Are you more vulnerable as a single girl in Latin America? Maybe… if you’re hanging around a nefarious gang of muscular guys with tattoos all over them. However, this is not a reason to deprive yourself of travelling, especially in a beautiful Latin country! The takeaway here is to be as informed as possible before travelling alone.
Travelling alone certainly has an extra layer of complexity when it comes to safety. For peace of mind, we recommend that solo travellers take the following advice:
1. Always arrive during the day
Arrange to take buses, planes and trains to your destinations during the day, well before dark. Make sure you know the duration of your journey and the estimated arrival time (and consider that there is often a delay for “Latino time“).
2. Book a safe hostel
When you’re a single girl, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Book your accommodations in advance and save the directions to get there. Looking lost is never a good thing. On the Hostelworld website, you can find a safety rating for each accommodation. You can also read the comments left by other backpackers on TripAdvisor to determine if the hostel is located in a safe area.
3. Travel alone, but not in solitude
A girl doesn’t stay alone for long. Just because you’re starting your adventure on your own doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to stay that way. On the contrary, other travellers, hostel workers and locals will invite you to share meals or join activities.
You may opt to join other backpackers for a few days or even a few weeks along your journey. You’ll soon see that travelling in a group is great if you don’t like being hassled.
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4. Take Uber or registered taxis
In Latin America, Uber is a safe option as you can read the driver reviews. There are two kinds of taxis: registered taxis and impersonator taxis. Official registered taxis are governed by a company and the driver has a photo identification card in the vehicle. Impersonator taxis are operated by some local guy offering to give you a ride. You should avoid these fake taxis even if the driver says he is a “real taxi.” You can always ask the driver for the company details and go to see the vehicle and verify its identification.
5. Join other women on public transportation
It’s always tempting to sit on an empty seat at the back of a public bus, but the problem is that you can’t control who will come to sit next to you. It’s common knowledge that you limit the risk of being bothered if you sit near a local woman or a fellow tourist.
6. Dress with common sense
We can understand the urge to dress sexy when you see Latinas strutting their stuff and looking amazing. But don’t fool yourself; you’re not a local, and it shows. You will already attract attention; no need to add more with low-cut necklines, mini skirts and high heels. Dress in comfortable clothes and shoes that allow you to move quickly if necessary.
7. Forget about jewelry and other bling
Did your lover give you a dazzling gold necklace for Valentine’s Day that you proudly wear everywhere? Well, if you love it and want to see it again, don’t you dare bring it on vacation. Okay, I’m exaggerating here, but it’s a good idea to leave your jewellery, fancy watch and luxury items at home. In developing countries like Latin America, accessorizing with jewellery and watches is not common. Thieves will see you as a two-legged Christmas tree screaming, “Rob me, I’m an easy target!”
8. Appear confident and relaxed
Don’t act like a victim if you don’t want to be. Avoid walking against the walls with your shoulders slumped. Come on, girl! Walk confidently. Have presence. Be open-minded and relaxed. The more you travel, the more you will realize that the majority of people in the world are good and mean well.
9. Avoid going out alone at night
If you don’t have a friend to join you for dinner in the evening, go to a restaurant before the sun goes down (even if sometimes that means eating at 5 p.m.) or buy take-out to enjoy later. Like everywhere else in the world, most robberies and muggings in Latin America take place after dark. If you want to meet up with the friends you’ve made, meet at your hostel first and then walk to the restaurant or bar together.
10. Party hard, but never get too drunk
After all this, you may be tempted to avoid going out at night, choosing to stay in your bed as soon as the sun disappears. Beep, beep, beep! Big mistake! Latin America comes to life at night, and fiesta is a part of the culture you won’t want to miss. If you travel to Central America or South America, you absolutely must dance to Latin rhythms and drink the local spirits.
The idea is to watch what you drink for the dual purpose of knowing if someone slipped date rape drugs and to make sure you’re drinking a reasonable amount. Find yourself a “party buddy” (a term inspired by the duo diving system), that is to say, make a pact with a friend to watch over each other and return together at the end of the evening.
Do you have any other advice for women travelling alone in Latin America?
This article was originally published in French and adapted in English by Britney Claveau.