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The Most Dangerous Places for Female Travellers

Before I start, I will apologize for the click-bait title; thats not usually my style. But, since you are here, the topic obviously interests you. So stick around because from one female traveller to another (or to the friends/family of a female traveller), we’ve got some things to discuss.

Women and travel has always been one of those topics that people love to argue over. Should women travel to certain places? Should women travel alone? Should women travel without a man? Without wearing a wedding ring? At all?

Krka waterfalls

The other week I read (yet another) of these fear mongering type articles. For those wondering, this particular article listed Turkey as the most dangerous place for women. Why? Two reasons: the first being terrorism, the second being harassment. Which leaves me more than a little bit confused because I’m pretty sure terrorist attacks tend to be equal risk to both men and women. And, as a woman, I get harassed everywhere. Do I like it? No. Does it make me uncomfortable? Yes. But, I learned to perfect my RBF in an effort to deter unwanted attention long before I ever got on a plane. And I don’t live in one of these so-called ‘dangerous’ countries. I live in Canada.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is incredibly important to stay informed about news and events happening around the world. I’m constantly checking for travel warnings and keeping my eye on developing stories about risks and threats in various countries. But, I do so not because I am a woman, but because I am a traveller.

Sure, as a woman, some events and stories will stick out more for me than they would for a man. As a woman, I may be more inclined to pay attention to different things. As a woman, I do understand that travelling does come with more risks. But, ask any woman, and we will all tell you that these risks that we are so often warned about when travelling abroad, also exist at home. Using them as an excuse to not see the world, to avoid adventure, or to miss out on incredible experiences? Well, that’s just dumb.

So knowing that travel (ahem, life) does come with more risks for women, what are the most dangerous places for female travellers? As an avid solo female traveller, here is my take on the subject.

Anywhere You Don’t Follow Cultural Regulations and Traditions

Angkor Complex

Women are not treated equally everywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter how much you disagree with this attitude; it is a fact. Many countries around the world have regulations on places where women can and can’t go, what they should wear, how they should behave in public, etc. As a visitor, it is your job to recognize and follow these rules, and if you can’t abide by them? Well, you probably shouldn’t go in the first place.

While Muslim countries are considered to be the strictest and the subject of the majority of warnings, it’s important to realize that every nation has regulations and traditions that you should be aware of. Even the so-called ‘safe’ ones. For example, in many places in Europe, it’s common to sunbathe topless or nude. However, if you do that on a beach somewhere in North America, you will find people have a very different attitude towards it. It may not be illegal, but unless you are on a (small list) of specific beaches where this type of activity is normal, you will get plenty of unwanted attention and probably end up with photos of your naked body posted all over the internet.

Cultural norms differentiate around the world and even throughout a country. It’s part of why we travel; to experience something new. But, it is your job as a traveller to be aware and abide by the customs and norms. If you don’t, you will stand out and locals will consider you to be disrespectful. Improper looks, comments, and harassment may follow which will, no doubt, leave you feeling unsafe.

Anywhere You Don’t Research Ahead of Time

Myanmar Bus

There is a lot to be said for ‘going with the flow’ when you travel, but researching a new destination, especially as a woman, is key. Not only do you need to be aware of cultural traditions, but you also need to be aware of your surroundings.

Sketchy neighbourhoods, local scams, poor business practices, and transportation options are a few basic things that you should look into ahead of time. For example, in many cities, such as Budapest, travellers are warned against grabbing a taxi off the streets. Other places, such as Kuala Lumpur, have trains with separate compartments for women only.

There is a reason for this; it is done in an effort to protect and make travellers (and locals) feel safer. These are practices you should be following, even more so if the locals follow these routines as well. Taking advantage of these safety measures won’t make you any less adventurous. There is nothing wrong with being cautious. Knowing what to look out for in advance will not only make you feel more comfortable and confident in your new surroundings, but it will also reduce your chances of falling victim to any of the perceived risks.

Anywhere You Behave Like a Fool

German Beer

One of the easiest ways to get into trouble abroad is by behaving like a fool. Why some people feel the need to get black out drunk, try drugs, or participate in unsafe experiences in a foreign country when it’s not something they would do at home, is completely beyond me. Want to stay safe? Be smart. Practice restraint. In a nutshell: don’t do anything abroad that you wouldn’t do at home. Especially if you are travelling alone.

