“Wow, that is very brave of you!” “Aren’t you scared?” “Don’t you watch the news?” Women account for nearly half of all business travelers, yet those who travel alone for work have probably heard at least one of these reactions before. Women certainly face some unique obstacles and vulnerabilities when they travel—but with a little pre-planning, vigilance and good-old common sense, women can feel just as confident traveling alone as their male colleagues. In this blog, we’re sharing some of our favorite safety tips for women hitting the road solo:
Choose Accommodations Wisely: Select hotel chains with interior room entrances and a 24/7 staffed front desk. Even better if the hotel is situated near a police station and has a vehicle inspection entrance. Avoid first-floor rooms, and research the local area before you leave to ensure you’re staying in a secure part of town. The U.S. State Department’s Country Specific Information pages, your travel risk management provider, or your company’s security expert (if applicable) are great places to turn for trustworthy guidance regarding the security landscape of your destination.
Have a Plan B: If your connecting flight gets delayed or cancelled and the airport hotels are all booked up, do you have a backup plan? Before you leave, take some time to get acquainted with the vicinity of your connecting airport—reputable hotels and car companies, public transportation terminals, good places to dine, you get the idea. If you have friends or family in the area that wouldn’t mind a house guest, make sure you have their numbers pre-programmed into your phone for easy retrieval.
Bring Some (Interesting) Props: A rubber doorstop, a fake engagement ring, boxer shorts and a whistle can be solo woman traveler’s best friend. A doorstop may not stop an intruder, but it can slow them down–allowing you more time to escape or call for help. An engagement ring can discourage men from harassing you because it gives them the illusion a man may be nearby. Leaving a pair of boxer shorts on your hotel bed can give the impression that a man is with you, helping to deter potential predators (you can even go a step further by turning on the shower and closing the bathroom door to imply someone is in the room with you!). And while you may be cautious of “whistle-blowing” back at the office, when it comes to your safety, don’t be hesitant. It may sound silly, but the sound of a whistle is a universally recognized emergency signal.
Do Your Best to Blend In: If you’re traveling abroad, learn everything you can about the country’s cultural norms, values and customs. This can include local dress codes (when in doubt, it’s always best to dress conservatively), appropriate hand gestures, views on timeliness, eye contact and more. Another great way to blend in? Leave your fancy purses, flashy jewelry, and name brand clothing at home. Yes, ladies…you heard us! Packing the nicest things you own isn’t only unnecessary, but serves as a temptation to people who are up to no good.
Put a Lid on It: If you’re traveling alone, sometimes it can be tempting to get chatty with strangers. Trust your gut and use your best judgment when speaking with strangers, especially when it comes to personal information and details that could compromise your safety. Sometimes a casual conversation will lead to a question about which hotel you’re staying at or where you’re headed next. It’s wise to stay purposefully vague, or have a few faux backup responses in mind for those situations. And, never tell strangers you’re traveling alone. Lie if you have to— society and your mother will forgive you! The stranger’s request is probably genuine, but there’s no need to advertise your solo travel status.
Friendly Reminder: Be careful who you trust…regardless of gender. While it’s natural to feel safer around other females, the truth is, women can be just as capable as luring you into a dangerous situation as a man.
Know How (and Whom) to Call for Help: Did you know that emergency response is not 9-1-1 outside of the U.S.? Before you go, check out the State Department’s list of emergency contact numbers in foreign countries and save the number used at your destination in your phone. You also want to make sure to enable international dialing on your phone and that you’re well-versed on how to place an international call (it can be trickier than you think!). And don’t forget to register for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which not only automatically sends you travel warnings and alerts (when appropriate), but also helps the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate locate you in the event of an emergency.
And of course, in the unlikely event you experience a security emergency while traveling (or any kind of emergency for that matter!) you can always call us for around-the-clock assistance.