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Safety

10 Least Safe Places For Women Travellers (And How To Navigate Them)

1 August 2017

As part of the launch of its newest and 20th tribe, Solo Female Travel, Trip.com released a list of the 10 most dangerous places for solo female travellers based on a survey of female Trip.com users. For some Trip.com users, this doesn’t necessarily mean “no go,” but it definitely means “take caution.”

To quote top travel app Trip.com, “This list might as well be entitled ‘Most Interesting Countries to Visit for Solo Female Travellers’. For more experienced and adventurous souls, there are probably quite a few bucket list destinations here. And, the lowest ranked country (Egypt) still scored over 5 on a scale of 1-10 for perception of safety…and the lowest ranking on the list scored over 7! Yet travelling while female still isn’t uncomplicated.”

While Trip.com’s findings are American-centric – with places like the Bahamas and Colombia making the list – there’s plenty of wisdom to be gleaned for Australian adventuresses. Here, we list the 10 most dangerous places for solo female travellers, according to the team at Trip.com with tips from Julia Pond, Trip.com’s editorial director on how to stay safe while travelling in these hot spots and others like them.

1. EGYPT

Why it’s so dangerous: This country topped the Trip.com list of dangerous places. The U.S. Department of State has issued a stern warning to travelers about going to Egypt: “A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS, have committed multiple deadly attacks in Egypt, targeting government officials and security forces, public venues, tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility.” Threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups are just some of the reasons why the number of tourists visiting Egypt has plummeted from 14.7 million to 5.4 million in 2016, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. But Pond doesn’t advise avoiding the country entirely. “Egypt is interesting in that a lot of people actually advise you not to travel there solo at all. That being said, there are plenty of people who do and don’t have problems — Egyptians can be really hospitable,” she says. ” It’s important to remember that even in countries with political problems or issues with violence, ‘danger’ is not a 100% guarantee. I’d say the same with Mexico, honestly: There is certainly cause for concern but that doesn’t mean you should cancel all travel plans.”

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Be on your guard. In the Trip.com survey, some women noted that Egyptian men can be aggressive, especially in crowded markets. One Trip.com user noted that her “female guide would not visit the markets…because the merchants would harass her mercilessly if (the tourists) didn’t stop at their stalls.”
  • It is key to respect local dress norms in Egypt and avoid attracting attention: Cover your shoulders and knees. Very loose clothing that covers your wrists, ankles and even hair is better.
  • If you’re in Cairo, seek out good neighbourhoods like Zamalek.
  • Consider an Uber in favour of a taxi.

2. MOROCCO

Why it’s so dangerous: Second on the list is this exotic North Africa country where there’s high potential for terrorist violence. The State Department also warns that crime — aggressive panhandling, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, street robberies, burglaries — is a serious concern, particularly in major cities and tourist areas.
Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Street smarts in Morocco are similar to other countries (wear a cross-body bag, don’t flash valuables, walk with purpose, etc).
  • It’s fairly rare for a man to physically touch you — but you should expect catcalling. The best way to deal is to ignore the person and keep moving. That said, if you feel threatened, find the closest police officer and report the incident.
  • Clothing is a hot topic — you’ll see a wide variety of it in Morocco. But it’s advisable to stick with modest styles and avoid belly-baring shirts, short-shorts and strappy tank tops. The reality is, the less you wear, the more unwanted attention you’ll attract.
  • If you lose your way, don’t ask a man on the street: Step into a shop or ask a woman for directions. Loitering young men are eager to make quick money “helping” tourists but women out and about or shopkeepers have no ulterior motive.
  • Learn some Arabic phrases: If you go outside the city, this will serve you better than French. However, basic French phrases are also worth knowing.

See more safety tips for Morocco here

3. JAMAICA

Why it’s so dangerous: “Popular resorts are fairly safe but traveling beyond those borders will mean dealing with unwanted attention,” says Pond. Indeed, the State Department warns that violent crime is a serious problem throughout Jamaica, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay. And even if you’re staying at a seemingly safe resort, beware: According to the State Department, “the U.S. Embassy received more than a dozen reports of sexual assaults against American visitors to Jamaica in a 12-month period. Most of these took place at all-inclusive resorts; most were allegedly perpetrated by resort staff. ”
Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • The culture can be homophobic; if you’re travelling with your girlfriend, be very discreet.
  • This is a great place for using a cross-body bag, but also not a destination where you have to be overly concerned about covering up.

