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International Travel

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Before You Go

Information for Women Travelers

Many women travel safely each year without incident. However, when it comes to health and security, women travelers are more likely to be affected by religious and cultural beliefs of the foreign countries they visit.  The truth is that women face greater obstacles, especially when travelling alone.

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General Tips

Before You Go
Know the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate for your destination.

Research Your Destination
Visit the Department of State’s official website, Travel.State.Gov, where you will find country information for every country of the world and contact information for the closest U.S. embassy and/or consulate. You will also find information about visa requirements, crime and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws, areas to avoid, and more. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave. There are countries that may require a woman to have a male escort to leave a country.

Pack Accordingly
Each country that you visit will have different local laws and customs about women’s clothing and appearance. For example, what you wear in a mall in Mexico might not be acceptable in a mall in the United Arab Emirates.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It is important for women travelers to understand the cultural norms of the country they will be visiting. Pay attention to local laws and customs because they can be quite different from the United States, especially if you intend to travel alone. Avoid dark, isolated areas at night. 

The safety of public transportation varies from country to country. In many places, informal taxis or mini-buses pose particular threats to people unfamiliar with the local conditions, especially to women traveling alone. Find out from reliable sources, such as local authorities or tourism officials, what is and is not safe.

Create Boundaries
Be cautious when sharing information about your plans and itinerary with strangers. Don’t feel the need to be overly polite if you are bothered by someone. While it may seem rude to be unfriendly to a stranger, creating boundaries to protect yourself is important. Use facial expressions, body language, and a firm voice to fend off any unwanted attention.

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Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is generally used to describe a broader range of sexual offenses that involve touching or penetration of an intimate part of a person’s body without consent. Sexual assault includes rape, forced sodomy, forced oral copulation, and sexual battery (the unwanted touching of an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal or sexual gratification).

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Who does sexual assault affect?

While the majority of reported sexual assault victims are female, approximately 10-20% of victims are male. Most men will not report being assaulted for the same reasons as female victims: fear of being ignored, disbelieved, shame. 

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What to do if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault overseas?

If you or someone you know is facing or has been a victim of sexual assault overseas, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444) or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Please refer to our country information or this list of embassy and consulate locations for contact details.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)

It is a federal crime to perform FGM/C in the United States on any minor younger than 18 years old, punishable by fines or up to five years in prison, or both.

It is also a criminal offense to knowingly take a girl younger than 18 years old outside of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM/C (so-called “vacation cutting”).Enter text here.

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What is female genital mutilation/cutting?

The term “female genital mutilation” (also called “female genital cutting” and “female genital mutilation/cutting”) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement: WHO, 2008). FGM/C is often identified as a cultural or traditional practice.

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Who does FGM/C affect?

Girls and women who are most at risk are those born to families that have emigrated from countries where FGM/C is practiced.

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Why does FGM/C occur?

FGM/C is often identified as a cultural or traditional practice.  The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas to North America and Europe.

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What to do if you or someone you know is a victim or about to be a victim of FGM/C overseas?

If you or someone you know is facing or has been a victim of FGM/C overseas, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444) or the U.S.Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Please refer to our Country Specific Information or this list of embassy and consulate locations for contact details.

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Forced Marriage

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is a marriage without the consent of one or both parties.  Duress, often by family members, is a factor. An arranged marriage, common in many cultures, is not the same as a forced marriage because the bride and groom agree that they want to be married. In a forced marriage, family members may threaten the forced marriage victim, physically abuse him or her, or even threaten them with death.

International law recognizes the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry, and states that “no marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” 

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Who does forced marriage affect?

It is reported that forced marriage cases do not just affect female victims; there is evidence to suggest that 15 percent of the cases involve male victims.  It also affects children and is considered a form of child abuse.  

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Why does a forced marriage occur?

In some instances, forced marriage can take the place of a dowry as there can be immigration benefits to a foreign national when marrying a U.S. citizen. 

Forced marriages may also occur if the family feels as if their child or family member is straying too far from their cultural values.

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What to do if you or someone you know is a victim or about to be a victim of forced marriage overseas?

If you or someone you know is facing or has been a victim of forced marriage overseas, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444) or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Please refer to our country information or this list of embassy and consulate locations for contact details.

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Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior using intimidating, threatening, harassing, or harmful behavior that occurs between two people in a marriage or other form of intimate relationship.

It may also involve physical, sexual, emotional, psychological abuse and/or financial or economic abuse. Domestic violence may also occur within same sex relationships; children living in an abusive home may also be victims of physical abuse or they may suffer emotional consequences from witnessing violence. 

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Who does domestic violence affect?

From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.

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Why does domestic violence occur?

Domestic violence crosses economic, educational, cultural, racial, and religious lines. It can occur in any intimate relationship, including marital, cohabiting, or dating, as well as heterosexual or same sex relationships or among relatives in the same household. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 85% of violent victimizations by intimate partners between 1993 and 1998 were perpetrated against women. 

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What to do if you or someone you know is a victim or about to be a victim of domestic violence overseas?

If you or someone you know is facing or has been a victim of domestic violence overseas, please contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202-501-4444) or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Please refer to our country information or this list of embassy and consulate locations for contact details.


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