Although some of us live in an equal society, many people in the world do not and in some places, women are treated quite differently from men. It is important for all travellers to be aware of these cultural differences when visiting such countries and to take steps to reduce the risk of any dangers.
Don't announce that you are travelling alone. If you think you are being followed, walk confidently and calmly into a shop, hotel or any other busy place. Wait to see if the person who was following has moved on. You can always ask someone else to look for you and check the person has gone. Often the best people to ask are other women or family groups.
Wearing a fake wedding ring can often discourage unwanted male attention.
Not all countries appreciate woman revealing a lot of flesh. While bikinis and skimpy vest tops are acceptable in most of Europe, they are not acceptable in parts of Asia, Africa and other areas of the world. Often women are expected to cover their shoulders and not have their knees on show. Always check before entering any temple or religious building that you are correctly dressed so as not to offend the locals.
If you are visiting a country as a woman and are in the minority, be aware that you might attract attention; do not roam the streets casually. When you do go out, walk confidently and always know where you are heading. If you want to get a taxi, ask at the hotel or hostel for advice on where to get one. Try not to go out alone and always remember to stay with your friends even if they drive you crazy at times. It is safer in a group than alone.
Think about your hairstyle. Long hair either loose or tied in a ponytail can attract opportunists. It is easy to grab hold of it and restrain or drag you to the floor. Short hair could be a benefit for several reasons, not least for ease of washing!
If you have a rape alarm, carry it with you and make sure it is easy to access. If it is tucked away in the bottom of your bag, by the time you find it, it could be too late. The purpose of a rape alarm is to startle the attacker to allow you to get away. Make sure you know how to use the alarm. Most alarms are most effective when held as close to the attacker’s head as possible.
You may start out travelling alone but if you find a companion that you feel comfortable and trust, do not be too nervous about suggesting travelling together even if it is just to the next location. They are probably feeling the same way as you.
Female medication and sanitary needs may not be easy to find in remote areas so make sure you take plenty with you including small disposal bags for sanitary towels. If you are taking the pill, know what type it is and what may happen when taken with other medications such as malaria tablets. Ask questions before you go rather than struggle in a foreign language.
If you are eating out when alone, take a book with you to read rather than staring round the room. Choose a well lit and busy place close to your accommodation if you are not sure of the area.
If a man asks to spend time with you, be careful. In some countries, just saying yes to an invitation gives the wrong idea. You could find yourself at serious risk of sexual assault if this is not the 'norm' in that country. Again, knowing the culture of the country before you go helps you be prepared.
Carry your bag across your body when walking; this leaves both hands free to protect yourself if you need to. This could also stop your bag from being snatched. Do not keep all your valuables in one bag. Money belts are useful but try not to rely on them completely to carry all your money and passport etc; some thieves will check to see if you are wearing a money belt.
Wrap your bag straps around your legs (or your chair)when in a restaurant to prevent it being snatched. If sleeping on a journey, again secure your bag in such a way that anyone trying to steal it or gain access to it wakes you up.
Forget about being polite if you feel uncomfortable. It is better to be considered rude than to do something you feel really unhappy doing just because you think you should. For instance, if someone wants to share a lift with you but you feel uncomfortable in their presence firmly say ‘no’. Also remember that making a loud noise or attracting attention if you are uncomfortable is acceptable.
If you are bothered by unwanted male attention, particularly when travelling alone, try to avoid eye contact, do not talk to the man, and walk away quickly but confidently away. In some areas, it may be normal to be stared at, especially if you are blonde-haired and pale skinned.
Leave all valuable jewellery at home. If it is fake but looks valuable, it is still best to leave it behind. You might like to have your favourite necklace with you to make you feel good but it is not worth the risk.
Don't reveal your holiday plans on social networking sites. Criminals may target these sites for their next victims.
Check that window and door locks work and are secure in hotel rooms. Also make sure that sliding balcony doors in your room are locked during the night. On dark evenings, keep your room curtains closed. Don't forget to display the 'DO NOT DISTURB' notice on your hotel room door to discourage anyone from entering your room.
If abroad, always be aware of local customs and dress codes. Instead of folding your clothes up to stop them creasing - roll them up!! They will also take up less space. A sarong is a very useful clothing item as it can be used to cover your head, shoulders or legs easily if required.
If you are out alone at night, try and walk attached to a group of people so that you do not appear alone to anyone watching. Make sure that someone always knows where you are and when you are expected. Always look and act confident, even if you don't feel it.
A small pack of wet-wipes are always handy to carry around along with a small bottle of hand sanitiser. In remote places, it may pay to carry toilet tissue (folded rather than a full roll!!!) with you.
Do keep a small amount of spare cash hidden inside your bra or sock then if the worst happens and you are forced to hand over your bag, you can still get back to your hostel. Also leave one card separate so you never lose them all.
For a really good read BEFORE you go, especially if you are unsure what to expect, pack etc read High Heels and a Head Torch written by Chelsea Duke published by panmacmillan www.panmacmillan.com This book is funny, informative and very knowledgeable, a must for "girls who backpack" We aim to provide a comprehensive list of female-friendly accommodation, holidays and transport companies which we have identified as sharing our ethos of prioritising women's needs, comfort and safety.