The Worst (& Safest) Countries For Solo Female Travel in 2019

Published July 15, 2019 by Asher & Lyric Fergusson

A study of the world’s most dangerous countries for women traveling alone reveals the good, the bad and the ugly

There’s hearsay. There are personal anecdotes from other travelers. There are specific worries. Then, there are the hard facts. We’ve gathered data from a variety of trusted international sources to create a “Women’s Danger Index” that will help you find the worst (and safest) countries for solo female travel.

At the end of the article we also have 42 tips on how women can stay safe while traveling alone.

Embed code:


Our Methodology

Ranking the top 50 countries with the most international tourists by a grand total of eight different factors, our “Women’s Danger Index” was compiled using the following data sources:

  1. Gallup World Poll (2018): Percentage of women who feel safe walking alone at night = 2 points
  2. Equal Measures 2030 (2018): Female victims of intentional homicide index = 2 points
  3. UN Women (2016): Lifetime Non-Partner Sexual Violence = 1 point
  4. Georgetown Institute (2017/2018): Lifetime Intimate Partner Violence = 1 point
  5. Georgetown Institute (2017/2018): Legal Discrimination = 1 point
  6. World Economic Forum (2017): Global Gender Gap = 1 point
  7. UN Development Program (2017): Gender Inequity = 1 point
  8. OECD (2018): Attitudes Toward Violence Against Women Survey = 1 point

To measure safety abroad, one cannot look at only data on street safety, rape or violence. It also depends on the general attitude of the culture, minutiae of the legal system, and systematic oppression of local women. These issues can affect everything, from easily getting a taxi alone to having your voice be heard in a conversation to even needing a male escort for your personal safety. A lot on our list, such as attitudes toward partner violence, may not affect solo female travelers directly, but these factors are a good indication of overall attitudes within the culture.

Sadly, not one country received an “A” which indicates we have a long way to go before there is true equality between men and women on Earth. Thankfully, there are many signs that things are improving and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Please note: We gave both the “percentage of women who feel safe walking alone at night” and the “female victims of intentional homicide index” a double weighting score because they are very good indicators of safety for foreign female travelers and are more likely to be highly accurate since it isn’t “shameful” to admit. Whereas, non-partner and intimate partner sexual violence are obviously strong indicators for rape but the seriously widespread underreporting (to differing degrees per country) makes it hard to justify double weight because it could skew the results more than is fair.
 

The 5 countries
that surprised us the most

Below are 5 countries that were not the worst or the best but surprised us with where they ranked. Most notably was the United States who ranked #19 in our index making it the worst Western country for solo female travelers in the world.

  1. Dominican Republic 551.32
  2. The Dominican Republic is an extremely popular destination for American tourists and has recently been making headlines after a string of “mysterious deaths”. In our index, this beautiful Caribbean Island ranked 6th worst, scoring particularly woefully with street safety. Whether the recent media hype is real or not, our study certainly found this country isn’t safe for women traveling alone. This surprised us because before the recent string of events we’d never heard of problems for tourists going to the Dominican Republic.

  3. Malaysia: 527.64
  4. Very poor ratings with intimate partner violence, and gender inequality issues brought Malaysia to the #11 spot on our list. This makes Malaysia one of the worst Asian countries for solo female travelers just behind India and Thailand. The thing that surprised us is how big of a gap there is between Singapore (safest Asian country) and Malaysia since they are separated only by a short bridge. A look at the history of Singapore sheds some light on the surprise.

  5. United States: 456.31
  6. Ranking 19th on our list was the USA. This makes it the most dangerous Western country in the world which was very unexpected! Scoring badly on street safety, non-partner sexual violence and a host of gender inequality issues makes the United States particularly bad for female travelers. For women aged between 20 and 24, homicide is the 3rd most likely way to die which accounts for a staggering 7.5% of all deaths in this age group. And for black females in the same age group, homicide is responsible for a whopping 15.7% of deaths!

  7. Australia: 370.10
  8. We were also surprised to find Australia relatively high on the list. This is largely due to the high rates of non-partner sexual violence. A recent survey commissioned by Australia’s National Research Organization found that “one in seven young Australians say rape is justified if women change their mind”. These statistics are certainly not very encouraging for solo female travelers.

