My upcoming solo adventure to Jordan has certainly made me question and reflect on my own safety whilst traveling alone and is something that has been at the forefront of my mind whilst planning this trip due to its geographical proximity to unstable countries such as Israel, Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
So…..I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic and some of the tips I try to follow in order to keep myself safe.
The news and social media regularly feature articles about terror related tragedies and my own country has not been immune to such atrocities with high profile attacks targeting London and Manchester within the last 12 months. Once considered a safe destination, several key cities in Europe have recently seen a decline in tourism due to the fear of further incidents occurring.
However, after the attacks that struck London and Manchester, I made a pact with myself to never let fear prevent me from doing or achieving anything. It was not long after these incidents that I booked myself a solo trip to Istanbul, a destination that had been sat firmly at the top of my Bucketlist for a long time. My family and friends thought I was crazy for wanting to visit such a place that only a year before had been targeted by terrorists in a number of high profile attacks, let alone visit on my own. I am ashamed to say that I pulled out of a trip that I had planned to this city back in 2016 because fear got the better of me (I was due to go a couple of days after the airport attack). So, when the time for the second trip eventually came around, I am glad I did not listen to any of the warnings from concerned loved ones or give in to feelings of fear again as Istanbul instantly became my favourite city in the world. From the moment I arrived and stood on the rooftop of my hotel drinking in the familiar sights of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque standing proudly on the horizon, I knew it was love.
Fear could have prevented me from finally visiting this beautiful city and although the threat of terrorism is real and should not be ignored, living in fear and avoiding all travel means that the terrorists are winning. And this is something I will not allow!
Working as a Paramedic I am often faced with hostile or high intensity situations and I believe this have given me the confidence to travel the world alone. I often walk in to situations where I have no idea what is going on and quickly have to think on my feet. My job has greatly increased my ability to size up a situation and make accurate judgements, skills that have proved invaluable whilst traveling alone.
I am also continually dealing with people when they are at their most vulnerable. Seeing suffering and death on all too common basis has really made me appreciate life and want to live it to the fullest. Life is short, the world is wide and I want to see as much of it as possible while I still can so I try to push my fear aside in order to accomplish this. I feel grateful that I am able to travel the world as all too I often I am faced with people from whom this opportunity has been taken away.
Of course as a solo female traveller there are also other threats that we need to be aware of. Sexual assault and rape is not uncommon in many parts of the world and violence against women is something which is also frequently highlighted in the media. I am a young solo female and pretty much at the bottom of the travelling hierarchy. There is no denying that couples and groups have safety in numbers and male solo travellers have a much easier ride in terms of world-wide gender inequality issues. Men CAN still be subjected to such attacks but are significantly less likely to be targeted than females.
Personally, I have never felt unsafe on any of my travels and would probably be more at risk on a night out in my home town. And I have I never had any bad experiences. But that is probably because I have never put myself in a risky situation. As a female solo traveller you will naturally draw more attention to yourself, especially in the Middle/Far Eastern countries. Men will want to talk to you and find out why you are on your own as this is an alien concept to them. They will also not be shy in coming forward with offers of marriage proposals or dinner or asking you to join them for tea. Most of the time they are harmless and genuinely interested in talking to you but you must use your common sense and judge the situation for yourself. If you ever feel uneasy then remove yourself from the threat immediately. Normally a polite but firm NO is enough to send them packing.
However, you don’t have to mistrust everyone you meet. Travelling solo is not all doom and gloom and can actually be very rewarding. I have been greeted with kindness and treated with respect in the majority of places that I have travelled. You are also much more likely to make new, like-minded friends and get the opportunity to really experience local culture if you are on your own. I definitely found this out for myself during my time in Istanbul where I met some of the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever encountered.
BUT…..I am a realist and understand that bad things can happen. In order to counter any threats to my safety I am constantly making risk assessments in order to mitigate the consequences. For example, I stay in reputable and trusted accommodation, I don’t venture out on my own late at night and I always have a plan in place for when I arrive somewhere. My family trust my judgement and know that I treat my own life with care and understand that I would never knowingly put myself in harms way.
As for me, I simply choose to put my trust in the world and have faith in the goodwill of others.
Here are a few other tips to follow to keep yourself safe whilst travelling solo:
• Check out your Government’s travel advisories about your destination during your travel planning. The latest information on entry requirements, visas and travel advice (including the current terror threat status) can be found from http://www.gov.uk.
• Talk to other travellers who have been to your destination. The Travel Blogging community has been a valuable tool to me in planning many of my trips and I enjoy reading other people’s post and perspectives about a country. It is also a great way to pick up helpful hints and tips.
• You are your own bodyguard when travelling alone. If you’re going anywhere a little risky for the day, leave a note in your accommodation or put a post on social media. When I travel alone I always leave a rough itinerary with my family and try to check in with them on a regular basis. I am always updating my social media and Travel Blog and this is a great way for people back home to keep an eye on what I am doing.
• Plan to arrive somewhere new before nightfall. If I am travelling to a place I have not been before I will always have my first night’s accommodation booked so I have a clear plan for when I arrive. This avoids you wandering aimlessly and becoming open to scammers.
• Don’t stay out on your own late at night and stay in public places with light if you do venture out after dark. Take the opportunity for an early night instead and opt to be up with the sun. Exploring new places by the light of sunrise often avoids the crowds and gives a magical feel to any new destination.
• Avoid becoming intoxicated while in unfamiliar surroundings. This can lead you to let you guard down and make bad judgements.
• Be respectful of other people’s religious traditions and wear appropriate clothing when entering places of worship.
• Dress as close to how the local people dress as possible so that you don’t stand out from the crowd. I have spent a lot of time in predominantly Muslim countries and know that my shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. Adhering to these cultural differences not only shows respect but also avoids any unwanted attention.
• Keep your valuables safe. Remove expensive jewellery and keep only enough cash on you for what you need at any given time. I also use a secure over the shoulder bag or a money belt.
• Learn a little of the local language before you go or have a travel dictionary. I frequently use Google translate whilst overseas. Most countries are far easier to navigate if you can speak some of the local language. Learning a few polite words, such as hello, please and thank you goes a long way with the locals. It’s also easier to keep yourself safe if you can understand what’s going on around you.
• Trust your instincts and intuition. This goes without saying. If something feels wrong in your gut then walk away from it as it most probably is.
Having said all of this, keeping safe as a solo female traveller is not about being fearful of everything. It is about embracing the opportunities you are given with a common sense approach and exercising a little caution. Solo travel broadens your mind and is a wonderful experience that will provide you with memories to last a lifetime. I truly believe that everyone should try it at least once.
So in answer to my question ‘is female solo travel safe?’