6 tips for safer female solo travel during COVID-19

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While a family vacation is fun, sometimes traveling alone is even better. Women specifically are traveling more and more on their own — several reports have shown. And in honor of International Women’s Day, which happened just last week, we want to do what we can to support women travelers.

A 2018 study conducted by British Airways reported the 50% of women worldwide had taken a holiday on their own and 75% of women were planning to take a solo trip in for the next few years. Despite concerns that face women more than men, specifically safety, women are still traveling solo — more so even than men.

Safety is an obvious concern for women when it comes to traveling. However, there are plenty of ways women can keep safety top of mind while vacationing, from selecting certain destinations to protecting their belongings and themselves. We’ll also share the best tips for using travel credit cards to protect your finances while you’re on the go.

You can still have a safe and socially distanced adventure to plenty of areas around the world — like Iceland! (Photo by Song_about_summer/Shutterstock)

Tips on protecting yourself 

Safety should be your primary concern when you’re traveling, no matter who you are. For women, safety is especially a concern when you’re in an unfamiliar place. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself protected, though. Here’s what we recommend for women while they’re traveling:

  • Blend in: Try not to call too much attention to the fact that you’re alone. While you don’t necessarily have to be a wallflower everywhere you go, you might consider not broadcasting the fact that you’re traveling solo. You’re more vulnerable to predators when they know you have no one with you.
  • Plan ahead: Have a plan in place for most, if not all, of your trip. This is also helpful because you can share your itinerary with someone back home so they also know where you are. Whether it’s a family member or friend, give them a copy of your plan and check-in with them from time to time so they know you’re safe.
  • Research your destination: Before you head off, do some research on the destination as a whole, as well as various activities you’re interested in. Look up reviews or speak with others who have traveled there, if possible. Take recommendations to heart and listen if anyone says it’s an unsafe place.
  • Know self-defense: If you have a chance to take some self-defense training, it’s not a bad idea. Having this knowledge in the back of your head is useful if you need it, but it’ll also give you peace of mind while traveling.
  • Protect yourself in the hotel: Keep the hotel door locked at all times while you’re there and while you’re not. When you’re inside, lock all the locks and don’t answer the door if you don’t know who’s knocking.
  • Enroll in the STEP Program: The STEP Program connects you with the local consulate where you’re traveling so you can get safety and security updates.

How to protect your finances

Aside from physical safety, financial security is extremely important while you’re traveling. You need to plan ahead before your trip, as well as follow a few best practices while traveling to ensure your money is secure, which will in turn keep you secure as well.

Another thing to consider is getting a travel credit card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Cards like this are designed specifically with travel in mind, and while that means they’ll earn you points you can redeem for travel, it also means your information will be more secure. These cards also offer advantages like no foreign transaction fees when spending abroad.

Research travel credit cards before your trip and apply to whichever one(s) suits your travel needs best. Maybe it’s an airline credit card or maybe it’s one that’s tied to a hotel chain. Pick what works and start using it to book travel.

Here are some tips on what to do before and during your trip to ensure financial security:

  • Make copies of your cards: This is a tip you should follow in general — make copies of your credit cards, debit cards, and identification, just in case. Also, make a note of the phone numbers associated with all cards. You can jot this down on paper to keep in your wallet or take a picture with your phone. Anywhere you can keep track of it.
  • Let the card companies know you’re traveling: Though banks are much more advanced than they used to and may claim they don’t need to know when you’re traveling, it’s not a bad idea to give them a call anyway. Sometimes foreign transactions get flagged, so if your bank knows you’re traveling, you can hopefully mitigate those issues.
  • Limit your cash: We don’t recommend traveling with much cash on you at any time. Bring a little bit with you on the trip and consider getting small amounts from ATMs while abroad. When you’re out and about, only carry a small amount with you then as well.
  • Keep an eye on your accounts: Keep an eye on your bank account and credit card statements while traveling so you can quickly spot any fraudulent activity.
  • Use your travel credit card: Make sure you know the benefits of your travel card. They might get you a hotel discount or a free checked bag on your airline. Many cards even grant you travel insurance or emergency assistance abroad. Familiarize yourself with this info before you start booking so you can be sure to get the full benefits. 

COVID-19 precautions to consider

With the world still being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel is very obviously affected. However, industries are figuring out a way to navigate this new normal, especially that of travel. While travel is still down significantly, the airlines are operating regularly, and hotels and restaurants have opened back up around the world to welcome guests. 

