ADVENTURERS, BEACH GETAWAY, FOOD & WINE, NATURE
No place can be guaranteed to be 100% safe and some degree of caution should be exercised wherever anyone travels, especially if journeying solo. Unfortunately, for women, there are extra dangers and scenarios that need to be considered.
Given the importance of the travel and tourism economy to so many economies, most locations try to make solo women travellers feel welcome and safe, and there’s little doubt that progress has been made – the general increase in the number of women travelling alone is testament to that. The reality is though that there remain ignorant and uneducated individuals and groups in all societies – even within law enforcement and governance – who may or may not be products of a more general culture of misogyny. The effects of this can range from discomfort or belittlement – constant interruption in conversations, condescension, unwanted and persistent verbal advancements etc. – to genuine abuse and physical danger.
It also shouldn’t be taken for granted that developed nations – or popular tourist destinations with developed tourist infrastructures – will necessarily be safer than lesser visited areas. According to an extensive study about women’s safety while travelling, correlated using data from sources ranging from the UN Development Programme and The World Economic Forum by travel website Asher & Lyric, the US is the 19th most dangerous place to visit for a woman. Meanwhile Mexico and Brazil, both fantastic locations and well-established holiday destinations, are ranked second and fourth respectively according to the study’s Women’s Danger Index. South Africa, a nation abundant in natural wonders and wine producers, ranks number one on the index, coming out worst in three of the index’s eight categories.
On a far more positive note, Spain is 50th on the index, making it the safest place for female solo travel on the index. It goes without saying that the second most visited country in the world offers numerous worthwhile locations, not least of all the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of coastline. For decades Spain has been a favourite amongst Europeans for beach holidays, with numerous resorts and infrastructure dotting its mainland coast, the tropical Canary Islands and the Mediterranean Balearic Islands. Alongside stunning beach locations Madrid and Barcelona are two of the most vibrant and bustling cities in Europe, offering as much fun and nightlife as they do historical sites, art, and culture.
Parc Güell, Barcelona
Switzerland and Austria, meanwhile, occupy 46th and 47th on the list, giving peace of mind to solo female travellers wanting to enjoy the natural alpine beauty of the mountains, lakes and quaint towns of the Swiss alps. Austrian capital Vienna is a beautiful Germanic city famous as the principle home of Mozart and Beethoven. Both of these countries are small, navigable and even in winter can provide a perfect snowy and festive escape, perfect for a multi-destination trip regardless of the season.
Staying on the positive side of things but moving to a different source The International Women’s Travel Centre ranks Canada in its number one spot, making it the best option for solo female travellers in the Americas. Alongside its unofficial status as the global capital of winter sports Canada is home to an enormous wealth of forests, lakes, mountains, incredible wildlife, and some of the best views of the Northern Lights in the world. Vancouver, a stone’s throw from Whistler ski resort, is a pristine and verdant city on the country’s west coast, while Toronto is a perfect jumping off point to visit Niagara Falls.
Finland is ranked second on the list overall and number one in Europe, thanks to its status as number one in terms of security by the World Economic Forum in the organisation’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. Helsinki is one of the greenest capitals in the world while the country’s arctic north offers snow-sports, dog sleighing and is home to Santa Claus’ village. The ever-enchanting North Lights can also be seen from many locations in the country.
Lake in Finland
Staying in Scandinavia Norway too scores highly on various lists concerning women’s safety whilst travelling. The Lofoten islands having a growing and positive reputation thanks to their dramatic mountain skylines, lakes, fjords, coastlines and general sense of isolation. Capital city Oslo sits on the shimmering Fjord of the same name and offers a variety of cultural experiences. Several museums chart the maritime history of the country and its Viking heritage.
In the Southern Hemisphere New Zealand has long been considered one of the safest and most peaceful societies in the world, period, and routinely highly ranked for travel safety. Both the North and South Island offer numerous natural and cultural travel destinations and are endlessly explorable. The undulating green landscapes are internationally famous, as is the country’s abundant animal and birdlife. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are safe, modern, attractive cities. The parklands within volcanic Auckland and the nearby Bay of Islands are particularly beautiful.
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Another country almost universally acknowledged as safe for travellers is Japan, who’s mid-level placement on the Women’s Danger Index is compromised by the country’s wide “global gender gap”, a factor which shouldn’t directly impact too much on the enjoyment of a woman just visiting the country. Solo women should therefore be able to enjoy the bustle and ultra-modernism of cities such as Tokyo and Osaka as well as the beauty of the country’s ornate gardens and world-famous cherry blossom in relative peace.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article no location can ever truly be said to be 100% safe for travellers, and it must be acknowledged that women travelling alone may be more vulnerable to certain threats than others. However, with the resources available nowadays it is possible to make an informed choice about where to travel and thus lower the risk of negative encounters. Meanwhile we as societies must continue to work together to ensure articles such as this one become less necessary in the future.
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