Travellers abroad face risk. Women may be more at risk in certain cultures or countries than men and be more vulnerable.
This general advice is designed to reduce the chance of things going wrong while you are away. This page contains information about:
This page is intended for Australian women who are planning to travel abroad. See what to do if things go wrong when you travel.
Safe transport is your best option.
Transport poses more risks for women than men.
- Verbal harassment
- Groping (especially in crowded public transport).
- Sexual assault on train sleepers
Although it may seem appealing to travel locally to enjoy the culture and save money, this does increase the risk. Reduce the risk:
- Before you arrive, arrange airport transfers.
- Only use licensed, reputable taxis. Avoid people who pretend to be taxi drivers.
- Sit in the backseat behind the driver of a taxi.
- If you are in a taxi or other car service, you should act as if someone is waiting for you. It is possible to call your driver or tell them that you are waiting.
- It would help if you were careful when you travel in crowded public transport, especially in urban areas and remote locations. You could be harassed or robbed. Sit in the train compartment with women or next to the driver or guard if you feel uncomfortable.
- Avoid travelling by train carriages if you are travelling alone.
- Do not hitchhike. It is dangerous to hitchhike in any country around the globe.
You can feel safe in your accommodation.
You are especially vulnerable when you are asleep. Avoid sharing accommodation with strangers and people you’ve just met.
Book your accommodation now
- Book before you go
- Book and check-in using your surname and first initial only – no titles (Miss. Ms. or Mrs).
- Avoid accommodation with isolated entrances if you are travelling solo. You can find reviews online from other travellers if you are unable to see a map.
Arrive at your accommodation
- Before you take possession of your room, ask for a tour.
- Make sure your telephone works. Also, make sure that the door has a deadbolt, peephole or chain lock.
- Avoid taking a room on the ground floor.
When you stay at your accommodation
- To ensure that your door remains securely locked, use the locks from the inside. If you are not in the room, you can use a wedge to secure the door.
- Don’t go back if you find windows or doors open or damaged in your room. Call reception or the police
- Don’t talk about where you’re staying if you’re out in public. And don’t forget that free accommodation is often too good to be true.
If a couple is not married, it is illegal to share a room in a hotel.
Avoid unwanted attention
In some countries, women may be the centre of attention. Keep your cool and get out of a stressful situation as soon as you can. Move to a safe and public place.
- Be confident. You’re less likely to be vulnerable if you act confidently and know where you are going.
- Avoid shopping in isolated areas. The fewer people you have around, especially foreign women, the more unique you will be.
- Do not try on items in the back rooms of bazaars or markets.
- You can make a scene or shout if you feel unsafe or in danger. If you suspect someone is carrying weapons, use your judgment.
- To keep unwanted attention from your partner, take a picture of him or her (real or imaginary).
Dress for your destination
Think about the context in which you are wearing your clothes. Australia is not the only country that is more conservative than other countries. There are different standards for men and women.
You could be subject to unwanted attention if you don’t follow local laws or customs. You could be harassed, robbed or sexually assaulted if you wear anything that is considered inappropriate by locals. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the culture you are visiting – you must respect it.
You may need to wear conservative clothing or cover your head and shoulders at certain points.
- Take a look at the clothes worn by local women and dress like them if you are unsure.
- Respect local customs and laws, even if they aren’t your preferred way.
- Avoid carrying expensive jewellery or handbags.
- A wedding ring can help you avoid being noticed.
To understand the rules and regulations governing dress and where certain clothing is required by law for women visiting certain destinations, read our travel advice.
Be social safely
- Keep your travel details private, and don’t let anyone know that you are travelling by yourself.
- You can share your location via social media. While travelling, you might consider changing the way you post or increasing your privacy settings.
- Never leave your drink alone or in the hands of strangers. Drink spiking can be found all over the globe.
- To discourage bag snatchers, always keep your bag close to your body and to the side facing the street when you go out.
- Avoid walking alone in dark areas or isolated areas, as in Australia. We have information on areas to avoid in major cities. You can also use the hotel’s travel guide, locals, and other travellers as good sources.
- Pay attention to cultural norms Some cultures prohibit women from shaking hands with men. Eye contact with a man or sitting in front of a taxicab’s driver seat may be considered a sexual advance.
- If you are travelling with new people, ensure that you have full control of the transport means to get from one place to another.
Look after your health.
- You should purchase your supplies of contraceptives and feminine hygiene products in advance.
- Talk to your doctor if you plan on travelling while pregnant. You may not be able to fly with an airline with the same rules as Australia for pregnant women.
- A letter from your doctor confirming the stage of your pregnancy is a good idea. For any additional requirements, check with your airline. Check that your travel insurance includes your pregnancy.
- Female genital mutilation can occur in certain countries, and some families might attempt to inflict it on visiting relatives.
- For more information on staying healthy while abroad, visit the health pages.
Pay attention to the law.
- Certain countries have strict laws that limit women’s rights. While harsh according to Australian standards, these laws may still apply to you if you’re there. See our section on Laws for more travel advice.
- In some countries, such as Egypt and Lebanon, women of any nationality may be subject to “stop orders”. Their husbands and other relatives can legally stop them from leaving the country. Children can also be affected by this.
- Sometimes, overseas immigration authorities might require evidence that the children have permission from their father to leave the country.
- Pay attention to divorce laws. Before you can leave a country or enter into a relationship with another person overseas, you may need to have a legal or religious divorcement. Get legal advice about property rights, inheritance, alimony and child support.
- Foreigners may be imprisoned in some countries, including the United Arab Emirates, for having sex without marriage. Victims of sexual assault could face criminal charges instead of protection.
- Legally, women may need to travel with a male companion.
- In some countries, it is illegal for women to drive by themselves.
- Forced marriage is when a person is forced to enter into a marriage by threat, coercion or deception. This crime in Australia can also be applied to overseas actions.
New relationships should be avoided.
It’s thrilling to meet someone online and then travel to another country to get to know them. It’s equally exciting to discover friendship and romance on your travels. These tips will help you stay safe while making overseas friendships or romances.
Meeting someone overseas for the first time after meeting online.
Avoid relationships that are started online. Scams of cyber-dating are very common. Australians have lost a lot of money to fake marriage partners. Sometimes, using relationship fraud schemes, scammers kidnap and demand ransom from Australians who have travelled overseas to meet their online partners.
Remember these things if you travel to another country to meet someone new.
- Meet in public places
- Make sure that someone you trust is aware of the location, time and who will be attending the meeting.
- Never give your passport, money, or bank account details to anyone.
- Be especially cautious with gifts. They could contain hidden drugs that could lead to you being arrested or even jailed due to drug trafficking.
- After you are done, contact a trusted individual to inform them that you are safe.
More information can be found on the SCAMwatch website of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Avoid holiday romances. It would help if you didn’t let your standards be compromised by taking a vacation.
- Do not share your accommodation with someone you have just met.
- Use a condom. Certain destinations are more likely to have serious, life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), such as HIV/AIDS.
Last tips before you go
- Subscribe to the notifications to receive updates and travel advice about the countries you plan to visit.
- Online forums and guidebooks that address women’s travel issues are available. Ask your family, friends and colleagues if they have been to the same places as you.
- Leave a detailed itinerary for someone you love at home. Keep in touch with them regularly.
- You want to feel at ease, secure, and ready for whatever comes up.