Safety. Security. Peace of mind. These are not words usually associated with business travel. Especially if you are a woman. Today’s travel landscape has changed dramatically in just the last five years.
TravelPlex wanted to provide a travel guide that contains tips to minimize risks and help women make their traveling safe and enjoyable. Travel, domestic or international, poses risks for anyone. It is possible to become a victim of a crime, experience a medical emergency or become impacted by a natural disaster. Travelers may not be familiar with the language, culture, or security threats of a specific destination, leaving them susceptible to potential harm.

  • 40% of female travelers feel less safe or much less safe about traveling than they did five years ago.
  • 85% reported that their employers either did not provide travel safety tips/resources or that they weren’t aware of any such tools.
  • 60% of women think about safety always or frequently while traveling.
  • The top four risks that women consider before or during a trip are theft and scams, such as pickpocketing/purse snatching (91%), credit card fraud (85%), identity theft (60%), and taxi scams (57%).
  • The top two actions that women take with a goal of increasing their personal safety before or during a trip are sharing an itinerary with a spouse, friend, colleague or family member (93%) and purchasing travel insurance, emergency travel medical coverage, and/or emergency travel evacuation coverage (87%)

The world is an unpredictable place, and while you can’t be prepared for everything, knowing and planning for potential risks can help you travel confidently. Ask your relatives, friends and colleagues for their best travel advice and share yours to amplify the message for women – and men - to be aware and alert when traveling!

TRAVELPLEX TRENDY TRAVEL TIPS

Traveling can be fun. However, it can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful. When traveling for business, or alone, it is best to use as much caution as possible. Two primary reasons are that you are probably traveling alone, and you are visiting a city, town and hotel that you are unfamiliar with. A recent survey by Hyatt Hotel's found that most women don't think guestrooms are clean; have insecurities about safety at hotels and they don't like to sit alone at the bar or restaurant but want a place other than their room to work or unwind.

The Following are some suggestions for safer travel. Many of these are probably part of your standard travel procedures, but there may be a few new suggestions that could help you from being placed in harm’s way. The best advice and thing to always remember is to use your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Always error on the side of caution. Hopefully these tips will allow you to have a safe trip.

Exercise hotel safety

  • At check-in, ask for a room near the elevator so you won't need to walk down long, potentially ill-lit hallways to reach your room.
  • When filling out guest registration forms, consider using your first initial instead of your name, perhaps use "Mr. & Mrs."
  • At check in, obtain two business cards or a postcard, something with the hotel’s name and address on it. Place one of them by the phone in your room and keep the other with you when you leave. This way, if you get lost, you have the address and phone number handy.
  •  If possible, select a room between the 2nd and 6th floor. Avoid rooms above the 6th floor because that is the normal maximum height that fire-department ladders can reach.
  • Whenever possible do not accept a room on the ground floor that has doors and windows that open to the outside.
  • Make sure the clerk writes down your room number instead of saying it out loud. If the clerk happens to say the room number aloud, request another room.
  • If you arrive in a bus or cab, stay with your luggage until it is brought into the lobby.  Also, keep a close eye on your luggage, purse, etc. while checking in.
  • Never hang a filled-out breakfast card on your door; this lets people know you're alone.
  • Look for a hotel that has valet parking, particularly if you'll be arriving at night. It may cost a little bit more, but the price of safety and security (not to mention convenience) is worth it.
  • Make sure you have excellent directions to the hotel BEFORE you start driving! Nothing like driving around downtown in a rental car not knowing where you're going.
  • On elevators if you are alone and someone suspicious gets on, get off. If you are embarrassed, just pretend you forgot something (“Ooops, I forgot my paper at the front desk”, etc.).
  • If someone knocks on your door identifying themselves as hotel staff, call the front desk to confirm that someone from housekeeping, maintenance has indeed been sent to your room. If the front desk cannot confirm this, alert the front desk that you have someone at your door claiming to be from the hotel staff. Do NOT open the door.

Hotel room safety
When entering your room, check the following:

  • If available, allow the bellhop to open the door to your room, turn on the lights and check that the room is available and ready for your stay.
  • Make sure the door closes securely and that the deadbolt works.
    • You may want to bring a door stop with you in your luggage that you can place against the inside of the door when you retire for the evening.
  • Check the closets and bathrooms to make sure no one is hiding there.
  • Make sure all windows and adjoining doors are locked.
  • Check the telephone to ensure you know how to make an outside call.
  • Look for fire safety information and locate the nearest fire exit.
  • When leaving your room, always leave the television and a couple of lights on.
  • Place the “Do not Disturb” sign on the door. This sign is valuable because it gives the impression someone is in the room
  • If you want maid service, call housekeeping and let them know it is okay to enter the room
  • You may want to bring along a couple of large plastic bags. One to place the TV remote control in, the other for the phone handle.
  • Keep all your personal toiletries out of sight from the maids. Enough said.

