Let me preface this post by saying that I always err on the side of caution when it comes to traveling. It’s not that I don’t like to have adventures or let loose, it’s more that I try to stay aware of other people, particularly men, when I’m abroad.
This usually always begins while I’m en route to my destination. Traveling alone means there’s always an open seat next to you, whether you’re on a plane, train, or bus. While I think it’s wonderful to make friends once I arrive at my destination, I try to steer clear of people who ask me a lot of questions about my travel plans.
Here are a few tips for avoiding the creepers, from someone who has probably seen the movie Taken one too many times:
1) Look busy. After taking my seat and waiting for the plane/bus/train to depart, I usually listen to music or start reading a book. I will usually say a polite hello to whomever sits next to me, but then I resume reading, etc. This is also a prime time to sleep, so that you’re well-rested upon arrival.
2) Be slightly vague. As I mentioned above, I am always wary of people who ask me a lot of specific questions about myself and my travel plans. I tend to keep things pretty surface-level, and always steer the conversation back to small talk.
Don’t say you’re traveling alone, don’t say which city/hostel/area you’re staying in, and don’t give out your phone number.
If I meet a person I would like to meet up with again while traveling, I usually give them my email or Facebook information. That way I can kind of screen them, and have more control of the situation.
3) Lie. Okay, I admit that I definitely pull out the “I have a boyfriend” lie from time to time while traveling. Rease wrote a great post on this subject, with the general consensus agreeing that it’s silly to lie about your love life to please other people. And I most certainly agree. But when I’m in a new place, and a strange man is asking me about my love life, I tend to cut them off at the knees with my trusty boyfriend shtick. This is a helpful way to ward off any advances in a train, plane, bus, bar, club, hostel, etc.
4) Common sense goes a long way. Traveling is about new experiences and new adventures, but it’s not a free pass to be a total idiot. While I never want to be paranoid in a new place, I’m always cautious. This goes double if I go out at night and especially if I’m drinking. If you do meet up with someone, be smart. Go to a public place. Make sure someone always knows where you are. Luckily here in Korea, I have a solid group of friends to look out for me. If you don’t know anyone local, send an email to someone from home, like your parents. Have fun, wander, get lost, but don’t fall off the face of the Earth, technologically speaking. People will worry.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I hope it helps you remember to be smart, safe, and a little more guarded than you might be at home. Travel your hearts out ladies, just remember to take care of yourselves!
What about you? What do you do to stay safe and avoid the creepers?
Umm, yes! I have a horrible creeper story. I was on a bus in Argentina for like 22 hours, and 2 hours into it I caught a bus employee spying on me in the bathroom through a peep hole! I was so disgusted and didn’t know what to do, and even though I tried in my best Spanish to explain the situation AND wrote a letter which I insisted on personally giving his superior at the next bus stop, it was pretty clear that I had no upper hand and that this creep-o was going to be allowed to do this to other women.
But I pitched a fit for them to at least fix the damn hole in the door. So gross!
Fantastic post about being very careful while traveling solo! Being vague is a great point as is the little lie. Always be cautious if you are out at night, don’t drink too much!
With summer coming, this is a very timely post too!
I don’t think about it much, but then I don’t seem to attract creeps very frequently. I think your point about using common sense is the major factor here.
Now I know why women are a bit vague around me ….
Hiya Kelly. Back from travels in Namibia and Botswana so great to be reading you again!
I try to keep things like personal photos, anything with my surname printed on it, and clothing or accessories that act as “conversation pieces” tucked away when I know I’ll likely be approached. These things just allow a stranger to skip small talk altogether.
Also, if I’m in a situation where I need to speak in English (and not the native tongue), I try to do so discreetly so I’m not shouting “¡One single student-discounted ticket for Madrid por favor!” and putting myself at the mercy of the crowd.
I’ve lied before. It’s okay if it’s to protect your safety.
I agree with all your tips! But I also have a question: What do you do when a guy asks what hotel/part of town you’re staying in? I’m sure that most of them are just trying to make conversation but I HATE it when guys I’ve never met before ask these things and am never sure how to answer.
I don’t know about you gals but I usually say something like, “Oh I’m not sure yet.” If I’m feeling friendly I’ll also ask if they’ve heard of someplace cool to stay in the town we’re headed to.
