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.
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:
- Gallup World Poll (2018): Percentage of women who feel safe walking alone at night = 2 points
- Equal Measures 2030 (2018): Female victims of intentional homicide index = 2 points
- UN Women (2016): Lifetime Non-Partner Sexual Violence = 1 point
- Georgetown Institute (2017/2018): Lifetime Intimate Partner Violence = 1 point
- Georgetown Institute (2017/2018): Legal Discrimination = 1 point
- World Economic Forum (2017): Global Gender Gap = 1 point
- UN Development Program (2017): Gender Inequity = 1 point
- 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.
- Dominican Republic 551.32
- Malaysia: 527.64
- United States: 456.31
- Australia: 370.10
- Croatia: 286.53
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.
- South Africa: 771.82
- Brazil: 624.28
- Russia: 592.71
- Mexico: 576.05
- Iran 553.11
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.
- Spain: 212.04
- Singapore: 245.26
- Ireland 247.31
- Austria: 251.63
- Switzerland: 252.78
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 Countries||Street Safety||Intentional Homicide||Non-Partner Violence||Intimate Partner Violence||Legal Discrimination||Global Gender Gap||Gender Inequality||Attitudes Toward Violence||Women's Danger Index|
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?
42 tips for women traveling alone
- Start with “easier” and safer travel destinations
- Enroll in the State Department’s STEP Program
- Research your destination before you go
- Take your smartphone
- Bring a doorstop and a whistle
- Pack light
- Dress appropriately for the culture
- Get to know local people
- Don’t be too friendly with local men
- Don’t worry about needing to be “nice”
- Consider pretending to have a husband
- Don’t go anywhere with strangers
- Ignore overly helpful locals
- Read reviews carefully before deciding where to stay
- Choose centrally located accommodations
- Consider making reservations in advance
- Make sure people can’t see into your room
- Avoid small mixed-gender dorm rooms
- Don’t tell people where you’re staying
- Take long-distance transportation that arrives during the day
- Avoid making bus or train connections at night
- Think twice about overnight trains and buses
- Ride in women-only cars when they’re available
- Choose the least persistent drivers
- Use a ride-sharing app when possible
- Only drive a motorbike if you know how
- Don’t wear headphones while walking around
- Walk near local women or families if you feel uncomfortable
- Don’t walk around by yourself at night
- Keep your wits about you
- Don’t leave your drinks unattended
- Meet up with online contacts in a public place
- Try not to stick out as a tourist.
- Act confident, even if you’re faking it
- Trust your instincts
- Make sure someone knows where you are
- Take precautions to stay healthy
- Keep some emergency cash in a secret place
- Pay attention to your surroundings
- Keep your hotel’s contact information with you
- Don’t resist if you get mugged
- Be willing to spend more to stay safe
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2018 Edition (pages 17-18)
- UN Women Global Database on Violence Against Women
- Equal Measures 2030: Female victims of intentional homicide index
- World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap 2017 Overall Score (pages 58-347)
- UN Development Programme Human Development Reports — Gender Inequality Index
- Gallup Poll: “Do you feel safe walking alone at night?”
- Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security: Women, Peace, and Security Report 2017/18 (pages 48-53)
- OECD International Development Statistics: Gender, Institutions and Development: Violence Against Women
When country-specific data was not available, regional averages were used with the following sources: