For many professionals, commuting for a meeting, attending a conference or to woo potential clients requires frequent traveling. Though many business travelers will tell you being on the road for work is anything but glamorous, it does challenge workers to be street-smart savvy. Regardless of whether your industry takes you to various hubs in the US and Europe or to remote parts of Asia, it’s important to take safety precautions when in a new setting.
This may be especially true for female leaders, since 83% reported they’ve had a safety concern while jet-setting for their gigs. This sadly makes sense, since many women are acutely aware of who and what is around them, wherever life takes them. As travel pro and freelance consultant Katherine Conaway explains, it’s important to remember other places aren’t necessarily so much less safe than where we are from, they’re just less familiar and the unknown is what makes us more uncomfortable.
Here, we talked to women who travel non-stop on their best safety tips for female professionals:
Research ahead of time.
Luckily, we live in an age where city recommendations are available with a few clicks of your mouse. Musician and caterer Lisa Spykers suggest exhausting every medium you have before traveling to a new destination: Google, Facebook travel groups and even reaching out directly to friends, family members and colleagues who have visited the spot in the past.
Sometime, you may even discover someone on the ground in the region who can assist you, should you need it. “It’s great having a local contact and they will tell you about neighborhoods and situations to be aware of,” she continues. “I’ve already had times where I needed help and had a local contact to go to — especially when language is a barrier.”
Use transportation that’s reliable and safe
Depending on where you are, metro systems are a practical and efficient way to get around. But in other areas, they may be on the sketchier side, especially at nighttime. If you are in a client dinner that ran late or you were finishing a project well past sundown, Conaway says it’s almost always worth it to splurge on a cab, call an Uber or another car service company. Especially if your employer allows you to expense everything from a business trip (as they should), it’s money well spent for your peace of mind.
Walk with confidence
Fake it until you make it may not be appropriate when leading your annual sales meeting but when you’re in a new place, it’s smart advice. As business traveler and digital project manager Cathy Ferrell explains, whether she’s meeting someone at a restaurant, or taking a cab from the airport, she always acts as if she’s familiar with her surroundings. Much of this comes from religiously studying Google maps to ensure she understands where she’s heading and to provide a solid orientation of her location.
“This helps me walk with confidence and if I do have to pull my phone out to check the map, it’s just a quick glance to get back on track and I’m not standing on a corner or in one spot for long with my phone out looking lost,” she explains. “It can help in a taxi to know how long the ride should take or what route you expect to take. I think traveling with confidence makes you less of a target for opportunists.”
Let people know where you are
Sure, you may feel just-fine heading to the Big Apple, yet again, for another touch base with a client. And maybe you’ve been to Boston so many times, you now have a go-to coffee shop and beloved lunch spot. Even so, Spykers says it’s important that you give folks a head’s up. This includes your colleagues, who will know your workday schedule, and your friends, who will expect a dinner catch-up upon your return.
Whether you forward your flight information or update your safety settings in your phone, having people to hold you accountable will ensure someone’s thinking of your whereabouts. And in an extreme case, you can raise a red flag if they don’t hear from you.
Be mindful of your bag — and invest in a protective one
When you’re on the road for work, your laptop, chargers, notebooks, credit cards and personal identification all come along for the journey. When your role requires you to explore parts of the world that are known for pickpocketing or robbery, a bag can go a long way to protect you and your items, according to traveler and entrepreneur Cynthia Fortlage. “I have a black cut-proof bag to avoid having my contents ripped away from my body or ripped open and spilling out on the street,” she explains. “Multi function-straps that can also secure your bag to something anchored is helpful too, as I find restaurants and bars are now providing anchors not just hooks for a bag.”
And though you likely have already mastered this skill while exploring a European city (or ten), Fortlage urges female travelers to keep their bag in front of them for safekeeping.
Ask — and watch — the local females.
Perhaps you’re working out of the South American branch of your company for the next few weeks. When you land, chat with colleagues in the office about safety issues and ask if they will recommend various options for your trip. More likely than not, other women are happy to provide insight to the city they know like the back of their hand.
When you’re exploring after-work or on the weekends, Ferrell suggests paying attention to other females around you. “When I’m out and find myself feeling unsure, I look around to see if there are other females out walking around as well. If there are women jogging or going about their day as locals would, it can be a sign that they know and feel safe in the area,” she continues. “If I’m really not sure about an area, I might book an excursion or experience with a local female guide for the first day who can provide me some insight to use during my stay.”
Have information at your fingertips
And by info, Conaway means anything-and-everything you could need. From a copy of your passport on your phone to a SIM card that gives unlimited data wherever you happen to be, it’s better to be overly prepared. If you’re in a country that requires a visa, it’s also recommended to have that nearby, too. Hotels, rental car bookings and so on, will also ensure you can find your way back ‘home’ if you get lost.
Bottom line? Before you set out to see an area, meet a client or do anything, take a few minutes to mentally, physically and strategically prep to keep yourself safe.