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Going alone or travelling solo is certainly on the rise. For women travellers, we need to keep our wits about us, especially when travelling by ourselves, as is the case with any travel destination. Peru is quite possibly one of the safest places I have travelled alone. Here are a few tips for solo female travelers to keep you and your belongings safe whilst “on the road” in Peru.
1. Top of my list is “Confidence”.
Walking around, like you own the place certainly has its benefits! Even if you are not sure where you are going, this emits the idea that you know exactly where you are and ‘undesirables’ are less likely to focus on you as an easy target.
Conquering Vinicunca, the rainbow mountain, in Cusco.
2. Learn the local lingo.
Even a few basics in Spanish will help you go a long way and also add to your confidence when you actually have a decent grasp of what is going on around you. With all the Spanish Apps available download the best one for you and have it handy if you need to ask a question.
3. Common sense and lots of it!
The basics of solo female travel in Peru are a must and should be engrained in the brain! Keep your valuables close, only carry the money you need each day on your person, avoid storing valuables in easily accessible pockets of clothing or backpacks, keep your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy with you, avoid wearing expensive jewellery, are only some of the practical, common sense things to do. Dress casually and err on the side of the conservative dress for less attention, don’t wander around dark areas or deserted streets and especially if you have a had a drink, check-in with family members regularly, and always be aware of your surroundings. Cell phones, tablets or laptops should never be left at a table unattended.
The view of Machu Picchu
4. Plan ahead and know where you are going, in advance.
This is especially useful for taxis and knowing where you want to go. Taxi drivers earn commissions from hotels to take travellers to certain hotels and they may sometimes be almost too eager to take you somewhere you don't want to go. Having a hotel name or at least a street /block name can be a lifesaver. Also, stick to official taxis-ask an airport or bus station official if you are unsure.
5. Unwanted admirers.
Always follow your gut… if a situation feels “off” then it usually is. Whether you are walking down the street or in a bar, there will be some unwanted attention and one of the best ways of dealing with it is ignoring it totally, or avoiding eye contact. I stick out like a sore thumb being 1.75cm and blonde, in a Latino community so my “male, imaginary friend” is always a great companion to have for the over-eager Latin “lover”.
6. Get Off the beaten track.
Cusco for example has a million and one travel agencies looking for people to join a group. Go with an organised group and get out into the countryside. There are so many beautiful treks both 1 day and multi-day to keep you busy, such as the Salkantay trek. Family homestays in rural locations tend to be much safer than bigger cities and the smaller towns of the Sacred Valley can often be a lot safer than Cusco itself, with all its security.
Contemplating the Humantay lake
7. Choose a reputable tour company.
A lot of Peruvians are employed as “jaladores” which means they get a commission by pulling in tourists of the street. They could be the nicest person on the planet as this is their job, however, the integrity of the travel agency is an unknown. Always choose a travel agency that has a decent reputation or a personal recommendation or usually from a reliable guidebook who usually have a list of recommended tour companies.
8. Look for other female travellers.
If you are looking for company on your adventure, keep an eye open for other women traveling alone in Peru, they will usually be in similar locations as yourself and may also be looking for a travel partner for certain adventurous activities.
9. Make friends with a Peruvian family.
This is where the level of Spanish will help. If you are alone and feel uncomfortable at any point in a given situation, strike up a conversation with a family or group of Peruvian women, 99% of the time they will take you under their wing and be fascinated by you and where you are from. Who knows, you may become friends forever as Peruvians, on the whole, are warm, genuine and extremely friendly by nature.
Greeting the inhabitants of Machu Picchu!
10. DON’T Google “is Peru Safe”!
This is the best way to make sure you never leave your home! There is so much misinformation that it is easy to fall into the trap of not travelling at all! Or at least make sure that you will be a little ball of paranoia on your trip. Follow the above recommendations and you will have a blast! I have lived here for 20 years and have had the most amazing time and could not even see me living anywhere else on the planet. Be bold, be safe and most of all be your beautiful self!