  9. Croatia: 286.53
  10. Croatia is one of the poorer European countries on our list yet it is one of the safest destinations on our list. This sunsoaked nation did well with relatively safe streets and low intentional homicide levels. However, one area that Croatia didn’t perform well in was it’s quite high levels of both partner and non-partner sexual violence.

 

The 5 worst countries
for women traveling alone

Using the formula we stated above and creating our own index from these different factors that affect both international and local women, here’s our list of the five worst countries for women to travel to out of the top 50 most-visited countries in the world.

  1. South Africa: 771.82
  2. With this nation scoring poorly on street safety and many other factors, women in South Africa have been historically treated cruelly, but thankfully situations have been slowly improving. Often, traveling women to South Africa are warned not to hike, drive, walk, or move about alone and to generally behave conservatively.

  3. Brazil: 624.28
  4. Trailing next (quite a way behind South Africa) was Brazil who scored badly with both street safety and intentional homicide against women. This sun drenched country also performed poorly in the Global Gender Gap category. The United States government warns tourists not to walk alone at night or to physically resist any robbery attempts.

  5. Russia: 592.71
  6. Scoring below par on both the intentional homicide against women and non-partner sexual violence, Russia comes in at #3 on our list. This beautiful vodka-loving country also performed poorly in a host of categories including being the 9th worst with legal discrimination against women. Thankfully the #metoo movement has been making headlines in Russia showing signs that things are slowly improving for the better.

  7. Mexico: 576.05
  8. Since Mexico is by far the most visited country out of the top five worst, it really caught our eye. The three areas that Mexico ranked abysmally for were street safety, intentional homicide, and non-partner sexual violence. In fact, Mexico ranked in the top 4 worst in all three of these categories. Many news reports have sited that unfortunately Mexico is becoming more and more unsafe and it’s best to only stay within your resort to minimize negative incidents.

  9. Iran 553.11
  10. Of the top 50 most-visited countries, Iran scores the worst in the Global Gender Gap study (see page 180). It also scored quite terribly with inequality and discrimination categories placing this country fifth worst in our Index. One area that Iran did perform well in was the fact that they had very low levels of intentional homicide against women.

 

The 5 safest countries
for women traveling alone

Below you’ll find the 5 safest countries for solo female travel. Not surprisingly, 4 of the 5 are in located in Western Europe. If you’re planning your first solo trip then these countries may well be a great starting point before venturing out to the more “risky” countries.

  1. Spain: 212.04
  2. Spain is the safest country on Earth for women traveling alone and it’s the 2nd most visited destination (just behind France). This sun-blessed mediterranean jewel performed very well with street safety, low legal discrimination and low violence against women attitudes. One thing fascinating to note is that in 2018, Spain’s government had women outnumbering men with 11 out of the 17 cabinet seats.

  3. Singapore: 245.26
  4. Singapore is by far the safest Asian country on the planet. Excellent ratings in more than half of the areas including 92% of women feeling safe when walking alone at night makes this island nation really stand out. Interestingly, Singapore’s next door neighbor, Malaysia, was the eleventh worst country in our Index and is separated only by a short bridge (they speak the same language too).

  5. Ireland 247.31
  6. The small island nation of Ireland had particularly low levels of legal discrimination, gender inequality and violence against women’s attitudes. Ireland also had relatively low levels of non-partner sexual violence. One area where there is still room for improvement is with large pay gap in fields such as scientific research where women earn 30% less than men. This is the worst gap in the EU where the average is only 17%.

  7. Austria: 251.63
  8. Austria had some of the lowest levels of sexual violence and gender inequality out of all the destinations we reviewed. Only 4 points behind Ireland makes Austria the fourth safest country for solo female travelers. One thing that makes it stand out is the fact that 100% of women have had at least some secondary education.

  9. Switzerland: 252.78
  10. Some would say that Switzerland is the most beautiful country in Europe with its countless breathtaking mountains and fairytale landscapes. Switzerland performed very well with street safety, and low levels of intentional homicide against women. Although, quite shockingly, Switzerland didn’t allow women the right to vote until 1971!

 

Use our interactive tool
to find the best destination for you!

Instructions: Simply click on the column titles to sort by that filter. For example, click on the “Street Safety” title and the list will show the safest down to the most dangerous. Click the same title again and it will show the most dangerous to the safest etc. The scores you see are the index scores we used to create our overall “Women’s Safety Index”. In all cases, the lower the number the better the country scored.

Please note: If you’re on a mobile device you can scroll horizontally to see all the data.

