Travel Risks for Females: How to mitigate specific risks for female travelers!

There are specific risks for female travelers that male travelers either do not face or have less chance of encountering the risk. While women in Western nations by law have the same rights and privileges as men, this is not always the case in other countries. Even in many countries where the law specifies equality, the culture is such that the public and even the security services and courts may not care to enforce that portion of the law.

One of the specific risks for female travelers is harassment. Western women in particular are often specifically targeted by local young males. Ensure that you send out the right body language and verbal signals to anyone who will not leave you alone. Being firm and direct is necessary. What is perceived in your country of origin as being polite may be seen as an invitation in some cultures.

One of the first things women travelers need to review prior to departure is to determine what risk factors related to gender may exist in the country of destination. Many Islamic countries, for example, require women to adhere to specific dress codes. Specific laws governing the rights or lack thereof pertaining to women must be reviewed. The specific risks for female travelers who chose to ignore these rules include possible detention, incarceration or physical punishment.

In many countries, the risk of rape is higher than in the West. Often too the definition of rape under local law can make it difficult if not impossible for a rapist to be prosecuted.

Open displays of affection between a man and women or two women can result in grave consequences in some countries. For example, public affection between a man and woman is against the law in many places. Homosexual behavior, even holding hands, can be a capital punishment offense in many countries.

There are things that women can do to mitigate the specific risk factors related to gender:

  • Always review the laws and cultural norms of a country prior to travel.
  • Strictly adhere to dress and other rules and regulations pertaining to gender in the location
  • Never go out alone, especially at night. As a minimum, travel in groups of three or more.
  • Include a male companion when going out in Islamic countries.
  • Always ask that a bellhop or hotel employee accompany you to your room on check-in. Have the hotel employee enter the room and ensure no one is inside.
  • Keep your hotel room locked at all times.
  • Use hotel taxis or vetted transportation provided by your business or tour company. Do not use street cabs.
  • Be careful of casual acquaintances. Create and maintain boundaries between you and new friends until you can assess their motives.

In addition to the specific guidance based on risk factors related by gender above, do not forget about basic security and safety practices that men and women should follow:

  • If confronted by a criminal(s), assume that he/they are armed and will use the weapon if threatened. Do not resist.
  • Keep doors and windows locked at all times.
  • Carry as few valuables as possible when traveling on foot. Do not display cash or wallets in public.
  • Consider carrying a wallet in the front trouser pocket versus a rear pocket; carry a clutch or neck purse rather than a backpack.
  • Do not use street ATMs. Use ATMs located in a bank or hotel lobby.