Traveling is great for so many reasons… getting to see incredible landmarks and natural wonders, learning about different cultures, trying weird and wonderful foods, and the chance to meet lots of new people along the way. Nowadays it’s easier to get abroad than ever before, and more and more people are catching the travel bug… it only takes that one life-changing trip and you’re instantly hooked!
In a perfect world, we’d all feel completely safe when exploring new places, but of course, the reality is much different. Even today, there are countries where women – even white women – feel uncomfortable, and even unsafe. Though it may seem surprising, there are actually specific countries where white women are more likely to be targeted as victims.
While there will always be good and bad points about every country on the planet, it’s always important to have a good understanding of the potential risks that each one can hold. Though white women definitely have it easier when travelling to the majority of places in the world, here are fifteen countries they should be more cautious about visiting.
Of course, that’s not to say these places should be avoided altogether, but if you are thinking of planning a trip to any of them, it’s probably best to keep your wits about you and be a savvy traveler to avoid any potentially nasty incidents.
15. Saudi Arabia
This one probably isn’t so surprising given their history with women’s rights in general – the country has only just given women the opportunity to obtain drivers’ licenses. Women traveling here will need a male sponsor or guardian for their trip, and in many areas will be put under pressure to wear a full-length black covering, as well as covering their heads.
There are also groups of religious police (aka the Mutawwa) who keep watch for anyone seen to be doing anything offensive; this could be public displays of affection, not adhering to the dress code, or if a woman was traveling with a man who isn’t her husband – the latter is actually an arrestable offence.
The US Department of State has issued a warning on their travel site urging people to carefully consider the risks of traveling to the country, and also notes that there “continue to be reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners, as well as locations frequented by them.”
There’s no doubt about it; Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The sight of plenty of armed police patrolling the streets is pretty common, and not exactly an image you’d want to send back to your friends and family while you’re on holiday. While the majority of deaths here are gang-related, there are still frequent muggings, and attacks on foreigners, including armed robbery, also occur.
Women travelers often feel apprehensive coming here; as Lonely Planet states: “Honduras is still a male-dominated society. Personal safety is the biggest concern for female travelers.” Unfortunately, assaults are not uncommon, and women are likely to be more at risk from thieves. Muggings can take place at any time of day. The UK government’s travel site even suggests carrying a small amount of money with you at all times in case you are targeted in a robbery.
This one may be surprising given that many people probably see Japan as one of the safest countries in the world, but unfortunately the country has a big problem with s*xual assault. Groping in crowded areas and on trains is common – in fact, it’s become so endemic that female-only carriages were introduced.
Foreign women are often still seen as exotic, and as a result there are many accounts of groping, verbal abuse and stalking. Because assault still carries something of a stigma here, it’s not reported often; the Justice Ministry state that only 18% of victims report the attacks to the police.
Jamaica is the ultimate holiday destination for many women; the hot weather and sandy beaches make it the perfect place to kick back and indulge in some r&r. While there’s no worry about dressing particularly modest here, unfortunately assaults are something that visitors should be wary of.
Even staying in a resort doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise caution; in fact, according to the State Department, these types of places are usually where most assaults take place: “the U.S. Embassy received more than a dozen reports of s*xual assaults against American visitors to Jamaica in a 12-month period. Most of these took place at all-inclusive resorts; most were allegedly perpetrated by resort staff.”
Other violent crimes are also a problem throughout the country, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay, so really it’s not too surprising that some women who travel here end up feeling uneasy, even if most do have a great time.
This one probably won’t come as a huge shock to many people; India’s s*xual assault problem has unfortunately been an ongoing problem for too long. There are constant reports of female travelers having been catcalled, groped, and assaulted, even during the day and when they were with someone else.
These kinds of attacks can take place anywhere, but are particularly frequent in crowded areas like markets and streets. Like some of the other countries on this list, the danger became so severe on trains that female-only carriages have been introduced.
The US government actually cautions women from traveling alone to India, and even the Indian Tourism Minister has suggested that women should not wear skirts in an attempt to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
The country still has one of the highest murder rates in the world, according to the UNODC, and there are also a large number of r*pe cases in tourist areas thanks to the minimal assistance from the police. Armed robbery, kidnap and ‘quicknapping’ are also common; the latter is where a tourist is kidnapped and taken to an ATM to withdraw cash, then released.
Earlier this year a 67-year-old Spanish tourist was shot dead by police after being mistaken for a criminal; the officers in Rio de Janeiro later said they shot at her because the car she was in didn’t stop at their roadblock. She was traveling with two relatives and an Italian guide.
Unfortunately, Egypt is another country with a s*xual harassment and assault problem. In recent years, the rates have actually increased significantly for both locals and tourists, and this isn’t helped by the fact there’s now less police on the streets. Female travelers often report being groped while out and about, particularly in more crowded places like markets.
Simply making eye contact with someone can be taken as a sign of flirting here, so some women opt to wear sunglasses the whole time they’re out in public. Dressing conservatively is pretty essential too, otherwise women risk gaining unwanted attention; this can be pretty full on – many guides recommend that even your wrists and ankles should be covered, as well as your hair.
As well as the problems above, there’s also the risk of terrorism and kidnapping, as the UK travel advisory states on their website. All things considered it’s not exactly an ideal spot for a solo female traveler to wind up.