50 Most Visited CountriesStreet SafetyIntentional HomicideNon-Partner ViolenceIntimate Partner ViolenceLegal DiscriminationGlobal Gender GapGender InequalityAttitudes Toward ViolenceWomen's Danger Index
South Africa1001001005628597456771.82
Brazil9649448230767825624.28
Russia6977404750734941592.71
Mexico8949883115746526576.05
Iran69112659851008834553.11
Dominican Rep.893559502873867551.32
Egypt717265865948664546.91
Morocco5962610046969252542.75
India41301983447910074541.25
Thailand45133098417375100533.22
Malaysia728306669795569527.64
Saudi Arabia561330601001004552524.36
Turkey7218268441906041521.83
Argentina921934732664687494.11
Chile8111347939716120487.96
Cambodia656234730789075485.73
Bahrain6414263081884252476.09
Tunisia6311264559845749468.26
USA5125758124683621456.31
Ukraine812762941715436453.61
UAE5113263087844452450.66
Vietnam635117637725859449.65
China236708644782980444.55
Indonesia373306654748651442.10
Philippines5525303231508123408.23
Bulgaria617344730594134380.84
Hungary5718174719794915375.89
Belgium631646532663920372.88
Australia57795381765217370.10
South Korea518703120841231366.98
Japan473703437822023366.20
Greece71564222742320337.80
Germany4112404939531433335.10
Sweden44769622244820326.42
Czech Republic477234730752420325.33
Italy595294222741711323.19
Denmark28963713154820320.65
France4012525817531611309.92
Netherlands32469562063815302.81
United Kingdom3110406415552220296.85
Poland534112930652516291.23
Canada359751431551810290.83
Croatia4310172922692420286.53
Portugal471064217641720277.58
Norway16566622241918259.92
Switzerland15766223059726252.78
Austria278232928701420251.63
Ireland354293319492120247.31
Singapore95191446711367245.26
Spain245172915611516212.04

 

How to stay safe as
a solo female traveler

There is little doubt that “solo female travel” is a trending topic as shown in the Google Trends chart below. While at the same time, the idea that “women shouldn’t travel alone” is still a very common trope. We believe solo female travel is safe in the majority of cases. Additionally, you could have a great experience in a country that ranked poorly on our list or have a scary experience in a country that is considered very safe.

No matter where you’re going, do your research, learn about local laws and faux-pas, or consider traveling in groups to “tricky” countries. Use your common sense and take appropriate precautions and we’re sure you’ll have a trip of a lifetime.

Want to know all our solo female travel tips?

Keep reading!

42 tips for women traveling alone

Lyric on a trip to India

Lyric on a trip to India in 2015.

  1. Start with “easier” and safer travel destinations
  2. If you haven’t traveled much before, a solo trip to a country like India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, or Morocco will put you far out of your depth. Until you’ve gained some travel smarts, consider places that won’t be as intimidating or complicated, like New Zealand, Bali, Costa Rica, Japan, Greece, Italy or cities such as Paris or London. Typically anywhere in Western Europe will be safer options.

  3. Enroll in the State Department’s STEP Program
  4. If you’re American, register your trip with STEP. You’ll get updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and the embassy will be able to easily contact you in an emergency.

  5. Research your destination before you go
  6. Knowing your destination is critical to staying safe. Do your research on the local culture, appropriate dress, gender norms, areas to avoid, and common scams. The more you know about the place you’re visiting, the more you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.

  7. Take your smartphone
  8. Having a smartphone with a local SIM card (or an international data plan) will make your trip infinitely easier, and it’ll also help you stay safe. You’ll be able to use mapping apps to figure out where you are, call an Uber if you need one, or message someone if you have a problem – all of which are invaluable as a solo female traveler.

  9. Bring a doorstop and a whistle
  10. Wedging a doorstop under the door to your room will prevent anyone from opening it from the outside; you can even buy one with an alarm that will go off if someone tries. It’s also smart to keep a small whistle with you, so you can blow it for attention if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

  11. Pack light
  12. Packing light isn’t just more convenient, it can also keep you safer. If you need to get out of a bad situation in a hurry, it’ll be much easier if you’re not weighed down with heavy bags. Having a ton of luggage also makes you a bigger target for scammers and pickpockets because it’s just so much easier to be successful with someone who has their hands full.

