Women Travelers

In some places, women travelers may face extra health and security risks. Before you go, read these tips.

Research your destination, Be Aware of Local Customs and Norms

Customs and norms in other countries can be very different from those in the United States. Some countries have rules against certain behaviors or speech. Others may have different rules or expectations about women's clothing and appearance. Tight-fitting clothes, sleeveless shirts, or shorts, for example, may not be acceptable.

Women’s Health Abroad

Every country has its own healthcare system.  When you travel, bring health items that might be hard to find where you're going, like feminine hygiene products or birth control.

Many countries have laws that impact women's health in ways that may be different than where you live. For example, some countries make certain reproductive health services illegal. Some countries may punish women who get pregnant but are not married, including victims of sexual assault.

If you're pregnant, airlines might not let you fly in the later stages of your pregnancy. It's a good idea to have a note from your doctor saying it's safe for you to fly. Make sure your travel insurance covers pregnancy-related costs.

You can find more information on our Your Health Abroad page.

Public Transport

The safety of public transportation varies from country to country. In many places, informal taxis or minibuses can be dangerous, particularly for women traveling alone. Find out what is and is not safe from reliable sources, such as local authorities or tourism officials.

Consider these transport tips:

  • Arrange transport to and from the airport before you arrive, from a licensed and reputable company.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • Research taxi and other ride share companies before you go. Make sure they are licensed and reputable.
  • Consider using app-based transportation companies, which offer a record of your ride. This is unlike hailing a ride on the street.  Some companies also allow a rider to share their real-time ride record to another phone. This record is useful to identify the vehicle and driver later.
  • Avoid traveling in busy sections of train cars or on crowded buses. Public transportation might create opportunities for inappropriate or unwanted physical contact and makes pickpocketing easier.

Travel Accommodations

Review our Lodging page and also do the following:

  • When registering, use your first initial and no title (don’t use “Mrs., Ms., or Miss”).
  • Don't tell strangers where you are staying.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Use your best judgement to stay away from unsafe situations. Think ahead and come up with a safety plan to deal with unsafe situations, in the event you end up in one. Consider bringing personal safety whistles/alarms and taking self-defense courses before you travel.

In an unsafe situation, depending on the circumstances, it also may be helpful to speak loudly and draw attention to yourself to deter unwanted actions. Being safe is more important than being polite.

Use facial expressions, body language, and a firm voice to fend off unwanted attention.

Find out where emergency services like police stations and hospitals are located nearby in case of an emergency.

Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is violence committed against someone because of their gender. It particularly affects women and minorities all over the world. GBV can take many forms, like sexual or physical assault, domestic violence, forced marriage, female infanticide, sex and human trafficking, and other violent acts. Women travelers can be targeted for these crimes. If you are a victim of GBV, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. If you are overseas, call 202-501-4444. You can also contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Drug Assisted Rape or “Date Rape”

  • Drug Assisted Rape, also known as "Date Rape," occurs when someone drugs another person in order to sexually assault them. Typically, the drugs are added to the victim's drink without their knowledge. Victims usually cannot tell that their drink has been drugged. Date rape drugs like Rohypnol, ketamine, and scopolamine can make a person unconscious and defenseless. Always watch your drink, and physically cover it with your hand if you can.
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • Be aware of how much you are drinking. Notice any unusual physical symptoms outside of intoxication.
  • If you start to feel strange or sick, tell a trusted friend if you can, and call emergency authorities right away. You can call the local police or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are sexually assaulted or raped, get medical care and resources. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for information on getting help and medical care in the country you are in. They can tell you if post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is available. It's important to get medical care within 72 hours to prevent HIV and get emergency contraception. Also, there is a U.S. organization called the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) that helps victims of sexual assault and abuse. They can provide resources remotely or when you return to the U.S.

Other sources you may want to consult:


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Last Updated: February 28, 2024