Travelling to far-flung exotic third world destinations can be a hugely rewarding experience that many women in the West take for granted.
For most, it is an entirely safe and liberating adventure that they will never forget, for all the right reasons.
But while wolf whistles, cat calls and belligerent taxi drivers may be an annoyance for some solo travellers, there are some countries where women may be exposed to misogyny, pestering and, in some extreme cases, extreme danger.
Horrific crimes against Western women have become worryingly commonplace in non-white countries such as India, but there are a number of popular holiday hotspots, such as Turkey and Morocco, that may not be as female-friendly as you think, according to experts.
Julie Kreutzer, co-owner of website the International Women’s Travel Center, has written extensively on the issue of women’s safety abroad, and believes that honesty is the best policy when it comes to discussing the dangers that solo female travellers face.
She said: ‘I’m truly appalled at how unsafe and how unfriendly some places are. You can’t even enter some countries if you’re a woman, yet most travel websites just skirt around the issue and prefer to focus on what lipstick a woman should wear.
‘We’re absolutely in favour of women being adventurous and having a great time, but let’s not delude ourselves and say that women are welcome everywhere.
‘There’s a big different from going to Brazil versus Denmark as a female traveller, at least let’s be honest about what the dangers are.’
Seattle-based American blogger Stephanie Yoder has travelled extensively and says she’s always felt relatively safe on her travels, and stresses the importance separating the reality from the hype.
‘I’ve been very fortunate. I honestly don’t feel like I’ve been anywhere particularly dangerous, but I was definitely more on edge in South America than anywhere else.
‘Crime rates are higher there and tourists can be targets for muggings, so I was careful never to carry many valuables and not to be out alone after dark.’
Expat traveller Ali Garland now lives in Berlin and agrees that women have a few extra challenges to deal with than men while travelling, although she says it’s no reason to stay at home.
‘There certainly are places where women are sort of second class citizens, and that can be frustrating. But I just try to remember that most people are genuinely nice, and I do my best to dress appropriately so I don’t attract unwanted attention.’
And if you do travel to danger hot-spots, social media consultant and explorer Liz Borod Wright advises against being too forthcoming on when sharing your experiences.
‘Be wary of posting real-time updates on social media about where are you in case someone is paying a little too close attention.
It’s safer to post that awesome photo to Instagram when you’re on to the next destination, especially if you plan to geo-tag it.
‘And while the instinct is to live-tweet your trip, it may be best to rave (or rant) about your accommodations after you have checked out.’
Intrepid traveller and blogger Amanda Williams advises female travellers to use their common sense.
‘I would say to women just be smart and listen to your gut. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home, don’t drink too much alone, don’t go wandering alone at night, don’t go home with strangers, and read up on common scams.’
MailOnline Travel has rounded up a number of popular destinations that solo female travellers should visit with caution.
1 – India
Gang rapes of local women and tourists have reached worrying levels in parts of the country with reports suggesting that a sexual assault is reported every twenty minutes.
The authorities struggle to bring many perpetrators to justice, and according to the country’s National Crime Record Bureau crimes against women have increased by 7.1 per cent since 2010.
Earlier this month a Japanese student was drugged and raped in northern India, and last week horrifying video footage of two woman being gang raped by grinning men was released by a campaign group in a bid to name and shame the attackers.
Ms Williams says India is the only place she would think twice about visiting, although not because she’s concerned about her personal safety.
‘It’s just a personal thing. I know plenty of women who have been there and loved it. I just don’t think I could deal with the grabbing and lack of personal space,’ she explains.
2 – Brazil
Stunning images of scantily-clad women from Rio’s world-famous Carnival does little to mask the fact that much of Brazil remains in the grip of widespread violence led by criminal gangs and abusive police.
And, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry, rape increased by 157 per cent between 2009 and 2012, spurred the country’s machismo culture.
Two years ago, an American tourist was gang raped on a public bus while her handcuffed boyfriend looked on helplessly.
The authorities tried to clean up their act for the FIFA World Cup last year, but rape, gender-based violence and gunpoint robberies of tourists remain a problem.
3 – Turkey
Istanbul is less than a four-hour flight from London, but it is poles apart when it comes to attitudes towards woman.
The attempted rape and subsequent murder of 20-year-old student Ozgecan Aslan last week thrust the thorny issue of gender-based violence directly into the headlines.
The horrific crime sparked dozens of protests by women seeking to raise awareness of violence against women, which is still a taboo subject in Turkey.
4 – Thailand
Millions of tourists flock to Thailand every year, but the brutal murder of British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, who was also raped, in Koh Tao last September lifted the lid on the country’s seedy, and often violent, underbelly.
In 2013, Thai police threatened to arrest a 20-year-old female Scottish student who had been gang raped when no witnesses came forward to support her claim.
According to Thailand Domestic Violence Information Center, violence against women is a growing problem in Thailand, fuelled, in part, by the widespread availability recreational drug Yah Bah as well as alcohol.
5 – Egypt
Package holidays to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada have been the mainstay of tourism in Egypt for a number of years.
But in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution the country has been gripped by instability and an unprecedented wave of sexual violence against women.
With fewer police on the streets, a sharp increase in the number of sex attacks – including a British journalism student in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – has seen visitor numbers at the country’s famous ruins dwindle.
6 – Colombia
Tourism in Colombia has enjoyed an enormous boost in recent years as the conflict-torn country works towards addressing it troubled past.
But while the country is undoubtedly far safer than it was even 10 years ago, sexual violence against women remains widespread, particularly against displaced women in poorer areas.
Colombia’s capital Bogota, which has no train system but a network of red buses, was found to have the most unsafe public transport in a poll conducted by YouGov in 2014 for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
According to Human Rights Watch, corrupt police also have a poor track record when it comes to protecting women, and rapists are rarely brought to justice.
7 – South Africa
With a new domestic airline – Skywise – launching in March, tourism in South Africa is going from strength-to-strength.
Yet despite its continuing popularity, it remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The African nation has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and robberies at gunpoint are commonplace.
More than 66,000 sexual offenses were reported in 2012-2013, a rate of 127 sexual offenses per 100,000 population.
8 – Morocco
Another popular short-haul destination with Britons, Morocco has a poor record when it comes to women’s rights.
Female travellers are advised to dress modestly and cover up in the conservative Muslim country.
Although the Foreign Office advises that violent crime isn’t currently major issue, it’s common for female tourists, particularly those travelling on their own, to be routinely harassed by men.
9 – Mexico
Although millions of Americans – including high-profile celebrities – travel safely to Mexico every year, parts of the country remain in the grip of utter lawlessness.
While the Mexican government does strive to protect tourist hotspots, such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, reports of gun crime and violence still persist.
According to the Foreign Office, violent rapes against women travelling on public transport (‘micros’) is also a significant threat.
10 – Kenya
Kenya has built a thriving tourist trade on the back of its incredible wildlife and safari parks. What is less well-know, however, is its reputation for violence against women.
According to a report from United Nations Development Fund for Women, ‘women of all ages, education levels, and social groups, in rural and urban settings are subjected to violence in Kenya.’
In 2010, a national survey indicated that 32 per cent of girls experienced sexual violence before becoming adults, and in November last year, a sex attack on a young woman wearing a short skirt provoked demonstrations by women highlighting the country’s widespread violence against women.
Kidnappings and sexual assaults against tourists are also not uncommon.
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