Empowering Women to Travel Safely

It’s undeniable: Whether they’re business leaders, students or stay-at-home moms, women (especially those exploring solo) make up a growing proportion of global travelers.

Unfortunately, however, even the savviest female travelers can find themselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations when they are targeted based on their gender. That’s why it pays for all women to brush up on the latest safety tips before they travel – doing so can help minimize their risk and ensure their journey is the safe and
enjoyable one they deserve.

For many women, it’s human nature to think they’ll never fall victim to a violent crime while traveling, and while they may be right, the statistics (such as these  from Maiden-Voyage.com, focusing on female business travelers – a large subset of solo female travelers) are startling:

  • 24% of women travelers have experienced theft, physical assault, sexual harassment or attack, attempted kidnapping, or hotel room intrusions while traveling for business.
  • 67% of women are uncomfortable on public transit and with walking in an unfamiliar city.
  • 55% of women say they don’t feel safe alone in a cab.
  • 31% of female business travelers have encountered sexual harassment while traveling.
  • Only 5% of female business travelers have received safety training, and 31% say their employer doesn’t provide adequate resources to help them travel safely.

In response to these realities, AIG Travel recently developed a comprehensive guide to help women learn about ways they can travel more safely for business or for pleasure. While we encourage women to give the full guide a close review, and reference it on their next trip, some stand out tips include:

  • Know the security risk level of your destination (travel.state.gov is an excellent resource for this), and even if it’s low, remain vigilant at all times.
  • Learn how to say a few key words, such as “police” and “help,” in the language of the countryyou’re visiting. Also, learn hostile phrases, such as derogatory terms for “women” or “foreigners,”which you can use as cues to remove yourself from potentially dangerous situations.
  • In some countries, customs based on religious and moral beliefs strongly influence the way women dress. It’s important to research your destination, and pack accordingly to comply with local dress codes (even informal ones), as well as weather.
  • Understand local customs and consider your actions. Beyond dress codes, destinations may have a variety of other laws and cultural norms you may be expected to conform to – sometimes, the consequences for not doing so can put you in danger, or even in trouble with the authorities.
  • Be extra careful at night: avoid using ATMs, since they’re frequently targeted for kidnappings;attempt to arrive at and familiarize yourself with new destinations before dark; and drink responsibly so you can stay alert when returning home at the end of the day.
  • When choosing accommodations, staying at a well-known and reputable hotel is generally safer than using unknown hotels, hostels or privately-rented homes. Some hotels offer women-only floors, so do your research before you book to brush up on your options.
  • When researching hotels, read all reviews and research the neighborhoods in which they are located. Try to find reviews written by women for their unique perspective, and when you arrive, trust your instinct – if something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it isn’t.
  • When riding in a taxi, stay alert and aware of your surroundings. If you have a smartphone, it may be a good idea to track your destination on your map, so you can tell if the driver is going off route. If possible, capture identifying information from your cab and driver just in case.
  • Explore travel insurance options for your destination. In a worst case scenario, having access toexperienced professionals who can help you plot and execute the best course of action – whether that’s going to the police, finding a hospital, or something else – can make a huge difference.
  • In a recent Experian survey, 18 percent of respondents reported having had “sensitive information” lost or stolen while traveling. To minimize this risk, remove banking information, personal photographs or other compromising data from digital devices before you go.

For more information on this topic, check out AIG Travel’s women’s travel safety resources here.

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