use of maps or guidebooks in public. But if you must ask someone for directions, mention that you are planning to meet a friend.
Staying safe abroad isn't limited to the threat of theft or physical violence, but also eating and drinking! Before you take your trip, take a moment to visit the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to search for food outbreaks. Unsafe drinking water is often a culprit of gastro-related illness while overseas, so stick to bottled water and stay away from tap water. This means avoiding ice and rinsing your toothbrush with bottled water instead of water from the faucet. If bottled water is not an option, boiling tap water will kill most of the impurities. Be careful with salads and fruit, many of which could have been washed in tap water. A general rule to follow is that if you can't cook, boil or peel it, avoid it.
Whether at home or in another country, it's not a smart idea to stroll around wearing headphones or get too drunk at the local bar. If someone you don't know that well asks you where you are staying, be vague. Carry a small rubber doorstop to wedge inside of your hotel room door at night. Finally, the most important rule to follow when traveling abroad, or anywhere for that matter is to trust your intuition. Trust that voice inside or that feeling in your stomach that will let you know when a situation or person is potentially dangerous. Traveling the world alone is an experience that should not be missed and these tips will keep you happy, healthy and safe!
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