Ah the travel advice specifically geared towards women traveling by themselves. The advice can be offensive, it can be vague, and it can generally apply to everyone. The often-considered “wise” Rick Steve’s offers up some advice at the link below that is actually useful:
I have learned while traveling on my own through Europe that this advice is helpful, and would have been good for me to know before I went. I scared a family from Ohio when I wouldn’t stop talking to them because a random man came into my sleeping compartment (pretty sure he just saw an empty bed and figured he would take it). The guy was gone when I cautiously went back. The best advice during my travels actually came from two street performers in Cologne, Germany. They said “Do not laugh at men’s advances, they may believe you are flirting” and “do like the Italian women and give them a dirty look and walk away.” That was in response to my story that a man followed me through a park and offered me money for sex. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and the guy seemed a little confused. He never came near me and he walked away when I told him to get away from me, but laughing was not the best response.
While most of the advice offered by Rick Steves is pretty useful, a word of caution about the advice about hanging out in a café until your bus or train departure, make sure you check the hours the café is open and be leery of a manager that says you can stay past closing. If the train or bus is in the morning just get a hotel room. (That situation happened and it actually turned into an amusing story about a night in a McDonalds in Rome, but there were four of us making our odds a little better, so if you are by yourself, seriously just get a hotel room). One more thing, the advice to not be afraid of overacting totally worked for me. I spoke to myself in English loudly paired with wild gestures and people backed off, plus it was pretty hilarious.
So this advice is great and helpful, but it isn’t the full picture. Women should research the country they are going to and understand the attitudes towards women within the cultural context of that country. The U.S. State Department provides country profiles that specifically callout considerations for women and how to handle legal issues. The link is below: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/Women.html
Registering with the State Department is also a useful tip, the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program ensures that you
· Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
· Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
· Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
You can register at https://step.state.gov/step/.