2 April 2018 — Let's face it: when we plan a solo trip, we often look for the safest places to travel alone.
Determining safety is one of the most challenging facets of solo female travel - what factors should we consider, where do we find the information and how seriously should we take it?
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.
There are plenty of information sources for safe travel: government advisories, the news, travel forums, Google and many more, which I detail in greater length on my page on best countries to travel alone.
Before I use any of those sources, though, I head to this place first: Geosure. Until recently, my #1 go-to information source wouldn't have even have been listed here 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 and 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.
The temperature is pretty warm at 57, which means near the end of the scale that's relatively safe, considered of average risk.
I can get an even more accurate reading by personalizing the app with my travel status (solo), nationality, age, and gender. Now the heat is up to 60! A little less safe, but still no cause for alarm. That said, nearby Meknes comes up at 54 “degrees.” That's still within the average risk category, but possibly a tiny bit safer.
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 two major risk factors: being alone, and being a woman, and that's what sets Geosure apart - they take 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.
For Fes, my personalized women’s safety score is 45, while the score for theft is more than 20 degrees higher at 67. So I feel safe going, but will hold on to my purse extra tightly.
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 scores a 29, 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 45. Although women's safety is similar to Madrid's at 37, theft tips the balance with a whopping 48 (and we've all heard about or witnessed those wily Barcelona pickpockets!)
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.