4. INDIA

Why it’s so dangerous: “India is a Trip.com favoUrite destination for solo female travelLers and one of the most complex, with wide variations across regions,” says Pond. But the country continues to experience terrorist activities that may impact U.S. citizens, according to the State Department. “Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques and restaurants in large urban areas,” advises the State Department. “Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time.”
Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • If you go, go with eyes wide open. Even with a companion, sexual assault remains a serious and ongoing problem.
  • Wear long, loose clothing that covers your shoulders. Lots of female travellers we know even buy and wear Indian clothing upon arrival.
  • Be prepared for staring; you’ll likely experience a lot of it.
  • Start and end your days early to avoid being out at night.
  • If taking the train, purchase the highest-class train tickets in advance and take women-only transportation options in cities like Delhi.
  • Never walk alone on city streets at night. In smaller towns, try to have a male companion. Even then, this may not be enough of a precaution.
  • Regions like Kerala and cities like Rishikesh (known for its regular influx of yoga students) are comparatively safe, as are Gujarat,
  • Punjab and Calcutta. Family-run guesthouses can be lovely places to stay.
  • Take a small doorstop with you in case you’re staying in accommodations that make you uneasy (Pond had an unexpected late overnight in Bangalore once and says she felt anything but relaxed). These can slow an intruder down for a few seconds, long enough to yell for help or find an escape route.

See more safety tips for women travelling in India here

5. PERU

Why it’s so dangerous: Armed robberies, express kidnappings, carjackings, petty theft and credit card fraud top the list of State Department concerns in this South American country known for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Trip.com’s users recommend visiting the countryside, smaller towns and mountain regions over Peru’s big cities.
  • Call an Uber or cab from your hotel — no hailing on the street in Lima. Your hotel can give you the number of a reputable company.
  • When you’re in the taxi, put your purse on the floor under your feet and store your suitcase in the trunk.
  • Stick to the beaten path when hiking, especially if you’re alone.
  • Avoid flashing jewellery or other valuables; wear costume jewellery you wouldn’t miss too much and go for a “less is more” aesthetic.
  • Even if you speak Spanish, pretend you don’t when approached by strangers who set off your internal alarm bells.
  • Avoid sporting events after dark — that’s when gang activity is common.
  • Don’t skimp on inter-city bus tickets. Cheap companies never enforce basic safety rules and the Andes are a notoriously dangerous place to drive. Always keep your valuables on you — don’t put any in the stowed luggage compartment.
  • A cross-body purse is best — it’s hard for someone to simply grab it and run
  • Carry only the amount of cash you might need for the day when you can — otherwise, leave credit cards and extra cash in a safe at your hotel.
  • Consider renting a cell from the airport (recommended for calling taxis). Store useful emergency numbers in it like 105 for the police and 117 for an ambulance.

6. BAHAMAS

Why it’s so dangerous: The risk of traveling to the Bahamas comes as a surprise to many U.S. travelers, who flock to this chain of beautiful islands for blissful beach holidays. But New Providence — which includes Nassau and Paradise Island — has a criminal threat level (armed robbery, sexual assault) that’s rated as critical by the Department of State. Crime in Grand Bahama has been on the increase. And a 2012 United Nations report said that the Bahamas has one of the highest incidences of sexual assault in the Caribbean. “The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours,” says the State Department.

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • This destination is really all about the resorts, and maybe fishing trips; however, it ranked low for safety with Trip.com’s community.
  • Watch your drinks and food closely when out and about.
  • Stick to more populated areas and resorts.

