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Seven smart safety tips for women travellers

By Evelyn Hannon,

Comments (14)

One of the best treats of retirement is having more time to devote to travel. Along with the joys of seeing the world there are some hazards, however, such as theft. Because you don’t want to be robbed while travelling, here are seven practical tips to help you stay ahead of thieves on the road.

Seven smart safety tips for women travellers1. Start with a game

The next time you’re walking in your city centre or taking public transportation, try this short mental exercise — it will serve you well when you’re travelling abroad. Look around you. Which people stand out? Whose purse has an outside pocket half-unzipped? Who keeps checking the posted subway maps? Who looks relaxed? Is anybody consulting a guidebook? Who looks timid? This is exactly what an experienced thug does as he chooses his prey. Whose pocket would you choose to pick? Why? Hopefully, the insights you gain will help you to protect yourself from wrongdoers as you travel.

2. Be culturally correct in your dress

The best way for a thief to pick you out of a crowd is not by the colour of your skin or the shape of your eyes. It’s by what you’re wearing. If you’re dressed like a local,  a pickpocket will not necessarily choose you first. He won’t be sure if you actually live in the area and are therefore up to his tricks, or are an unsuspecting visitor. More often he’ll target a female who doesn’t seem to fit in. You can do pre-trip research on culturally correct clothing at What should I wear, where?

3. Expensive jewelry belongs at home

Unless you’re attending a fabulous wedding or high-society ball abroad, leave all your jewels at home. They will always be a hindrance to your safety. Wear an inexpensive, utilitarian watch, something that will go unnoticed. If you absolutely must sport some bling for an evening on the town, try dressing up your hair. A dime-store rhinestone barrette or sparkly hairpin works wonders when worn with a black shirt and pants.

4. Your wallet is not really your wallet

Keep your money and important documents in a cotton money belt worn close to your body. Then carry a fake wallet with you. That’s the one you want the pickpocket or mugger to get if you’re singled out. Have fun putting this decoy together. Fill it with a few local bills and then augment the wad with currency no longer in circulation, such as French francs or Dutch guilders. Everybody has plastic cards with a name and user number on it that look like credit cards but aren’t. This includes membership cards for video rentals or points cards for your local grocery. They don’t have contact information on them so you can put them in your decoy wallet without fear. Never fight with anybody who demands your wallet. Having your fake in your purse to hand over is a very smart move.

5. Making connections, discouraging connections

When on holiday, leave those formal business cards behind. Instead, carry colourful postcards from home and give your new acquaintances a glimpse of the city or town where you live. Relevant contact information can be printed on the reverse. For example, there is no need to give a stranger your home address or phone number. Instead, a Hotmail or Gmail address is perfect for testing out new relationships.

6. This food looks good enough to eat

Picture this: You’re travelling on an overnight train in Europe. The young couple seated beside you is chatty and offers lots of good advice about what to do at your destination. They unpack a picnic of sausage, cheese, fresh bread and wine. The aromas are so enticing; they offer to share. You’re thinking, “This is what European travel is all about.” However, evaluate carefully before you partake. Understand that drugging is always a possibility. You don’t want to wake up to find your friendly neighbours gone, along with all your belongings.

7. Bonus tip

When strangers ask you what you do for a living and you’re not sure if they can be trusted, tell them you’re a policewoman on holiday. They’ll quickly find some other traveller to prey on.

Evelyn Hannon is the editor of, the largest online travel resource for women.

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Kris on

Smart ideas for travel….. My biggest complaint is – I am a widow and generally travel alone. My costs are now higher as the rooms are booked as double occupancy and much of the activity schedules involve couple mixes.

Northwood on

“carry a fake wallet “? It’s a bit too much don’t you think? I would like to carry as little as possible let alone a useless wallet in my pocket just to attract thieves …and hometown postcards? tell people I am a police on holiday? You have too much imaginations.

TheMonkler on

I just got back from Europe (Germany was our longest stay) and the people in France, Austria, Germany, and Italy were just about all friendly and were fine when you spoke english to them. This article is informative but I would not reccomend feeling too paranoid on your trip to Europe, all big cities are like that.

Advice I would pass on is learn some basics in the language of the country you’ll be going to: Why? The locals will appreciate your efforts or commend you on your pronounciation skills if they are apparent.

Also note that Europeans can sometimes come off as dismissive and ignoring you if you are at their place of work. Say you want to order a sammich in Italy at a small café and the guy behind the counter doesn’t seem Thrilled! to see you, you shouldn’t take offence as some people are just like that normally to everyone and it’s not directed at you.

There’s so much to tell. Just go there and make sure to brush up on the customs of each country and take only cash and a card if you’ll go out in the clubs. Be a nice person and represent your country properly by respecting theirs.

Teresa Keane on

I travel a lot and follow all the safety tips apart from numbers 1 and 6. I never thought about food being drugged but it certainly is something to consider.

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