In June 2019 I appeared on CBS This Morning discussing women’s travel safety given a spat of instances recently reaching the press — a rape at Embassy Suites another assault at the Majestic Elegance in the Dominican Republic. Journalist Dana Jacobson sat down with me, and two other women who frequently travel solo to discuss women’s travel safety. I always want to encourage women to travel alone and at the same time I want to equip them with the resources to do so safely.
In March, the New York Times released an article “Adventorous. Alone. Attacked” with the sub-heading:
This is a great way to put it. How is the world greeting women who travel alone? It’s a mans world, and in some cultures, and assertive independent woman comes as an affront to manhood. In some places, an unaccompanied woman is almost fair game. In some countries, large systematic changes in attitudes towards women are needed at the most basic level and only then could we begin to address the problem about women travelers. Nor do I mean looking at it from a Western savior lens — we are after all in a country that let billionaire Jeffrey Epstein “allegedly” go unchecked and prey on underage girls for decades.
Is it irresponsible for me to encourage young women like myself to travel alone, and discussing the wonders of it, without discussing the perils. I take precautions, but I have angels watching over me and a good sense of intuition. I’ve nodded off in an Uber. Had too much to drink in a strange country and danced off into the night, been in countless situations that could have turned out poorly and by the grace of God, I made it home. I Also have been in tough situations in which I wish I were better equipped with the tools I have now. With age, I’ve become more aware and I want to share some of these tools with you.
Know the lay of the land. You don’t always have to agree with it, but if you’re in a place where women rarely venture out solo, adjust your movements to the customs. Proving a point is simply not worth your life.
The door wedge. This is a tip I got from watching a special on women’s travel safety. These little wedges, less than $5 on Amazon can create an obstacle for someone attempting to get into your hotel room that has bypassed the lock. As small as they are, they are easy and safe to travel with.
It’s falling out of practice, but hotels should not announce your room number upon giving you your room key. “Thank you Ms. Richards! You’ll be staying in room —“ NOPE! If they do, you’re not being difficult if you asked to be reassigned and tell them why. You never know who’s listening.
This is my personal preference but the anonymity of mega hotels and resorts are a little scary to me. That 10 minute walk to the front desk. Yikes, as we saw in the case of Tammy Lawrence-Daley, anything can happen. I do prefer the more “intimate” setting of a boutique hotel.
Know the staff. Or at least make sure they know you. A “hi, how are you?” goes a long way. It’s the peace of mind of having someone in your corner. The doorman that might know if you returned that night or not. The front desk that’s vaguely aware of your comings and going.
Elevator roulette. A lot of elevators now require a key for each floor but be aware of your surroundings and elevator mates. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to reroute and head down to the lobby. Or have an employee walk you to your room.
Vacation mode shouldn’t mean loose ALL inhibitions. The same safety precautions that you would take at home, take them on vacation! Lock your door at night, be aware when you’re walking down the street. Watch your drinks, especially if you’re going to be traveling home / to your hotel room alone.
Speaking of this – I am a big proponent of letting the day take you away on your travels and I’ve been guilty of this in my youth — cough, going up into the Swiss Alps for fondue on the back of a stranger’s moto — but always have an exit plan. An idea of how you’re going to get home. Are Uber’s safe and reliable in the country that you’re visiting? Living in London, where the mayor tried to ban Uber for the ride sharing apps failing to meet safety / background check requirements for its driver made me think twice about how much trust we put in strangers. “The movements are tracked,” I initially thought, way safer than cabs, and for many years let my guard down in Ubers. Those attacks in places like India were just happen stance. But having a city like London, so similar to NY question the safety of Uber made me think twice. Most countries in Europe also have better FDA regulations than the US and in my opinion, the states sometimes feel a higher level of responsibility for their citizens.
So know how you’re getting home! Is this a country where rideshare is common? If so, which one? If it’s a place where a taxi is preferred, have someone who works at the locale give you the number of a car service company, or call one for you. Are the kind of person who assumes you’ll end up walking every where? Sess it out during the day, is this route safe to walk alone at night?
Krav Maga. I’ve wanted to take women’s self defense classes for a long time, decades now, and while I did boxing, muy thai, and kick boxing, I never took a class specifically aimed at self defense tactics for women. Krav Maga, an Israeli self defense style that the IDF trains with has been on my list for a while. Upon finding out that it is indeed self-defense, for engaging in hand to hand combat on the streets, vs an age old martial arts tradition, I was sold! Developed for the army taught in lessons, it has been adapted to suit civilian life and students learn how to deal with a wide range of scenarios. I’ve never had to “fight” my way out of being jumped in a martial arts class before! Awareness, self-protection, and confidence. Trust me, signing up for a few lessons gives you those extra tools in your arsenal.
Speaking of, in another controversial technique, I carry pepper spray. It’s legal in NYC and many of my friends do. I thank God that I’ve never had to use it, but even before pepper spray, I’m of the ilk that practices things like, having your keys between your knuckles etc when walking home alone, especially at night.
In all of these instances there is the overarching need to TRUST YOUR GUT. If you’re worried something’s off, better safe than sorry. You’re not an alarmist when it comes to your safety.
What are some advice of safety that you have for women traveling solo? How do you protect yourself? Share with me below and check out my interview with CBS This Morning!