Aside from worrying about your travel concerns as a woman, you now have to keep COVID-19 in mind as well — but by using some best practices, you can definitely still get out to see the world. Follow the CDC’s best practices for keeping yourself and others safe. That means wear your mask, sanitize everything, and wash your hands properly. This is especially important while you’re on an airplane in close quarters with people and interacting with any staff at hotels or restaurants. 

Next, it’s important to pay attention to everyone’s booking policies. That includes car rentals, trains, airlines, hotels, etc. Most companies have flexible booking and cancellation in place right now due to COVID-19, but familiarize yourself with these policies before you book anything. If you have the flexibility, book plans that can be canceled just in case. 

Also make sure you’re familiar with airline, hotel, and restaurant policies for safety. Most likely you’ll be required to wear a mask on any public transportation — planes, trains, etc. — so be prepared for that. Some airlines are also not selling middle seats, but you’ll want to double-check who you’re flying with so you know what to expect.

At the end of the day, be smart about traveling amid COVID-19. While the world may be coming back to some semblance of normalcy, it’s incredibly important to still keep yourself and those around you safe. One great idea for traveling right now is to book a rural Airbnb so that you’re still getting the feel of a vacation without having to interact with too many people.

What do the experts have to say?

We spoke with a few female travel bloggers to get their input on the places they’ve felt most safe. UK-based blogger Chelsea, who runs Cheap Holiday Expert, says that she’s felt the safest when traveling alone for work, largely due to the destinations and the purpose behind the travel. In particular, she says that Vietnam was one of her favorite places she visited that she felt safe, even “having never traveled to South East Asia beforehand. But I felt so safe there for somewhere so far from home.” She also echoed our recommendation of Iceland and Spain (specifically Madrid) as her favorite places.

Steph, an avid traveler who runs A Nomad’s Passport, totally agreed with Chelsea on Vietnam and said she didn’t expect to feel as safe as she did there. “While in Vietnam I did not hear as much as a sexist comment, so I felt absolutely safe to go places at night,” she shared. She also called Australia a great place for women to visit, adding that the locals are incredibly friendly and helpful. She said, “There are very few places where I’d feel comfortable to just leave my professional camera on some random rock before continuing down a gorge and returning more than 30 minutes later, but I have done so in Australia.”

Travel writer and photographer Dana Freeman said she’s currently in the Azores and feels incredibly safe there. She’s been sharing all her adventures on her Instagram and has nothing but delightful things to say about the picturesque destination — as does Florida-based travel writer Terry Ward! She recently traveled there amid COVID-19 and shared, “Everywhere I went in the Azores, mask-wearing was enforced indoors, and there didn’t appear to be any judgment, either, if I wanted to wear it on crowded streets.”

A first-hand account of a solo trip to Spain

The following story was provided by Nasha Addarich Martínez / MMS reader.

My very first experience traveling solo was back in 2014 when I decided to study abroad in the beautiful, small town of Toledo, Spain. A small group of students from my law school was accepted to an international program where we had the opportunity to learn about foreign and European Union laws and policies. Although classmates mostly accompanied me during my stay in Toledo, I also had the opportunity to travel alone to other cities within Spain and neighboring countries like Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary and Prague.

Spain is one of the most popular countries to visit for female solo travelers. And I found it to be very safe. But, if you happen to find yourself in one of the larger cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Sevilla, you want to be careful of pickpockets and ensure that you are aware of your surroundings. Here are my tips for women traveling solo in Spain:

  1. Research any cities you’re interested in visiting and see if any neighborhoods historically have had high crime rates. These are neighborhoods you should try to avoid.
  2. Make an itinerary of where you’ll be by day and send it to a close friend or family member. That way, you’ll make sure someone knows where you are at all times.
  3. If you’re in Madrid, the Metro is the most effective way to get around the city. This means that many people will most likely be there, too, making it optimal for pickpockets. To avoid any unfortunate situations, keep any backpacks, purses or luggage in front of you and avoid having your phone or money in your back pockets.
  4. Know that “112” is the emergency line in Spain. If anything were to happen to you, this is the number you should call for emergency assistance.

Bottom line

For female travelers, there should be nothing stopping you from continuing to get out and travel! There are plenty of places around the world that are incredibly safe for women and offer adventures and scenery alike. If you go into your travels well prepared and confidently, you should have an enjoyable time.

Let us know your favorite female-friendly destination! And for more posts like this delivered to your inbox once per day, subscribe to our newsletter.

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Hedy Phillips is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where she covers airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has appeared in MSN, Yahoo News, Cosmopolitan, Popsugar, Refinery29 and more.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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