Being a girl on the road will always be more tiring and challenging than traveling as a guy. It does not mean that women are much more vulnerable, but they are simply considered so in many male-dominating societies around the world. Bad things can happen anywhere, but they usually don’t. Many so-called ‘3rd-world countries’ are considered very dangerous for women, but in fact you will find that people there are extremely friendly and helpful. As a girl, you have your own set of comfort and safety requirements, and to comply with the latter I advise you to take into consideration some of these tips:
Know where are you going
Having no plan is a good thing, because you will always be up to an unexpected adventure, acquaintance or discovery. However, you must make a basic research on your country of destination. Find out about its traditions, especially its family values and customs. Find some female travel bloggers who have written about their experience in the country. Ask around on Lonely Planet forum or other traveler’s networks. Find out about the safe areas of the city and the areas where you shouldn’t go.
It’s all in your face, really
One fellow female traveler told me about her experience of traveling in Egypt on her own: ‘Contrary to what most other girls say, I was not being harassed on a daily basis. It must be something in my face and the way of holding myself: I always walk fast, do not make eye contact with strangers and have a pissed-off look on public transport. Of course, looking grumpy does not help you make too many friends but it really protects you from the clingy crowd.’ In some places, it always better to give an impression of an arrogant know-it-all traveler than a naive and confused tourist. Even when you are lost, never show it.
Obvious as it may sound, but when Rome, wear a toga… In Iran, covering your head (even for a foreigner) is compulsory by law. In Pakistan, Zanzibar, Egypt, and many other Muslim countries, it is not, but by not doing so you will score a lot of unnecessary attention, stares and maybe even aggression. Wearing jewelry is never a good idea, unless you are in an extremely safe country.
Take a few self-defense classes or carry a pepper spray
You do not have to turn into Cat Woman or Black Widow, but knowing a few kicks will help you get a moral advantage over the attacker. Pepper spray is also a great thing to have, provided that you manage not to lose to the airport security. http://www.amazon.com/Self-Defense-Store-PS-LS-BLACK-Lipstick-Pepper/dp/B0025P4ATA
Learn who you can trust
It is always recommendable to write down the numbers of local emergency line, police and your embassy. Your embassy is supposed to help you with all troubles related to passport loss or problems with local authorities, but, let’s be honest, some embassy workers are simply useless or really have no clue what to do with you. Same applies to the local police: when traveling in Kenya, I realized that police will probably be the last people I would go to if I was mugged or robbed (because most likely the police staff gets their own cut from all the muggings and robberies). In Africa and Asia, I also heard a lot of stories of traveling girls being harassed by police officers when they’d go there to ask for help. This all might sound terrifying, but believe me, there is always someone you can trust! Your CouchSurfing host, friendly hotel receptionist, a fellow traveller you met at the hostel. Keep their phone numbers for emergencies.