Ria is a young millennial from the U.S. Midwest who ditched her office job to teach and travel abroad.
With smartphones and the internet making global travel easier than ever, more women are venturing off on solo excursions wherever their hearts desire. While this can be a beautiful thing, it's opened up a new question for would-be adventurers: Which countries and cities are actually safe for a woman traveling alone?
Discussing crime and safety in foreign countries can be difficult, since many subjective experiences can be colored by bias. It's also important to remember that our home countries have violence and harassment problems of their own, and that our own neighborhoods might be more dangerous than some parts of the countries on this list.
That said, though, there are some countries where traveling alone as a woman is generally going to be more risk than it's worth. Here are five countries where street harassment can quickly escalate into violence, or where women are targeted for other crimes (such as robbery).
While violence in Egypt is fairly low overall, far too many women report harassment, and groping here. Cairo in particular is dangerous, with many anecdotal reports of stalking and catcalling overshadowing the city's amazing potential for tourism.
Avoiding violence in the crowds of the city isn't easy, even if you're a professional trying to do your job. In 2011, journalist Lara Logan was repeatedly assaulted in a horrific incident while she attempted to cover the overthrow of the Egyptian government.
The problem doesn't lie with a small group of men, either. One survey showed that 43% of men in Egypt believe that women liked being sexually harassed.
Traveling in a group in Egypt is no cakewalk either, since scams and theft are common. Overall, this is one destination that female travelers may find to be far more hazardous than it's worth.
India sees millions of foreign tourists every year, but female solo travelers have a tendency to avoid the country, no matter how badly they want to see the Taj Mahal. In one survey of global experts, India was ranked the most dangerous country for women - outranking Saudi Arabia and even Afghanistan.
Sexual assault is an ongoing problem in India, with men feeling entitled to touch any unaccompanied woman they see - and unfortunately, foreign women often attract attention no matter how modestly they dress. The problem is reportedly worse in major cities like Delhi. Traveling between cities, especially on sleeper trains, can be an especially harrowing ordeal.
Of course, like any country, some areas are safer than others. Some female travelers suggest Tamil Nadu as a relatively safe destination for women, since the area's culture values the independence of women more than in the northern areas of India.
Though parts of Morocco are absolutely gorgeous and relatively safe, they simply aren't worth the trip if you have to travel through Marrakesh. Women report rampant catcalling and groping, and some are even followed back to their hotels. Casablanca isn't as bad, but the culture of misogyny still exists.
The problem is even more widespread than in Egypt. The same survey that found that 43% of Egyptian men think that women like sexual harassment also talked to Moroccan men, and the results were even more stunning: 71% of Moroccan men thought that way! Though the Moroccan government has passed new lays to crack down on assault and harassment, local activists say that the changes are not enough.
Even men traveling in Morocco report problems with aggressive locals, including merchants and "helpful" guides trying to provide directions. All in all, this is not a country to adventure through unaccompanied.
Though recent terrorist attacks have marred its image, Turkey is relatively safe overall, and its rich cultural heritage makes it a fantastic experience for Western tourists. It's not a good option for women traveling solo, though, because of rampant sexual harassment. Local women experience it too, and have been more open about sharing their stories on Twitter and through other outlets in recent years. It doesn't help that Turkey's president is openly misogynist, which reinforces the sexist beliefs of men around the country.
If you do want to go, carefully research tour groups and guides ahead of time. Many women report going to Turkey and having a fantastic time, but their good time hinges on never being truly alone.
Despite a peace accord that was supposed to end the country's long-running civil war, parts of Colombia remain extremely dangerous for locals and tourists alike. As of July 2019, U.S. Embassy officials even have restrictions placed on their travel because intercity transit and border regions can be so dangerous.
Some claim that major central cities like Bogota are safe enough for travel, but the risk seems to be much higher for female travelers. In addition to catcalling, purse- and phone-snatching incidents are common. Like in many countries, being female means that criminals are likely to perceive you as an easy target for robbery, kidnapping, and worse.
With the ongoing instability across the country, Colombia is best avoided for the time being - check out Costa Rica instead if you're looking for a great winter travel destination.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Ria Fritz
Lorna Lamon on July 22, 2019:
Such and interesting and informative article. I think in most of these countries crimes against women have increased in general, and sadly this does not seem to be changing. Thank you for highlighting this problem for woman wishing to travel solo - I don't think I would risk it.