Anywhere You Don’t Feel Comfortable

Evolve Top

You can know anything and everything there is to know about a place, be ready to follow all local customs and traditions, and still feel uncomfortable about going to a certain destination. It happens to everyone, and my biggest advice for when this happens; just don’t go. Save it for another time when you have some friends, can join a tour, or perhaps consider another destination all together. I absolutely believe in stepping out of your comfort zone, but starting off a new adventure scared and expecting to be victimized will not make for an enjoyable experience.

If you are already traveling somewhere and you feel uncomfortable, there is no shame in leaving early. Experiences are individual; just because someone else felt safe or had a great time doesn’t mean you will. If your fears and discomfort are based on you being alone, consider finding a group you can join; fellow travellers or even an official tour. But, if you are unhappy and find yourself unwilling to engage or explore, just get out. Travel is supposed to be eye opening in a good way, and there is nothing wrong with leaving an uncomfortable situation. Forcing yourself to stick with it will only tarnish your experience and likely become something you regret. And, I think we can all agree, travel should never be an experience you regret.

Is travel riskier for men than women? Yes. But that’s not an excuse to prevent women from travelling. Want to help protect us? Quit with the fear tactics and instead let’s start focusing on promoting smart safety measures instead.

Most dangerous places for female travellers

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31 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Places for Female Travellers

  1. Diane Kroe

    Hi Hannah,

    What a great article!
    I’ve always been known to have harsh opinions when it comes to women and safe travel. Especially us Candian girls who seem a bit naive since we come from such a safe place compared to the rest of the world.

    My mother is Venezuelan and since childhood, I spent time visiting often what seemed to be a paradise but in reality one of the world’s most dangerous countries. I learned how my family lived behind bars on windows and doors where every precaution imaginable was instilled in us. Before leaving the house my Auntie would check no jewelry, clear plans where we were going and making sure to not travel after dark… the list goes on. This was part of my upbringing and helped me to understand that the world is not always like my home in Toronto and when traveling we must study how people in different cultures live and follow their examples on how to conduct ourselves in their world.

    I often have customers that tell me their plans like backpacking with small children through Guatilamla or live in a remote fishing village in Mexico. This always brings prickles down my spine and so I ask them to first connect with a person from that culture and ask them directly if they would do this. The answer is most likely “NO”. Having the protection of my family enabled me to see and stay in some pretty amazing places but without these connections, it would surely be a disaster for a regular traveler.

    When backpacking through Europe and North Africa I followed what I’d learned and made sure to have personal protection like a bodyguard/boyfriend to protect me. I had a few close calls in Turkey, Morocco, Isreal, Greece, and Amsterdam but everything turned out fine, once they saw I had an intimidating companion they would move on and search for an easier target. I’m not saying every woman needs a bodyguard but you should have some sort of protection like traveling in groups and making sure you have a backup plan if something goes wrong. Hire a local guide/driver who is trustworthy and has connections.
    My advice to other female travelers is to go ahead and see the world but always make sure to use common sense, be extra cautious and do the research like Hannah suggested.

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Exactly- caution is absolutely needed but I think picking apart certain places and placing DO NOT GO labels on them for something like harassment is silly. Yes, warn us that we are more likely to be harassed a lot in x rather than y. But don’t tell me not to go, tell me how I can help avoid it. Because honestly, if I was going to tell people where not to go based on being harassed I would say Rome right away. I don’t see Rome on any ‘don’t go’ lists and yet both times I’ve been I had a couple strange men following me and harassing me through the streets.

  2. ania

    Great article! So many times I see girls in situations exactly like the ones you mention where I think to my “girl be careful”. We always talk about the dangerous locations for women to travel too but never speak enough about the dangerous circumstances.

  3. Melissa

    Love it Hannah! You are so right! Being a woman always influences the way we travel but also just our normal daily life! I absolutely agree with every single point here! Sometimes I hitch-hike when I travel and some peoplease ask me if it’s safe and blah blah. It’s also ll about how comfortable and confident you feel about a place, about yourself! It’s also very personal as it can easily change from someone to another!

