In most countries around the world, females are able to travel safely by themselves without any major issues. However, there are certain countries where women should take extra precautions or even avoid solo travel altogether because of safety concerns. We discuss some of the higher risk countries below and what you can do to minimise your exposure to danger as a female travelling alone.
Egypt is a popular tourist destination due to the famous pyramids, temples, hieroglyphs, mummies and artefacts from the ancient civilisation dating back to 3150 BC. It's also well known for sexual harassment of women with over 99% of women contacted claiming to be sexually harassed at some stage. The most common grievance is inappropriate touching with a further 96.5 percent of women claiming to be sexually assaulted. Tragically, in 85 percent of these cases, the women claimed passers-by saw the incident but did nothing to help. It's not just young women or foreign women, it all happens to all women. There have also been at least three recent reports of female journalists being sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square in recent years whilst covering events happening at the time.
For females travelling solo to Egypt, we highly recommend taking extra precautions- especially in Cairo. Dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered, avoid smoking in public as it's frowned upon for women and don't go anywhere with strangers. Every metro has two coaches for ladies only so always ensure you take those whenever travelling by train. It's fair to say that travelling in Egypt as a female it's highly likely you will receive unwanted and perhaps offensive attention, but you can limit the extent and exposure by taking as many safety precautions as possible.
There are many reasons to visit India- from the majestic Taj Mahal, sampling the amazing cuisine, exploring the diverse culture and experiencing Bollywood firsthand. However, India has had a bad reputation of late with a number of attacks on female tourists including sexual assault and gang rape. Couple these incidents with a prevalent misogynist attitude throughout Indian society that females are more at fault for rape than men, then it can seem a dangerous mission for a female to travel solo in India.
It's worth keeping in mind most of these incidences are rare and isolated. Many women travel through India without any issues whatsoever, but you should always exercise extreme caution, especially when travelling solo. Parts of India should be completely avoided such as the State of Jamme and Kashmer, India-Pakistan border, Jammu and Srinagar and the Northern-eastern states of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur and Chhattisgarh.
Women travelling through India should not go out alone especially at night. Consider hiring a hotel driver to take you around, it will be more expensive than a taxi but worth it for the safety it brings. If you need to use a cab only call a registered one, do not hail one. When taking the metro use the women only carts which are normally located at the front. Dress very conservatively- cover completely up unless you want to be hounded by men on your trip.
Rio de Janeiro is the most popular tourist destination in the Southern Hemisphere, and for good reason. Copacabana, one of the world's most famous beaches, is located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The Christ the Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World is also located in Rio de Janeiro. And that's not even to mention The Carnival, the most famous festival in the universe which attracts more than two million people per day on the streets. The Rio Carnival is a rambunctious series of parades and parties held 40 days before Easter, just before Lent.
However, according to the Human Rights Watch Brazil has a history of gender-based violence and machismo culture. Brazil, in general, has a significant crime problem including violent crime and tourists are particularly vulnerable to thefts and robberies especially at night.
Another serious concern in Brazil are the 'express kidnappings" where a person is abducted for a short period of time for a payoff from the victim's family. These are common in major cities including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador and Recife.
Women travelling through Brazil alone should always exercise a high degree of caution. Don't pack flashy jewellery or gidgats and gadgets. Anything of value should be kept in your hotel room at all times and don't take more cash with you than what you need. If there is someone at your hotel door don't open it unless you've identified who it is and it is safe. Never walk around at night, especially alone. When dining out never leave a drink unattended when in bars and restaurants.
Mexico, a country rich in culture and history offers mouth-watering cuisine, picturesque beaches and friendly welcoming locals. It's a popular tourist destination, especially Cancun, Mexico City, Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen. However, Mexico has many dangerous areas and some parts are just not safe to travel to at all, in any circumstances.
There is a high level of violent crime throughout Mexico has a whole and since 2006, there has also been a substantial increase in drug-related violence including murder, kidnapping and carjacking. The cities of Michoacán (except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas), Guerrero (except the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and the toll roads to Acapulco and Taxco) and Tamaulipas should be avoided completely.
Women travelling solo in Mexico should also research the area's they are travelling to and dress appropriately to avoid getting sexually harassed (groping happens frequently in big cities), or offending the locals in traditional villages and towns. Never forget Mexico is ultra-Catholic and staunchly conservative. Always err on the side of caution.
There are risks for travelling in many countries around the world whether as a solo female or not. You should always thoroughly research the countries you are heading to including the culture and customs. Always check the Smart Traveller Website for travel warnings and if there are warnings to reconsider your need to travel do so.
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– Vanessa Tobias