Despite the fact that the rights and liberties afforded to women across the world are gradually increasing, female (particularly solo) travellers face a unique set of risks that employers and travellers should be aware of prior to deployment abroad.
Local laws and customs regarding the rights afforded to women can determine how one acts, dresses and talks to other people; contravention of these laws and customs can result in heavy penalties.
Your organisation can help you seek expert advice on the relevant legislation and how this impacts you specifically, and speaking to colleagues or friends who have travelled to the region before can provide a more personal insight into the customs you’ll be expected to adhere to. As well as this, Healix has compiled a list of some general tips and advice for female travellers to consider prior to deployment.
Consider the availability of female healthcare and hygiene products
Ensure necessary plans are in place prior to travel to ensure quick and safe access to emergency medication and healthcare if necessary. Emergency contraceptives such as the ‘morning-after pill’ are not so readily available in certain countries, and the purchase and disposal of sanitary hygiene products may be difficult in more remote regions or areas where menstruation is deemed a taboo issue. Ensure you have enough sanitary products and contraceptives with you to last the duration of your trip. If necessary, see a doctor prior to travel to change your contraceptive method to one that can mitigate the use of hygiene products entirely.
Ensure all medical documentation is up-to-date if pregnant or breastfeeding
Travelling while pregnant or breastfeeding is considered more challenging and requires careful planning. All non-essential travel should be avoided to areas with an ongoing high risk of Zika virus transmission, malaria and yellow fever. A copy of all maternity notes should be carried with you along with any details of pre-existing conditions and your blood group. It is a good idea to have these notes translated into the language of the country you are travelling to as misunderstandings and language barriers may make communication, diagnosis and treatment more difficult.
Remain alert when socialising and consuming alcohol
Unfortunately, the use of drugs in sexual assaults is becoming increasingly common and some substances are not easily detected. When out and about, particularly during evening hours, do not leave drinks unattended and avoid accepting drinks from strangers. If at all suspicious about a drink, tell a friend and inform the bar staff. If you start to feel dizzy, faint or drunk after only a couple of drinks, let a friend know immediately and inform the bar staff that your drink could have been spiked. If you are alone, phone the local police, a hospital or embassy.
Ensure you feel safe and secure in your accommodation
Many hotels now consider different safety strategies for lone females, including allocating rooms close to lifts and offering escorts to guest rooms. They may also offer discreet check-in, with unnumbered room keys, and well-lit secure car parking. Some hotels also offer women-only floors with female security. Ensure all access points to hotel rooms are locked, especially if alone, and consider a stopper to secure doors. Ask for a room with a peephole in case of unexpected visitors, keep balcony doors locked when out and ensure all doors and windows are inaccessible from outside.
Anticipate and prepare ways to deal with unwanted attention
Women are at higher risk of experiencing aggressive, threatening or inappropriate language, including cat-calling, flirting and sometimes physical contact. Avoid making eye contact with strangers, as in many countries this is seen as an invitation for further contact. This will not prevent all unwanted advances but may help to reduce them. In the event of experiencing cat-calling while walking alone, it is best to ignore the individual and any comments they make, and continue to walk away calmly. Consider wearing a wedding ring, even if you do not usually, to deter unwanted attention.