Hotel parking lots

  •  Always walk in numbers at night.
  • Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. Thieves know that rental cars contain items of value.
  • In a parking garage, park as close to an exit as possible.
  • When approaching your car, always have the keys in hand.
  • Women should keep their purses close to their bodies. Keep it in front of you with a hand on top of it.
  • Do not feel awkward asking for an escort to your car.
  • It is recommended to use the valet service at night.

Arrive during the day

  • Arrive in new cities during the day. Areas around bus and train stations can be scary and/or deserted, and small towns tend to shut down early.
  • Plenty of beautiful towns can appear eerie at night, and locals who are genuinely trying to help you can appear unnecessarily threatening. Arriving during the day means you'll be able to find a place to stay and get your bearings before dark.

Keep your documents safe

  • Keep your passport, extra money, and other important documents tucked away, and use a bag or purse for carrying daily spending money.
  • Keep copies of your passport and credit cards in a separate and secure location.  One idea - store copies of such documents under the insoles of shoes. They may not smell great, but they'll be there if you need them.
  • Before traveling make a copy (front and back) of every card (credit, insurance, motor club, etc.) that is in your wallet. This will be very valuable if your wallet is lost or stolen.

Dress appropriately

  • Dress as conservatively as the women you see around you.
  • A good rule of thumb is to dress modestly, especially when traveling overseas. Think knee-length or longer skirts. Bare arms, shoulders, and legs are considered risqué in some countries, so do the research before you go and once you're there.
  • Note which body parts the local women cover and do the same.
  • Less is best when it comes to wearing flashy jewelry or expensive watches.
    • Your jewelry and clothes will determine if you will be a thief’s next target. 

Know when to buddy up

  • Traveling alone doesn't always mean being alone.
  • There are plenty of situations in which seeking out company can make for a safer and more enjoyable experience.
  • Smaller hotels are great places to find like-minded travelers to explore new places with.
  • In some countries, there are women-only sections in trains and women's waiting rooms at train stations. Sticking close to families on public transportation and in unfamiliar public markets and bazaars is another technique some women use.

Combat harassment

  • A few might argue that it's just a well-developed appreciation of women, but unsolicited stares, calls, and attention feel more like harassment when you're alone in unfamiliar territory. Having a repertoire of harassment deterrents can be as important to women travelers as a sturdy pair of shoes and a passport.
  • If you want to avoid being approached during lulls in activity, such as while waiting for or while traveling on trains, it can be a good idea to carry a novel, paper for writing to friends, or a laptop.  That way, you've got a prop that makes you look busy and involved.
  • If a situation of harassment escalates, making a scene can sometimes be effective. Many societies place a high premium on respecting social norms, so drawing attention to harassment in a loud and clear manner may solve the problem.

Research body language and culture

  • Depending on the country, seemingly innocuous gestures such as eye contact, shaking hands, smiling, and small talk can be construed as come-ons.
  • Learning the subtleties of body language and local culture before you arrive can prevent awkward or misleading situations.
  • Reading up on the culture before you go can also make your trip more enlightening and enjoyable.
  • When in doubt, spend some time observing those around you, and then follow suit.
  • And if you're someone who likes to people watch or study faces, a dark pair of sunglasses can come in handy to avoid any confusion about eye contact.

Exude confidence

  • Whether you're on a street at home or 7,000 miles away, walking confidently and with direction is an effective technique for deterring unwanted attention, since appearing lost or confused can make you vulnerable.
  • If you are lost, walk into a shop or restaurant and ask for directions there.
  • Try to avoid obviously looking at maps while you're in the street. Study your route before you go, or find one of those wallet-sized maps that you can discreetly palm and refer to on the sly.
  • Many phones today offer step-by-step directions to destinations. Use them if possible.

Keep in touch

  • If you're traveling alone, it will be important to have a few regular contacts that can keep tabs on you.
  • Leave a general itinerary behind with work colleagues, family and friends, and send regular emails so that people know where you are.
  • When booking your trip through Travel Plex, our counselors have record of where you based on your itinerary.  This can be especially helpful when traveling in dangerous areas or in the event of a natural disaster.
  • If you make changes on your own and do not alert anyone else, it will be hard for anyone to know where you are.

Use common sense

  • Using common sense is perhaps the single best tip for staying safe and having a good time while you're traveling alone.
  • This category includes the usual recommendations:
    • keep your purse zipped at all times,
    • don't walk around late at night,
    • don't drink with strange men,
    • don't ride in empty compartments on trains
    • stay away from commotions,
    • don't compromise safety to save a few bucks on a hotel or transportation,
    • expensive jewelry belongs at home

Though these tips have been compiled for solo women travelers, they're good guidelines for men and general travel as well. Awareness of your surroundings and a bit of street-smarts are the keys to safe and happy travels.