HOW WE STAY SAFE
A lot of women ask me about safety when traveling alone or in a group, especially as women. I am sure safety is a major concern of yours as well. There are three types of safety we need to consider: 1) Terrorism and Conflicts 2) Burglary and Robbery and 3) Crimes against Women.
I take these safety issues very seriously but I am not paranoid about travel in foreign countries because most of these issues can be handled in a reasonable manner. While no one is ever 100% safe (even in one’s own country), good sense and good behavior can keep one from becoming a victim. Let me address each of the safety areas.
Terrorism can happen anywhere and in any country including our own, so the fact a terrorist attack could occur where we go is not a particularly good reason for staying home out of fear. However, there are certainly some places in the world which Older Women, Cheap Travel will not go until things change substantially (places like Iran and Afghanistan, Sudan and Algeria, etc). Other countries, like India, which have more terrorist attacks than the United States can still on the list of good places to visit because such attacks are still relatively rare and, in a huge country with so many people, the chances of being in the location of a terrorist attack is as minimal as being in a plane crash. Of course, you personally may choose not to visit a particular country, but if Older Women, Cheap Travel feels the country is reasonably safe, then tours will go to that location.
In some countries there are internal issues such as the uprising in Egypt and the drug cartels in Mexico. Right now, Egypt is off the list for travel for Older Women, Cheap Travel because the country is simply too unstable. Mexico is still a travel spot, however, because the dangers of the drug cartels is much hyped in the US papers and the actually danger is almost always contained within the drug cartel business and not spilling over to visitors to the country. If there is a particular area of the country that has issues, we follow the practical advice of where to go within the country and how to do so safely.
BURGLARY AND ROBBERY
Burglary is pretty easy to prevent; don’t leave expensive stuff in your hotel room! Since we are not staying in places with safes, if you worried about seeing your possession again, carry it along. The clothing or shoes you might leave in your hotel room should not be designer labels or they might be missing when you get back.
Robbery is fairly preventable simply by keeping anything valuable in a location on your person that is not easily attainable by someone on the street. In your daypack (a necessity for these trips), one’s passport, credit cards and money should be in the deepest, least reachable place, preferable in a pocket with a zipper that is located in the side against your back. Other good places for money and credit cards could be an inside pocket on one’s clothing or a zipped pocket in a fairly protected area. If one is getting on and off a bus and leaving one’s daypack aboard (restroom break or to grab a coffee), one’s valuables should be with you.
NO jewelry should be brought along that is showy, especially gold jewelry. Simply silver earrings are alright but expensive engagement and wedding rings should be left home.
I have never had anything stolen from me in all my years of travel. I am quite amazed at this fact because I hear so many stories from people who have been robbed. I think much of my success has been due to carrying little of worth, not flashing attractive items about in poor areas, and not getting drunk and rolled coming out of a bar. Maybe I have just been lucky, but we can help ourselves be lucky by not being careless.
CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN
There is one very cardinal rule that should always be followed by women when visiting a foreign country: stay with women and children. In other words, if only men are there, you shouldn’t be! Places were families are present are safe places. In Egypt, going to the zoo is a wonderful place to visit; there are families picnicking everywhere. Going to a hookah parlor and being the only woman there is foolish; in that culture, this is not a place for a respectable woman.
The next most important rule is dress appropriately for the culture; wear what respectable women of your age wear. If women your age are in hijab (scarf on head and long sleeves and long skirt), this is what you should wear. If you see women in India going into the water at the beach in their saris, this is a clue you shouldn’t whip off your outer clothing and run about in a bikini! If women in the city in Mexico are not wearing shorts, neither should you. Not only should you not wear what the women won’t wear in that culture, you should attempt to dress as closely as possible to what they DO wear. In India, you will get a lot more respect if you wear Indian clothing than if you wear American clothing. Men will think you are “decent” ladies and the harassment will drop substantially. You will also not stand out as much as a tourist; even if you don’t look physically like the local women, dressing like them allows people to think that maybe you live there and are familiar with the culture and respect it. Respect breeds respect.