25 September 2018 — Let's face it: when we plan a solo trip, safety is at the forefront of our concerns and we look for the safest places to travel alone.
Now, there's a simple and accurate way to assess that safety risk before we travel.
Determining the safety of a destination isn't an easy task:
Obviously we'll search for a destination that promises us a safe adventure - safe from pickpockets or crime or terrorism or natural disasters. We'll also want it to be female-friendly and respectful, free from the kind of harassment that can turn a trip into a nightmare.
In our research, we automatically gravitate towards the more authoritative sources of information for safe travel: government advisories, the news media, travel forums, Google and many more, which I detail in greater length on my page on best countries to travel alone.
These sources remain important, but now there's a shortcut: Geosure.
Until recently, Geosure wouldn't have even have been listed on this page but this new - and free - app is so useful I had to share it with you. (I have no financial relationship with Geosure - I just like the app!)
Basically GeoSure is a free phone app that lets you evaluate a place's safety based on your own relative idea of safety. It applies a safety “temperature” for every city in the world with a population greater than 100,000 (or 200,000 in China and Japan).
While this won’t help you gauge the safety of remote towns, it will help you plan trips to major cities and, eventually, to... everywhere, once they have the data they need.
The cool thing is it can act as a tripwire of sorts - we'll know when to “raise or lower our safety antennae” because the information is kept up to date. Users like ourselves can (and should!) use the Experience Report button to share your destination experiences.
But first, my usual caveat: there is no guarantee of safety.
Not at home, not abroad, not crossing the street. The risk will simply be higher or lower depending on where you go - and it won't always be what you think.
Here's a quick dose of reality.
Safety is important and we should pay close attention to it, without obsessing. Apps like this can help put it all into perspective.
Let’s say I’m going to Morocco and I’m worried about safety (I’m not, but a lot of women are, which is why I’m using it as an example).
I open the app (after downloading it from the Geosure page) and click on the folding map to access the Search bar. Then I type “Morocco” in the search bar. It brings me to a Google-Map-ish view of Morocco and I click on Fes, a wonderful city whose labyrinthine alleys are notorious for getting you lost. Notice how each city has its own temperature rating.
The temperature is pretty warm at 68, which means it's a bit risky. But I need to dig more.
Scroll down and I'll find that the women's safety score is 60, which is pretty much average, but the risk of theft is 67, which is higher, and the risk if you're LGBTQ is a whopping 85! The best thing you can do is to click 'Personalize', which allows you to weight certain factors - for example, it'll take into account if you speak the language, or if you're a seasoned traveler, if you're traveling solo or if you've been here before.
I can get an even more accurate reading by personalizing the app with my travel status (solo), nationality, age, and gender, which will either raise or lower the 'safety temperature' of a destination.
According to Geosure, scores between 41-60 mean “There is a slight elevation of relative vulnerability. Stay alert, especially at night.” You can read more about each temperature range below.
Notice that one of your choices is to define your travel style - for example, if you're traveling by yourself your score will change. This means you get a customized score based on several major risk factors: being alone, being a woman, being younger or older, or being a member of the LGBTQ community, if that's the case.
That's what sets Geosure apart - they take all these factors into account.
GeoSure takes data from official sources and visitor reviews and assigns risk based on five criteria:
Besides getting the overall score for a city, you can check the breakdown and individual criteria for yourself. The global score might be high, but it could be skewed by such factors as LGBTQ safety or theft.
One way to better understand these temperatures is to check your own city or one you know well. Have a look at its Geosure score (you'll have to download the app first) and you'll have a comparison point for the other scores.
So I investigated Madrid, where I grew up and speak the language. In comparison, it scored a 37 when I last checked, or “low risk” temperature. Women’s safety is a comfortable 35, with health and medical a mere 20.
Barcelona, another city I know well, is more problematic at 47. Although women's safety is similar to Madrid's at 37, theft tips the balance with a whopping 58 (and we've all heard about or witnessed those wily Barcelona pickpockets!) So it's safe, but you'll have to grip your purse or wallet tightly!
These breakdowns are the best part of GeoSure. When it comes to solo female travel, it's helpful to know which are the safest cities to visit - and which to avoid.
So based on the data for Morocco, women traveling alone might choose to book a hotel in Meknes rather than Fes, although the rating for Fes is absolutely acceptable. If I see that theft is a big issue, I might think twice about couchsurfing or booking an Airbnb, where security might be a bit weaker.
If I wanted to see Fes, I might consider exploring the city with a friend or reliable guide rather than wandering around alone. If the health and medical temperature is high, I could decide to curtail some excursions if I'm worried about falling ill.
Ultimately the main decision-makers will be your brain and your gut, but knowing which way to point them can help put the chances on your side.
So download the app - it'll help you choose the best solo travel destinations.