Wouldn’t it be great if safety wasn’t something that women traveling solo ever needed to worry about? There are places in the world where I have felt really safe. Dubai, and Cozumel are two examples, although I did nearly get decapitated in Cozumel, but that’s another story.
Before my 6 month solo backpacking trip to Europe, I consulted with a friend’s father who was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He taught me some very basic moves that allowed me to feel confident that I could stop an assailant. Another friend, a firefighter who taught a women’s self defense class, also gave me some great advice.
I truly believe that being prepared and having confidence in my abilities to fight back made me a less desirable target to attackers. From everything I have learned over the years, scumbags are looking for an easy mark. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim while traveling.
Use Your Spidey Senses
Whether you are alone or in a group, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted by your electronics, you can send that text once you’re sitting in a cafe with your back to a wall. If you are walking down the street texting you can be surprised and overpowered.
If you are in a situation where you feel uneasy about a person, turn to them and engage them in conversation. Ask them for the time and make a point of taking a good look at them, hopefully they will realize that you can describe their appearance and move on to an easier victim.
Wear A Hat
This may sound silly, but experts say that one of the main things attackers look for in a victim is hairstyle, especially long hair. If you have a visible ponytail or braid to grab onto, even better. So cover up with a hat and keep them guessing. Attackers are also less likely to bother with women who are carrying something like an umbrella because it can be used for defense.
Find out what is legal to carry for defense in the countries you will be visiting. I carried a small pocketknife with me throughout Europe and the only time it was even looked at was on a train in Hungary, and the customs and immigration official was interested and amused.
Most attackers will not persist if you fight back. They are looking for a victim who is afraid, and who freezes up and becomes submissive. Screaming and yelling “Stop” signals that you are a fighter. Jump into a phony martial arts pose and smile like you’re looking forward to a battle.
This is not true of armed robbers, if you are robbed at gunpoint, of course quietly hand over your belongings and try not to make eye contact.
Your first instinct may be to attack your assailant’s groin, but there are many sensitive areas to injure if you’ve already been grabbed and are trying to escape. Pinch with all your strength the skin under the arm between his elbow and armpit. The upper inner thigh is also very sensitive. Then as soon as he recoils from that pain, go for the groin with everything you’ve got.
Choose a smaller hotel where the staff will recognize you. A small lobby with a concierge desk will deter loiterers. If you are nervous, ask a staff member to walk you to your door. If you leave valuables in the room, put up the do not disturb sign.
Talk to hotel staff before you go out to make sure you know which areas a woman traveling solo should avoid. Use valet parking so you don’t have to walk through dark parking lots or garages at night. If you have to walk anywhere, avoid looking too sparkly. Visible jewelry just attracts unwanted attention.