7. COLOMBIA

Why it’s so dangerous: “Colombia can be an incredible experience,” says Pond, who two months traveling through the region, but Trip.com users included it on the list for many of the same reasons the State Department cautions against travel here, including violence linked to domestic insurgency, narco-trafficking, crime and kidnapping that can occur in some rural and urban areas.
Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe

  • Use common sense: You might pull out a cell phone on the street in the U.S. or hang your purse on the back of your chair but here, those are definite no-nos.
  • Book taxis ahead — never, ever hail them on the street.
  • Avoid walking alone at night and, if you must, brace yourself for catcalling and other forms of street harassment.
  • Overnight buses can be good travel options — but don’t skimp. The more reputable ones cost a bit more but are safer (they check passengers for weapons at boarding) and more comfortable (reclining seats!).

8. ECUADOR

Why it’s so dangerous: “Most Trip.com women found Ecuador to be fairly safe as compared to other destinations on our list and a place where people are friendly and supportive of tourism,” says Pond. However, the State Department still says that crime (pickpocketing, robbery, hotel room theft), express kidnappings, sexual assaults and rape are big issues here.

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Bus travel allows people to hop on and off — so make sure you keep an eye on your valuables.
  • Bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer everywhere — the toilet situation can be, to say the least, unpredictable.
  • Listen to trusted locals for advice on best neighborhoods.
  • Take particular care after dark.

9. TURKEY

Why it’s so dangerous: “Turkey has experienced a considerable amount of political instability in the last year,” says Pond, who also points out that it’s important to check regular safety advisories before planning your trip. The State Department warns that U.S. citizens should “carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time.” The warning goes on to explain that in 2016 “numerous terrorist attacks involving shootings, suicide bombings, and vehicle-borne bombings in tourist areas, public spaces, private celebrations, sporting events, and government, police and military facilities throughout Turkey resulted in hundreds of deaths.”

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Assault is not uncommon, according to this survey. Be careful. Conservative dress is critical in less urban areas. Bring a scarf and use it as a head covering if needed (for example, if you want to visit a mosque).
  • Grab taxis from well-lit, well-trafficked areas and use lowest denomination bills whenever you can.
  • Ignore aggressive shopkeepers and restaurant owners — just keep walking.
  • Definitely seek out a hammam experience. Most of the hammam options are either all-female or all-male so choose the all-female time to visit.

10. GUATAMALA

Why it’s so dangerous: The State Department warns that the threat of violent crime in Guatemala is critical. And while not targeted at U.S. citizens, travelers should still be careful, since “criminals in Guatemala may assume that U.S. citizens and their relatives have more money than average Guatemalans,” the State Department says.

Trip.com’s advice for how to stay safe:

  • Cabs at night, arranged for via your restaurant or hotel, are advisable versus walking home alone.
  • A tour company to take you from city to city is a great idea — choose one with door-to-door service.
  • Use a money belt for your valuables: While robbery is actually pretty gender-neutral here, it’s not a pleasant experience for anyone.
  • Learn some basic Spanish phrases. Being able to ask for help, say “hello,” determine how much something costs and where the bathroom is are all valuable.

Trip.com’s Overall Safety Advice

No matter where you’re travelling, Trip.com’s Julia Pond has tips for how to stay safe:

  • Always, always follow your instincts. “All too often women especially feel they need to be polite — and stick around longer than is wise. If you have a feeling that it’s better to get out  then get out — of the taxi, the bar, the whatever. Better to look foolish or rude than get into real trouble,” says Pond.
  • Look to other women. “Approach local women or mixed groups of men and women if needed,” says Pond. ‘The odds are better you’ll encounter someone who might be willing and able to help you.”
  • Do your homework about local authorities. “Some are corrupt; your best avenue for help may be your local embassy or consulate,” says Pond.
  • Protect yourself. “Bring a small doorstop for flimsy hotel room doors. It’s not foolproof protection but it can slow someone down just enough for you to alert others you need help or find an escape route,” says Pond.
  • Be conservative. “The more conservative a country is, the more conservative you should be,” says Pond. “If you can avoid drawing attention to yourself, then you can concentrate more on the experiences that make travel worthwhile.”
  • Be careful everywhere. “The bottom line is, no one place is 100% safe or 100% dangerous,” says Pond. “It’s important to work with your own comfort levels. I’d always encourage travellers to ride their own edge — whether that’s a solo trip to Paris or Bangladesh.”

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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