If you’re feeling weird ever, ladies, excuse yourselves and switch seats. That should do the trick without you ever having to say something direct and firm and in my experience most employees of whatever company you’re traveling with are pretty understanding, especially if you tell them you’re uncomfortable.
These are great tips. Solo female travellers, while more often that not they attract only the kindness and generosity of local people, are also magnets for weirdos! At least in my experience.
I try to use my ‘Sydney’ face when I sense something is a bit weird (the face I wear on public transport here – grumpy, preoccupied yet self-assured, slightly bored and very much ‘leave me alone!’) or I feel creeped out. Sometimes it works, sometimes they just don’t get it!
I’m also very vague and tend to distort the truth when questioned by strange men – the unfortunate side effect is that it can often make you seem unfriendly – you’ve just got to trust your gut!
I love the “Sydney face” comment – I do the same thing! And yes, sometimes you can definitely appear unfriendly, but I agree: trusting your gut is the most important thing!
And Kelly, that bathroom story is awful! Good for you for throwing a fit though!
Trying not to look American on a Train during midsummer EVE going from Norway to Sweden while watching a group of boys tantalizing another woman on the train.
I did not speak because that would have been a dead giveaway. I shrunk down in my seat. I finally got off at the next stop and took the next train to continue my journey.
Hey, great article Claire,
Good tips that need to be taken seriously for solo female travelers.
My girlfriend takes the “I have a boyfriend,” one step further and says, “I have a child.” This is another useful strategy – maybe even keep a picture of a random little kid in your purse. This would definitely be a shut down for a lot of creeps.
Great tips. I’ve been traveling alone for about 8 months, and I use these tactics. I heard a good tip from Ayngelina. When you book your bus ticket, ask them to put you next to a woman. They have the names of the passengers in the system, so it shouldn’t be hard for them to do.
Good tips for sure. A little street smarts goes a long way!
Nice tips Claire! The empty seat scenario is pretty much inevitable when traveling solo, and I’ve learned that even the sweetest-looking of them (ehm, MONK look-a-likes!!) can have some pretty dirty intentions.
Going into acting mode can be fun too. Just pretend you don’t speak English, it’s a nice way to stop the conversation…
agree about 2, 3. adding “i’m going to meet a friend [pick a time]”
I don’t call all guys who approached me as creeps ’cause sometimes they just wanted to talk especially in Turkey. I always say “i’m here with a friend” or “i’m waiting for someone. Once in Austria, I said the same thing to a guy who wanted to sight-see together. but then he offered to drive me to a buddhist temple which I couldn’t go b/c no public transportation. So i kept pretending to check my phone to wait for that ‘imaginary’ friend who ditched me on our appointment.
I’m Asian, thus I am not as decisive and aggressive when it comes to shooing unwanted men away. It’s helpful if someone can write a post for tips on how to do that.
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These are great tips. It’s always important to stay safe during your travels. And most importantly, to stay connected with family and loved ones back home. Though you’re going on great adventures around the world, make sure they know about your whereabouts.
honestly, the most important thing I’ve learned is to positively exude confidence, whether you feel it or not. i had someone wait outside my apartment in italy for months trying to sell me into sex slavery-seriously, he told me. the cops apparently wouldnt do anything… After a while of being scared, I resorted to staring him in the eye as I would approach, rather than cross the street and avoid his gaze. they are more scared of you than you are of them because of the fact that they have to try to get one over on you, and that only works on certain people who seem to give off a vibe of weakness. if you seem to give off a vibe that shows you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, you wont be messed with. even when lost, dont slow down and flip through giant maps, walk briskly like you know where youre going and people will think you’re a local, or at least that you can handle yourself.
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These are great tips. I always use the boyfriend story, sometimes use the fake ring, and a lot of times used “the face”. But recently in Ecuador most didn´t seem to work. Ecuatorian men are very aggressive and persistant in their approaches and due to that, this is a country I don´t intend to visit again anytime soon.
I am OBSESSED with the face. Love it love it love it!
When I was in Egypt, I had a man offer to buy me (with camels) from my tour guide to be his wife. She let him have it and told him to get lost!
Creepers are always a concern when travelling solo as a woman. Thanks for sharing your tips, I can certainly relate to the concern.