An uncomfortable stare that lingers too long.
A humiliating whistle while walking through the streets, mid-afternoon.
Footsteps that quicken from behind, while heading back to the hotel in the dark.
If the world was a report card, most countries would fail miserably when it comes to providing a welcoming, safe space for solo female travellers to explore at their own pace.
Too often, stories of women being attacked abroad make the news, and the argument arises as to whether or not women should be travelling on their own, and if they must, whether or not they should avoid certain countries altogether.
In a recent report by Allianz Global Assistance, data shows that more and more Canadian women are taking off across the globe on their own. According to the Conference Board of Canada, during the
Many popular tour operators, like Intrepid Travel, have even launched a series of Women’s Only Expeditions through Morocco, Jordan, and Iran, recognizing that the demand from female travellers to travel with like-minded women is at an all-time high.
But is solo travel safe?
Solo female travel is nothing new, but with the rise of social media sites like Instagram influencing and romanticizing the act, more women than ever before are setting out across the globe on their own.
Sometimes it’s a case of personal schedules not lining up with friends or partners; other times, solo travel is simply the preferred method. Regardless of the reason, the act of solo travel itself isn’t dangerous, it’s the external factors, or bluntly, other individuals or cultural perceptions and societal norms which jeopardize the opportunity for women to travel comfortably on their own.
Recently, researchers Asher and Lyric Fergusson, who have appeared in Bloomberg, the Independent, The Boston Globe, and Business Insider, to name a few, have published a study on the world’s most dangerous countries for women traveling alone.
The study, called the “Women’s Danger Index”, ranks 50 countries with the most international tourists. The results are based on statistics that draw from various threats, including existing levels of intentional violence against women, to determine the overall risk factor for women visiting on their own.
Eight different factors were examined:
- Safe to walk alone at night
- Intentional homicide of women
- Non-partner sexual violence
- Intimate partner violence
- Legal discrimination
- Global gender gap
- Gender inequality index
- Violence against women attitudes
The most dangerous places for women
Of the 50 countries ranked, not one earned an “A” grade. Three received “B+”, eight received “B”, eight received “B-“, six received “C+”, four received “C”, eight received “C-“, seven received “D+”, four received “D”, one received a “D-“, and one received an “F”.
South Africa was ranked the most dangerous place for women to travel solo, followed by Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Iran, and the Dominican Republic.
As two very popular all-inclusive beach destinations, it might come as a surprise to see Mexico and the Dominican Republic so high up on the list of dangerous vacation spots.
It's important to remember that an influx of tourists means that there's a higher possibility for incidents to occur, and thus, a higher likelihood of incidents being documented and thus reported to authorities. It's also important to remember that solo travel doesn't necessarily mean a solo trip to a gated resort community, where incidents are generally lower because the environments are more controlled.
Spain was ranked as the safest, followed by Singapore, Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland.
Canada came in ninth place, and the U.S. placed in 32nd place, which is reported as having one of the highest accounts of non-partner sexual violence. Again, it's important to remember that certain countries might possibly have lower accounts of non-partner sexual violence as a result of harbouring cultural views that don't encourage women to come forward and report violent acts.
Acts of partner and non-partner sexual violence exists in every corner of the world, and travelling as a solo female, it's important to know and understand that the risk can exist anywhere.
Solo travel: does it come with a cost?
Walking alone at night, an activity that sounds so simple, is one of the biggest concerns for solo female travellers who are treading in unfamiliar territory.
In remote or rural places where Ubers and taxis do not operate, this poses a severe risk. According to the survey, the worst places for women to walk alone at night were, in order: South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Chile, Turkey, Malaysia, and Egypt.
Solo female travellers therefore, must take several things into consideration when they plan on heading out for the night in unknown territory, such as knowing whether or not a taxi or rideshare service is available, and the hotel's address.
Some women make a point of checking in with a friend prior to heading out and sharing the details of their hotel. Others make a point of not "checking in" via Instagram or Facebook, to avoid alerting strangers to their whereabouts until after they've left the premises.
Acts of sexual violence are another threat that women face worldwide.
Reports of non-partner sexual violence are largely underreported. Regardless, the study by Asher and Lyric found that South Africa, Australia, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, China, South Korea, Japan, Sweden and the Netherlands were among the countries with the highest reports of non-partner sexual violence.
Cultural attitudes regarding violence against women could influence the treatment of women who visit those countries from overseas.
According to the report, a startling number of women believe that a man is justified in perpetuating violence against a woman under “certain circumstances” in the following countries: Thailand, China, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt, Vietnam, South Africa, and Morocco. Additionally, women living in the following countries experience the highest levels of violence from their partners: Morocco, Thailand, China, Turkey, India, Brazil, the U.S., Chile, Vietnam, and Argentina.
Some of these places may seem shocking, as all of these countries are popular vacation spots frequented by many, time and time again without incident. However, due to their popularity, the likelihood of reporting such incidents is much higher, as the report by Asher and Lyric cautions.
The Canadian Government has published a guide with tips for females going abroad, including taking into consideration the political and economic environment, local laws, customs, and cultural norms, as well as dealing with unwanted attention in a safe way.
In summary, so long as solo female travellers account for their surroundings, plan ahead, and go with their gut, travelling anywhere can be enjoyable.
For the full report by Asher and Lyric, click here.
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