  13. Dress appropriately for the culture
  14. In more conservative cultures, modest dress is the norm, especially for women. Wearing revealing clothing will attract unwanted attention and harassment, and local men may take it as an invitation. Research appropriate dress in your destination, and when in doubt, cover up.

  15. Get to know local people
  16. Talking to local people, such as the staff at your hotel and other passengers on a train or bus, is one of the best ways to stay safe. You can ask them for safety advice, and you’ll have someone looking out for you.

  17. Don’t be too friendly with local men
  18. In countries with conservative gender norms, behavior that we might consider friendly or outgoing is often seen as flirtatious. Local men can misinterpret friendliness as an invitation, so be cautious about your body language, eye contact, and what signal you might be sending.

  19. Don’t worry about needing to be “nice”
  20. If you’re being harassed or you’re in another uncomfortable situation with someone who won’t leave you alone, don’t feel obligated to be nice or polite to them. Instead, be firm, loudly say “no,” ignore them, or quickly walk away.

  21. Consider pretending to have a husband
  22. For female travelers who are single, it can sometimes help to invent a spouse. If a man is bothering you on the street, telling him you’re on your way to meet your “husband” can sometimes be enough to put an end to it. Even wearing a wedding ring can be a good idea!

  23. Don’t go anywhere with strangers
  24. This might seem obvious, but it can come up in different ways when traveling. Random strangers may try to convince you to go someplace that will give them a commission. Scammers could attempt to lure you somewhere they can rip you off. Local men might want to take you someplace where no other people are around. In any case, if someone you’ve just met wants to take you somewhere alone, just say no.

  25. Ignore overly helpful locals
  26. When random strangers approach you with unsolicited advice or suspicious offers, there’s a good chance they’re trying to steal from you, rip you off, or pull some type of scam. Be skeptical of anyone who seems overly friendly or “helpful,” and don’t be afraid to ignore them.

  27. Read reviews carefully before deciding where to stay
  28. Reading hotel reviews is especially important as a solo female traveler. If past guests mention security issues, sketchy employees, or concerns about the neighborhood, you’ll want to steer clear. To get the best information, look for reviews written by women traveling alone.

  29. Choose centrally located accommodations
  30. Getting around at night is always an issue for solo female travelers, especially if there’s no public transportation. To make getting back to your hotel easier and safer, choose a place that’s centrally located.

  31. Consider making reservations in advance
  32. Showing up in town with no reservation sometimes works out fine – but it can also mean you have fewer good (safe, secure, affordable) options. It’s less risky to make a reservation beforehand, and you won’t get stuck wandering around looking for a place to stay.

  33. Make sure people can’t see into your room
  34. Budget hotels sometimes have super thin curtains (or even none at all). Look at the window coverings when you check in, and hang a sarong or towel over the window if you need to.

  35. Avoid small mixed-gender dorm rooms
  36. Staying in a hostel dorm means other people will be around, which is usually good for safety.

    However, if you book a bed in a small dorm, you could easily end up being alone with just one or two guys. Choose rooms that hold eight or more people, or look for female-only dorms.

  37. Don’t tell people where you’re staying
  38. Maybe this goes without saying, but if random people in town ask where you’re staying, don’t tell them. Or give them the name of a different hotel. Similarly, don’t post about your location on social media until after you’re gone.

  39. Take long-distance transportation that arrives during the day
  40. Arriving in a new place is usually confusing, and it’s only made worse at night. You don’t want to end up having to walk around looking for your hotel in the dark, so choose buses, trains, or flights that will get you in during the day.

  41. Avoid making bus or train connections at night
  42. If you have to make a connection in the middle of the night, you could end up waiting by yourself at an isolated bus or train station – and that’s not a position you want to be in. Before you buy a ticket, check what any connections will be like.

  43. Think twice about overnight trains and buses
  44. Overnight transportation can be convenient, but in countries where women face frequent harassment, it’s likely to be unpleasant. Try to read experiences from other solo female travelers before you decide to book a ticket.

  45. Ride in women-only cars when they’re available
  46. In some countries, the train and metro systems have designated women-only cars. While you might not like the idea of gender segregation on principle, riding in these cars can save you a lot of hassle and discomfort.

  47. Choose the least persistent drivers
  48. Drivers who are extremely persistent may be desperate for work – but they may also be trying to pull something else. A taxi driver who seems less interested in getting your business is unlikely to have something nefarious planned, so they’re a safer bet.

  49. Use a ride-sharing app when possible
  50. Apps like Uber are controversial in many places, but they can help you avoid scams and stay safe when you’re alone. The company will have a record of your trip, and it will set the route, making the driver less likely to try to take you somewhere else.

  51. Only drive a motorbike if you know how
  52. It’s common in many countries for travelers to rent motorbikes to get around, but they can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t want to end up having an accident and getting stuck somewhere in a vulnerable situation. If you haven’t ridden a motorbike before, a solo trip isn’t the time to learn.

  53. Don’t wear headphones while walking around
  54. While walking around alone in a new place, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Wearing headphones will block out the sounds around you and distract you from what’s going on. Plus, pickpockets often target people wearing headphones, because it’s assumed they’re not paying attention.

  55. Walk near local women or families if you feel uncomfortable
  56. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable while you’re out, try to walk near local women or families. The same applies to where you sit at restaurants, bus and train stations, and on public transportation. People will probably be less likely to bother you, and you’ll have someone nearby to ask for help if you need it.

  57. Don’t walk around by yourself at night
  58. One of the biggest rules for solo female travel safety is something we all already know. If you’re out at night, either walk in a group or take a taxi.

  59. Keep your wits about you
  60. There’s nothing wrong with going out for some drinks while traveling, but don’t let things get too out of control. You’ll be able to better keep yourself safe if you’re clearheaded.

  61. Don’t leave your drinks unattended
  62. Something else that’s just as true on the road as it is at home: be careful not to drink anything that could have been tampered with. Don’t leave your drink unattended, and make sure you actually see the bartender open or pour it.

  63. Meet up with online contacts in a public place
  64. Connecting with people online is often part of travel, whether it’s for a date or platonic meet-ups. Either way, make arrangements to meet in a public place where there will be other people around, preferably a spot you’ve been to before.

  65. Try not to stick out as a tourist.
  66. Pickpockets and scammers mainly go after tourists, so do what you can to avoid looking like one. Avoid stereotypical tourist clothes, and don’t pull out a guidebook in public.

  67. Act confident, even if you’re faking it
  68. How you carry yourself makes a difference in how people treat you. Especially as a solo female traveler, acting unsure or showing that you’re lost makes you seem like an easier target. Even if you’re uncomfortable or have no idea where you are, keep your head up and walk with purpose.

  69. Trust your instincts
  70. If something is wrong, your gut will let you know. The important thing is to listen to it, especially as a solo female traveler. If you’re uncomfortable or you sense that something is off, trust your instincts and get out of there.

  71. Make sure someone knows where you are
  72. Stay in touch with people at home, and keep them updated on your location, accommodations, and travel plans. When you take day trips or excursions, it’s also smart to let the staff at your hotel know where you’re going. If something does happen, you’ll be much better off if somebody knows where you are.

  73. Take precautions to stay healthy
  74. Getting sick while traveling alone is awful, and it can even compromise your safety. You won’t have your guard up, you’ll feel more desperate, and it can be easy to forget to do things like lock your door. To stay healthy, make sure you avoid food and water that could be contaminated, and get the recommended vaccinations before you go.

  75. Keep some emergency cash in a secret place
  76. You never want to find yourself totally out of cash, because you might need money to get away from an uncomfortable situation. Instead of putting all your money in one place, keep some emergency cash hidden somewhere. Even if your wallet or bag gets stolen, you’ll still have the secret stash.

  77. Pay attention to your surroundings
  78. One of the most important things you can do to stay safe is to know what’s going on around you. In particular, pay attention to other people and notice if someone is following you or standing too close.

  79. Keep your hotel’s contact information with you
  80. If you get lost, it’ll be much easier to get back if you can show a driver your hotel’s name and address. Make sure you have their phone number too, so the driver can call for directions if they can’t find it.

  81. Don’t resist if you get mugged
  82. The likelihood of getting mugged is extremely low, of course. But if the absolute worst-case scenario happens, don’t fight it. Just give the muggers your wallet or whatever they ask for; trying to resist will only make it worse.

  83. Be willing to spend more to stay safe
  84. When paying more can help keep you safer, it’s always worth it. For example, it’s smart to spend extra to stay at a more secure hotel, or to pay for a cab instead of walking at night. Don’t let your safety become secondary to your travel budget.

Sources:

When country-specific data was not available, regional averages were used with the following sources:

Top