What are the world's safest destinations for women?
No place is perfectly safe, not even home - nor are dangerous places always absolutely dangerous (with notable exceptions for countries at war or whose laws actively discriminate against women).
But solo travel has its challenges so it's best to be forewarned - and prepared. Not all places are created equal, and some places are safer than others.
I'm often asked where it's safest to travel, especially by first-time or beginning solo women travelers...
What constitutes the world's safest destinations for women is a personal choice - not everyone will agree. Places change - Thailand during periods of unrest, for example.
Safety and danger come in different shapes and can range from outright physical danger - weather, crime, wildlife or war - to social dangers like corruption or discrimination against women. I have been much closer to an anaconda (very big snake) than I care to remember but fortunately I saw it before it saw me.
And remember, safety is subjective - what I consider dangerous, a woman from that region - or you, for that matter - might consider absolutely safe.
For example, I have no issue with wolf whistles as I was brought up in Spain and don't even notice them, whereas some women will feel angry or downright scared if a group of men start catcalling. Similarly, countries in conflict are not safe places to travel - but if you're a development worker or journalist as I am, that won't stop you from going, whatever the embassy travel warnings say.
Even in the safest places, there are some no-go areas - inner-city neighborhoods, deserted roads and countryside, parks after dark.
Every city has its neighborhoods
With a bit of preparation and caution, there's no limit to where you can go! In the end, safety is a judgment call only you can make for yourself.
Although this list can't guarantee your safety, it can point you towards places many women travelers consider as safe as possible.
Some examples of countries considered among the safest destinations
Havana, Cuba - a wonderful destination for women (Photo Annabel Haslop)
Most of these places are relatively easy to visit, although if you don't speak or read the language, China (though not Hong Kong) and Japan can both be a bit of a challenge. Still, people will help when they can, and there's little to worry about in terms of petty crime or harassment if you're a woman traveling on your own (although Japanese trains and subways at rush hour do have a reputation for grope-happy men).
These next countries may be perceived as less safe, but are mostly perfectly fine on your own as long as you keep your wits about you:
I've traveled in each of these countries on my own and have felt perfectly safe. They may not be at the top of the list of safest destinations, but with a bit of research and planning there's no reason a trip to these - slightly more exotic - countries shouldn't be perfectly simple and pleasurable.
Make sure you read up on travel advisories and political information from your nearest government source in Australia, Canada, the UK or the US (but take them with a grain of salt - they are trying to scare you!)
That said, wherever you go, do your homework and be prepared. Safety should always be your primary concern. Know that poor neighborhoods are usually riskier than wealthy ones (if you look foreign), train stations more dodgy than the financial district. And read your guidebooks and websites carefully!
Choosing where you go and preparing for it may well be the most important decisions you make on the road.