Image: Flickr // Keith Parker

The Potential Dangers of Travelling as a Solo Female

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When I read February’s article about travelling in the Middle East I was inspired, but unsettled to read that the author was male and thought that female travellers would be safe there. In times of religious extremism in the region, it would not be advised that solo female travellers or even groups should travel there as a clash of cultural beliefs may make them more of a target. The FCO indicates that the threat from terrorism against foreign nationals in general is high in many of the countries and for some, including parts of Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia, nothing but essential travel – or none at all – is advised.

It’s saddening that some of the world’s most beautiful anthropological or natural areas are now mostly inaccessible to all travellers, but more particularly to solo females.

It’s saddening that some of the world’s most beautiful anthropological or natural areas are now mostly inaccessible to all travellers, but more particularly to solo females. I am embarking on my first solo holiday to Milan at the end of this month and I am already slightly nervous. I have set myself a curfew to not stay out after dark for fear of the possibility of being attacked and will limit my exploration to the predominately busy and touristic areas. I booked a room through Airbnb but only after seeing that the host was female and triple checking her reviews. It seems that solo females will gravitate to and feel more comfortable in the presence of other females when alone abroad and this is down to media stereotypes and classic parental advice of staying away from strange men – granted, this is usually for good reason.

The idea that travelling for females is precarious not only for those alone but for those with partners or groups is not a generalisation but reinforced by my recent experiences on a tour of Prague with the History Society. In a nightclub with the History group, I was sexually assaulted and mugged whilst I was drunk. If this kind of thing can happen in a European country when you are surrounded by 39 friends, the vulnerability of a solo female in an even riskier area is incomprehensible. If travelling alone, it would be highly advisable to stay aware of your surroundings if drinking and avoid going to clubs or unlit areas alone. Leave some money and passport in the accommodation in case of an experience like mine and write down the phone numbers of close relatives to leave there, too. It sounds like a mother talking, but if it wasn’t for the History group and all their help and generosity, I would have been left in Prague with no money and very scared. Another thing to suggest would be to plan and remember your routes well so you don’t end up somewhere unfamiliar and try to pick up some basic language both for politeness and in cases of emergency.

If I were male, it would be different.

My parents are not comfortable with the idea of me, a young and pathetically built female, travelling alone because of this very reason. If I were male, it would be different. Males may not see as much reason in triple checking Airbnb host credentials or avoiding the nightlife or hanging around females to feel safe. Humanity still views females as inferior and it will be a long time before solo females can travel as safely as males. This is an inconvenient reality.

Nevertheless, the world is full of astounding beauty and enriching human interaction and nobody should miss these through feeling limited due to gender, race, class, culture, or anything else. Extra precautions may need to be adopted which relate to these but much of the globe is still accessible and safe for everybody, even solo females, to explore and remember for the rest of their lives.

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