Female travel is growing, but its always good to know the safety basics. Picture: Viktor Hanacek.

Female travel is growing, but its always good to know the safety basics. Here is what female travellers need to know to stay safe when travelling.

Understand your destination

Start by researching the attitudes toward and treatment of women in your destinations. This spring, the Thomson Reuters Foundation released a list that rated the danger to women in 19 of the world's largest megacities (urban centres with more than 10 million inhabitants). The study singled out Delhi as the riskiest and deemed London the safest.

Know safety basics

You can take steps to minimise the risk of harassment and assault while traveling. Avoid dark, isolated areas. Arrive at any new destination in the daytime. Never tell a stranger where you are staying or when you are leaving the country: Some men prey on women departing the next day, knowing that the victim will probably not change her flight to pursue them. Do not multitask: No chatting on the phone, texting, reading or podcast-listening in public places. Travel in pairs or groups.

Paula Lucas, of Pathways to Safety International, adds that women should always designate one member of their group to not drink alcohol. She also warns women against indulging in the welcome drink served at many hotels in the Far and Middle East. She has heard from women who have been drugged by this seemingly innocent beverage (tea, coffee or juice) and assaulted by hotel employees in their rooms. As for full-moon parties, the beach bacchanals in Thailand that are notoriously dangerous for women: Drink only sealed beverages.

To ensure that your drink has not been tainted, carry one of the discreet drink test kits on the market. The drug identifiers come in a variety of models such as dipsticks and strips, as well as more covert options that look like nail polish, cups, coasters and straws.

Dress code

To avoid unwanted attention, leave revealing clothes at home and bring looser, longer pieces in neutral colours or shades of black. For outfit ideas in conservative cultures, follow the style norm of local women. Wearing a kurta in India or a jellabiya in Egypt is not insulting; it is assimilating. Evelyn Hannon, founder of the online travel magazine, Journeywoman, suggests wearing dark sunglasses in cultures (India, parts of the Middle East) where the men might misinterpret direct eye contact. Many women also slip on a fake wedding ring. The symbol of matrimony can shut down the line of query that often starts with, "Are you married?" and ends with a proposition.


In 2014, the Thomson Reuters Foundation surveyed the most dangerous transportation systems for women. The organization ranked Mexico City, Delhi, Jakarta and Lima, Peru, among the worst, with Bogota, Colombia, at No. 1. To counter the threat, several countries - Japan, India, Brazil, Egypt and Mexico, to name a few - have designated women-only subway cars. If you are stuck with a mixed-gender carriage, grab a seat to avoid pinches from behind or stand with your sisters for a 360-degree shield. Wear your bag in front of your chest to protect yourself from creeping hands.

Sudha Pillai, a journalist in Bangalore who grew up in India, said that she and her friends used to carry safety pins to fend off men in crowded buses and trains.

Taxi safety varies from country to country. In some cities, such as Mexico City and Sao Paolo, Brazil, never hail a ride from the street. Instead, order a ride from a trusted source, such as a hotel, restaurant or certified taxi organisation. In a growing trend, cab companies have an Eve behind the wheel and Evettes in the passenger seat: No men allowed. The pioneering idea has sprouted in Cairo (PinkTaxi), Mumbai (Priyadarshini Taxi and Viira Cabs) and Paris (Women Drive). No matter who's driving, always sit in the back seat.

The Washington Post