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Solo Female Travellers: The Issue of Safety

Solo Female Travellers: The Issue of Safety
Author: Eleanor Ferry
1 Commentries
Keywords: Solo Female Traveller, Safety, Risk, Personal Safety, Equal Rights

In the modern day travel industry, more women are motivated to solo travel to unfamiliar countries due to the “desire to challenge themselves” (Wilson and Little, 2011). The gender roles have been changing since the mid-20th century, allowing women to gain equal rights. This independence has allowed women to have a choice. This has resulted in more solo female travellers through these newfound motivations.

With the growth of solo female travellers comes the increase in the issue of safety. The conference paper is focusing on the personal attacks for female safety when they solo travel. This issue has been widespread for solo travellers which is fed to them through the media. Despite Western civilisation gaining gender equality, this cannot be said for all cultures. Some Eastern countries are yet to achieve this right for women due to differing cultures and religions. However, this is a generalised view for these cultures and cannot be used to describe all men and all Western or Eastern civilisations (Khan, 2011). There are no solid statistics on attacks against female tourists, therefore it is difficult to measure the extent of this issue. This could be a result of non-reporting, data suppression or not being publicised to protect the destination’s image (Khoo-Lattimore and Wilson, 2017).

Safety issues can vary from theft to sexual attacks. Females face these issues daily and when abroad, this issue remains the same. It is already a social construct for females to be wary of certain times at night and to avoid travelling to certain areas. This remains the same for travelling to unfamiliar countries, if not increased. Wilson and Little (2011) found that 77% of respondents of international solo female travellers felt unsafe when solo travelling. Each year there are media reporting’s of missing or dead female travellers who had been attacked. However, this is only a minor amount compared to the number of females who solo travel each year. Also many reports have found to be “exaggerated or mis-represented” (Khoo-Lattimore and Wilson, 2017). The area they travel to can also have an impact on their feeling of safeness. Depending where the female is travelling to and the time of day, it all has an effect on how safe the female feels.

A semi-structured interview was conducted to gain insight into solo female travellers personal experiences. This method was used to build rapport with the participant and allow them to drive the interview. The name Mary will be used for the participant for their identity to remain anonymous to avoid any ethical issues. Mary is a 21 year old female who went solo travelling when she was 18. She chose to travel to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The interview found the primary issues were the local males, safety, and precautions. She revealed how the local men harassed the female travellers alone and when they were in groups of females. However, if there was a male traveller with them, there was less harassing. The main harassment occurred when she was in the remote locations, away from tourist areas. Mary explained the lack of support she received when it came to safety. She found that when she was volunteering with a scheme, she felt safer as they provided them with the proper information and an emergency number. She also discussed how the locals treated the travellers better when she volunteered. Mary did not carry any safety equipment in terms of whistles etc. yet said she would when she solo travels again.

Three recommendations were outlined to improve the safety of solo female travellers. They were a helpline, safety equipment, and for the travel industry to cater more for solo travellers. The helpline is to give women the feeling of security whilst travelling so that if anything was to occur they would have an emergency number which may help them translate or report situations. Safety equipment would be to ensure that all women take the right equipment with them and give advice on how to protect themselves. The travel industry would need to advise solo travellers and ensure their safety is not comprised. This would improve solo travellers’ experiences and to feel secure when travelling to unfamiliar places.

Overall, solo travellers are at risk when travelling to unfamiliar countries and the tourism industry should implement the correct safety precautions to ensure their safety.


Khan, S. (2011) Gendered Leisure: are women more constrained in travel for leisure? Tourismos, 6(1) 105-121. Available from https://www-cabdirect-org.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/cabdirect/FullTextPDF/2011/20113112487.pdf.

Khoo-Lattimore, C. and Wilson, E. (2017) Women and Travel: historical and contemporary perspectives. USA: CRC Press.

Wilson, E. and Little, D. (2011) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the ‘Geography of Women's Fear’. Current Issues in Tourism, 11(2) 167-186. Available from https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.2167/cit342.0?needAccess=true.
A commentary on ‘solo female travellers: The issue of safety”
Author: Amy Drayton
I have chosen to comment on this paper due to its relation and similarities to my dissertation. This paper outlines and addresses the issues of safety in relation to solo female travellers and successfully addresses’ the constraints associated with sexual harassment and assault. The author outlines how there is an increased amount of attacks against solo travellers, however it may be relevant to discuss here how there is also an increase in media coverage of such incidents. Linking to how the media depict these issues of safety and additionally giving a broader understanding of how women are viewed in contemporary society. Discussed is western civilisation and the difference in attitudes towards women across a variety of cultures which of course will affect women when travelling solo. The author also addresses how there is a lack of relevant statistics on safety regarding solo female travellers and this information is extremely relevant as if more incidents were accurately recorded. Then this could assist in addressing societal attitudes towards women’s safety and safety concerns of women when travelling solo.

The semi-structured interview is a welcomed addition to the paper. It gives a personal first-hand perspective of the issues relating to safety. With specific reference to Southeast Asian countries which have very different culture, religious and historical attributes and opinions to western societies. Additionally, addressing how non-tourist locations often present more risk to women travelling solo and how the addition of safety equipment such as whistles may be implemented in the future. This can be regarded as a coping strategy and outlined by Valentine (1998) could additionally be furthered researched here. Finally, the recommendations of equipment, helplines and advice I feel would be greatly apricated by many women who are hoping to travel solo.

The further references that the author could choose to explore are Valentine who was researched by Wilson and Little. Tulloch and Jennett. Finally, Khoo-Lattimore and Wilson who give background on traditional and contemporary views towards solo female travellers and background knowledge.


Valentine, G. (1998) The Geography of Women’s Fear. The Royal Geographical Society, 21(4)385-390.

Tulloch, M. and Jennett, C. (2001) Women’s Responses to Fear of Crime. Security Journal, 14,53-62.

Khoo-Lattimore, C. and Wilson, E. (2017) Introduction: Women and Travel, Past and Present. In: C, Khoo-Lattimore and E, Wilson (eds.) Women and Travel Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Oakville: Apple Academic Press, 2-13.