Solo Travel Safety: tips for respecting local cultures

flags of many countriesOne way to land on the wrong side of safety when traveling solo (or any kind of travel for that matter) is to disrespect the local culture.

At home, ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following it. The same goes for other countries. It’s also wise to follow the customs of the land. A respectful approach to both the laws and customs of the country you’re visiting is fundamental to your trip going safely and smoothly.

While it is worth reading up on the basic laws and customs of your destination, it is unlikely that you will gather all the nuance that you will actually encounter when there. Here are a few tips to help you travel respectfully and safely.

  1. Watch and learn. Take pause before you walk into a public space or even pick up a tomato at a vegetable stand and you’ll avoid going into places you shouldn’t tread and discover what good manners are in that culture.
  2. Dress conservatively. This is especially important in cultures where dress is a reflection of respect. Always be neat and clean.
  3. Recognize and respect what is highly valued in the countries you visit. Electricity and water are often precious commodities. Conserve both as you travel and you can’t go wrong.
  4. Schedule your day according to local customs. If siestas are the norm, don’t disturb people by looking for an open store mid day.
  5. Seek ways to give back to the community to be appreciated and protected by locals. This may be giving to a local charity or supporting local crafts people.
  6. Learn a bit about the history. Understanding the origins of a culture will help you better understand their world view and specific customs.
  7. Recognize your own prejudices and be prepared to accommodate differences. Look for commonalities as well.
  8. Realize that, just like at home, what one person does or says is not necessarily representative of an entire culture. Be patient. Look for the good and you’ll find it and likely stay on the right side of safety as well.
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  • Shams

    I find that preoccupation with safety really limits many women from traveling solo. I have travelled and lived in dozens of places, and it is always ironic to me that the women who are most preoccupied with safety often hail from cities with higher crime rates than the city in which they are traveling.

    It is important to do one’s homework and be smart and aware, just like you would in an unfamiliar part of town in your own city.

    But it is unfortunate that no one can discuss solo female travel without spending a good chunk of time about “safety”.

  • RumShopRyan

    Just found your site. Look forward to following! Cheers!

  • JaeH

    Smart observations that bring to mind the quote by voracious traveler, Ernest Hemingway: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

  • Lynda Fraser

    All good rules for even when we are at home…respecting all and looking for the good in all would go a long way to creating harmony.