      1. Jennifer

        “Hitchhiking” seems to have a negative meaning…but some where along the way I learned that it really just is getting a lift from a friendly local! All the unofficial drivers I’ve seen out there (aka a man with a vehicle) just charge people a small fee for the service. I’ve gotten rides from people who are usually middle class and English speaking hence why they feel comfortable picking up a “foreigner” in places like Kyrgyzstan and Thailand.

  4. Megan

    I think these are great guidelines to follow!!! I travel with my boyfriend but people are still always like “never leave his side, everywhere you all are going is so dangerous.” Being an observant and cautious traveler is the best way to stay safe. And doing your research is key!!!

  5. Lyndsy

    I’ve been on the fence about traveling to Turkey alone. Sure, terrorism and harassment can be scary and may be a good reason for some men and women not to travel to certain countries. But like you said, if I do my research and follow my instincts – I think it’ll be fine. Great post!

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I believe that both terrorism and harassment are definitely valid reasons to be wary of a destination. I just think that they apply to so many more places- and terrorism is not limited to women.

  6. Nina | Nina Near and Far

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while! I love this points, because you’re so right – the “danger” usually comes down to your behaviour and how you’re feeling! If you disrespect a culture or disregard their rules then yes- you’re sure to feel uncomfortable. I think that learning about places before you go and accepting their practices while you are there is so incredibly important. This post is amazing, love it.

  7. Meg

    Such excellent points! So often, when talking about solo female travel, we hear from the two extremes. My family, constantly worried about where I go (or take the kids) and always fearing the worst – and on the other side, some who act like there’s nothing at all to worry about, and we can act any way we like. I love your common-sense approach!

  8. Cristina G

    Great post! I totally agree with what you say. If you don’t look for danger, danger most likely won’t find you. More people have to realize this. Traveling alone as a women is to many people still a taboo (?!) and that’s a shame.
    I really loved traveling alone but I also love traveling with my boyfriend. It allows me to go out at night and go to more sketchy places (I have a thing for sketchy places… would never go myself but with a man by my side who knows the area it’s an interesting thingto do).

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I love travelling alone, but there are a few places and things I won’t do alone. Like go to a club. But I wouldn’t do that alone at home either. So its not that big of a deal.

  9. Danielle

    Lack of research is too true. I totally failed to look into the neighborhood I booked an Airbnb in. It was not a good place for me to be as a solo female traveler and I should have asked for locals’ advice instead of just trusting my host.

  10. chikonahoka

    I love this. I totally agree!

    My counterpoint has always been, if I’m going somewhere inhabited then OBVIOUSLY the people there have worked out some kind of social norms (otherwise called ‘culture’) that manage all these very human risks that fit for where *they* are (not where *I’m* from). The proof? They are human beings and they have a community there. QED.

    What’s left to do, is to try as quickly as possible to work out how much of it is there, and how much I can adapt to for the trip that I want (or pick the kind of trip that will match what I’m prepared to adapt to), and what help I can get for it. This is really the only ambiguity for female solo travellers.

  11. Rachel Heller

    Great article! People are afraid of places they don’t know, accentuated by the media. So Americans are afraid to go to Europe because of terrorism. Europeans are afraid to go to the US because of gun violence. Yet how likely is either one to affect you personally?

  12. csaradar

    Great post and totally agree. Most places are safe and people seem to focus on the most unlikely problems. Common sense and basic safety practices really should be used everywhere including your home city.

  13. Jill at Reading the Book

    I definitely like your attitude, especially the fact you challenge what is dangerous for WOMEN as opposed to dangerous for everyone. I also think that while certain places are more dangerous than others, there aren’t many that you should avoid altogether, you just take more precautions in some than others. It’s definitely about learning the societal norms and working with them. Great post!

  14. IndianaJo

    I admit that I clicked on this fully poised to bash out an angry comment. Brilliant article, excellent handling of the subject and thanks for completely obliterating my expectations with your advice.

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I love that you originally came to bash it 😉 validates my point that there is too much fear mongering crap out there. Also glad you liked it in the end 🙂

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