‘Be careful’, ‘Oh don’t go to Thailand, you’ll be put in jail’, and ‘Are you sure it’s safe to go to Asia alone?”
These were the responses that I heard when I announced that I was going to travel Asia, alone, as a solo female traveler.
Because of the media, and the mystery of the unknown, people have very strong views on what Asia is like, most of them negative and pertaining to safety.
When people think of Asia they think of drug trafficking and long spells in the ‘Bangkok Hilton’. People think that Asia is unsafe to travel, let alone travel as a woman… alone!
It’s true that being a solo female traveler is more challenging than travelling with a group or as a man. You may face unwanted male attention and are sometimes seen as an easy target for touts in the street. Some countries in Asia have different attitudes towards women.
However, the hard experiences will make you stronger as a person and reward you with many unique travel experiences and insights (and lots of funny travel stories too).
Don’t let anyone’s opinions put you off travelling in Asia. I have actually felt safer in South East Asia than I do in many places in England and Europe. In many places, crime is low or non existent and it’s safe to walk around after dark
Despite how safe travel is in South East Asia, it’s always wise to take simple precautions to avoid getting into trouble.
Here are my tips for staying safe on the road as a female solo traveller, picked up from over six-months of full-time solo travel around Asia.
Solo female travel tips
Walk with confidence
When you are travelling long term, you’ll arrive in new places all of the time. For the first day or two in a new destination, you are particularly vulnerable to being seen as an easy target.
To avoid this, walk with an air of confidence in new places, even when you just arrive with your backpack on your back.
Stand up straight and if people hassle you pretend that you have somewhere to go. If you are seriously in trouble, walk up to another foreigner and pretend to be friends. 99% of the time they will understand and help you.
Relax when you arrive in a new place
When you arrive in a new place, you are vulnerable and most likely stressed due to the swarms of tuk tuk drivers and people trying to escort you to their hotels.
Take a minute to adjust to the new place. Look around and acclimatise, maybe even buy a coffee and have time to adjust.
After a rest, you’ll be more alert and relaxed and be less vulnerable.
Learn the language
Many people have respect for you, when you make an effort to speak their language. They may also think that you have a local husband so might go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Try to learn by downloading podcasts to listen to on long bus rides or by making friends with locals who speak English.
It doesn’t matter how much of the language you know, many people will be so proud and happy to hear you utter ‘Thank you‘ in their mother tongue.
Let people know where you are at all times
The more people who recognise you and know where you are going in your hostel, the more likely they are to worry about you if they don’t see you for a while. I always make friends in the dorm and tell them what I will be doing on that day, hopefully they would spread the alarm if something happens to you and you’re not back at night.
I always try to update my Facebook as much as possible and let people at home know where I am and if I will be in an area with no internet for a while.
Don’t be alone
This seems like a hard task for a solo traveller, but most incidences of assault happen when the victim is alone. Try to be around people on transport and when sight-seeing in the day.
Try not to walk in a secluded area at night. Women in foreign countries will usually be helpful in times of need if local men are harassing you.
Wear a smile on your face
Many people in Asia react very strongly to people who become aggressive. It’s hard to stay calm, when you have people surrounding you to sell you things.
Have a smile on your face, so people react more kindly to you and just say ‘no’ with a smile on your face and a shake of your head.
Arrive in new places in the daytime
I always try and avoid arriving in new places at night alone. It makes you more of a target and transport options may be limited.
If it’s impossible to arrive in the day, get a reputable taxi to your accommodation or try to travel with other travellers you meet on the way.
Carry a personal safety alarm
You’ll hopefully never need to use it, but carrying a safety alarm, such as a safety whistle, gives you an extra air of confidence and can make you feel safer when travelling solo.
Stay in safe accommodation
Stay in places that have high ratings on sites, such as Hostelbookers, and those that have a reputation for being safe. If the room does not seem secure, don’t stay there.
Accommodation is plentiful and cheap in South East Asia so you are bound to find somewhere secure easily.
Trust your gut instinct
This is the best tip that I could ever give you. Trust your intuition and gut feelings at all times. If you meet a friendly person on the bus who wants to share a room, but something just doesn’t feel right, don’t share a room.
If you need to get out of a situation just lie and make up an excuse. The good thing about being a traveller is that you are anonymous, no one knows who you are and you should use that to your full advantage to lie if you need to get out of a bad situation.
Obvious safety tips
Here are some tips that you may have heard many times before. It’s always good to have a recap once in a while though:
- Don’t flash your valuables about
- Try not to walk alone late at night
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers in bars
- Lock your valuables in lockers when you can
- Wear your bag over your body to avoid bag snatchers
- Wear clothes that are appropriate to the country you are visiting
Do not let this article put you off travelling solo.
It’s one of the greatest things that I have ever done in my life and has changed my personality for the better. After you have travelled solo you can do anything. Keep alert and stay safe to ensure that your trip is memorable for the right reasons!