While the majority of Thailand is pretty safe for female travelers in comparison to the other countries on this list, there is one island in particular that is probably best to avoid. Tiny Koh Tao has been nicknamed ‘Death Island’ thanks to a string of brutal tourist deaths over recent years.
Russian tourist Valentina Novozhyonova, 23, disappeared from her hostel and was never seen again – her mobile phone, passport and camera had all been left in her room. Another mysterious case was the murders of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, who were killed whilst walking back to their hostel. While two Burmese immigrants were arrested for the murders, many people believe they were just used as scapegoats, and the real culprit(s) got away.
While more and more female travelers are heading to Mexico on vacation these days – particularly backpackers looking for adventure – it still holds its fair share of potential danger for women. The area of Baja in Tijuana is particularly risky for female tourists; the Tijuana US Consulate has said that any women traveling alone in this area need to be very cautious due to a number of incidents here.
There’s even potential danger at the resorts; many women have reported blacking out after drinking moderately at their hotel bars, and earlier this year a 20-year-old American woman was found dead in the swimming pool of an all-inclusive resort. She was found to have a broken collarbone, but the exact cause of her death remains a mystery, with some speculating that she may have been robbed before being thrown into the pool.
Kenya can be unsafe for women in particular due to the large number of assaults committed there. These kinds of attacks are unfortunately common, and often go unreported due to the stigma involved. To make the matter even worse, victims of assault often find they do not receive adequate medical or emotional support following the incident.
Armed robbery and kidnapping is also prevalent, and terrorist activity can put women especially at risk. Attacks by the Al Shabab group have increased, particularly in the case of kidnapping woman and girls in order to then sell them on. They are also known for the brutal beheadings of non-Muslims.
Many, if not most, of the travelers to Kenya visit to see the incredible wildlife the country holds. However, with an increasing number of ranch invasions by armed nomadic farmers in areas visited by tourists, even going on safari can prove risky.
Although the world is starting to wake up to the fact that Colombia is more than just its history with drug lord Pablo Escobar, that doesn’t mean to say it’s a particularly safe country. Women traveling here often find themselves becoming the victims of street harassment, especially if walking around at night, and s*xual assault is not uncommon.
Unfortunately, law enforcement haven’t proved to be too helpful when it comes to punishing the culprits, and many victims also find they are offered little in the way of medical treatment and aftercare thanks to a lack of facilities.
Robberies are prevalent in the country, and because of the number of guns around these incidents can quickly become more dangerous and result in fatalities. There have also been a number of cases of drink spiking reported as a way to rob or assault.
Traveling to Morocco means accepting that you are at risk of crimes such as pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, street robberies, and burglaries, and there is also the threat of terrorist violence targeted at foreigners, particularly those from the US, according to the State Department.
Along with all of this, being a woman traveling alone can also pose some potentially uncomfortable and even dangerous situations. Many young men make a living by scamming foreigners who lose their way in the busy streets, and lone women are the easiest target for them.
There are also important cultural differences to be aware of in order to avoid unwanted attention. For example, wearing revealing clothing is sure to attract unwanted attention, catcalling is unfortunately commonplace, and the simple act of smiling at someone can be seen as flirting. It’s not typical for solo females to sit alone in cafes, so if a woman does so it may be seen as an invitation to men.
The Bahamas is basically paradise realized for the majority of us, but sadly it also has a dark side. Women traveling to the islands may find themselves getting a lot of attention from locals, especially those asking where their husband is etc.
S*xual assault is also a problem; in 2012 a United Nations report stated that the Bahamas had one of the highest numbers of assault cases in the Caribbean, and unfortunately this doesn’t appear to have changed. There has been a particular issue with assaults, including those on minors, being committed by jet ski operators on the islands.
Other dangers include muggings and burglaries, and as the State Department notes: “The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours.”
2. United Arab Emirates
The UAE isn’t exactly known for having the greatest track record when it comes to equal rights, and this is sometimes reflected in the experiences of female tourists. The US government advises women visiting the country to “take precautions against the possibility of verbal and physical harassment or sexual assault when walking alone, consuming alcohol, or riding in a taxi cab.”
Cultural differences can also lead to difficult situations; females don’t sit in the front of taxis, for example, and making small talk can be seen as flirting. One case where these differences came into play in a big way happened earlier this year, when a Ukrainian woman was arrested after discovering she was pregnant whilst in Abu Dhabi. Doing the dirty outside of marriage is illegal in the UAE, so women traveling with boyfriends or even male friends can end up in dire situations.
You have to be pretty daring to visit Venezuela. With nearly 80 murders committed every single day, there’s no doubt that it is currently one of the most violent places on the planet. According to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there was a total of 28,479 homicides in Venezuela during 2016, and other violent crimes are common throughout the country.
Women in particular need to be on their guard here; human trafficking is a problem for both the natives and tourists, and harassment and assault are also a serious issue here. The fact that many of these attacks are not just carried out at night, but also during the day by people like hotel workers and taxi drivers makes it even more difficult for female travelers to ensure their own safety.
Police corruption is also a problem, and at the moment only a minute percentage of crimes actually end up with a trial and conviction.
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