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Advice on Solo Travel in the Caribbean

by Katie Boue
(Tallahassee, Florida)

While society has made major strides in eliminating sexism and the outdated rules of gender politics, women travelers must still arm themselves with knowledge about how to properly guarantee their safety and well-being while traveling – solo or with others.

The Caribbean is a fantasy haven for tourists seeking sunshine and freshly squeezed cocktails, but the region still bears danger for female travelers. Preparing yourself with the following advice will greatly aid in ensuring that your next Caribbean vacation is incident free.

Exercise common sense tactics. Any savvy traveler should bear in mind a few key concepts to employ during any visit to a foreign country. Never wear flashy jewelry, and keep your cash concealed. Solo travelers should avoid dark areas during the evenings, and do not hesitate to call a cab to safely transport you back to your hotel. Women should always be conscious of their purses, and consider keeping it looped around your ankle instead of dangling from the back of your restaurant seat.

Know where to go. Not only will chatting with locals give you a deeper understanding of Caribbean culture, it could also save your life. Befriending your hotel’s bartender could prove to be a lifesaver if you inquire about the spots around the neighborhood where trouble tends to lurk. However, you should be choosy about who you are asking advice from – that cab driver who complimented your cleavage probably doesn’t have your best intentions in mind. For example, if you’re visiting Jamaica, Kingston has earned a stark reputation for its criminal activity – ladies, you’ll be happier and safer in a more secure city like Negril.

Do not overlook your health. When women contemplate travel safety concerns, the majority do not consider their health as a prominent issue – but it is. Prior to traveling to your Caribbean destination, seek medical advice from your physician about any vaccines that might be recommended for travelers. A tropical climate means tropical diseases, and no one wants to return home with luggage full of souvenirs and a case of Diphtheria. Also keep in mind health dangers you may encounter during your trip, including mosquito bites and contaminated food/water sources.

Always dress accordingly. While it may be frustrating to lock up your beautiful body simply because raunchy men can’t contain their catcalls, solo female travelers must come to terms with the fact that their clothing is an advertisement about themselves. It is perfectly acceptable to join the local ladies at a topless beach, but prepare yourself to dress modestly when baring your breasts isn’t appropriate. Walking through a dark street at night while scantily clad is an open invitation for unwanted male harassment. If you simply must don that skimpy blouse at the nightclub, consider bringing along a little cardigan to cover up once you leave the party.

The list of precautionary advice for single female travelers could fill up every page of your passport, but as long as you operate under a rational and aware mindset, you should be able to enjoy a wonderful Caribbean vacation. Plan ahead, pack smart and always look out for yourself.

Ed. note: Thanks Katie for sharing your advice - all of it perfectly common sense. I wish it didn't have to be like this - and that what we wore didn't influence the way we were treated, but the reality is different, just as you portray it.

Some parts of Jamaica (and other urban areas in the Caribbean) do have more of a reputation for crime than many of the resort areas but that's no reason to stay away - it just means taking better precautions. A good way is to link up with couchsurfing or similar groups to connect with local people. You don't have to stay with them if you're uncomfortable, but having a local contact, especially with someone trustworthy, can make all the difference when it comes to safety.

Here is some related information you might also find interesting: how to deal with unwanted male attention and how to avoid crime abroad.

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