Spain is flooded with tourists every year and in the major cities, a solo female traveller won't raise any eyebrows with the locals. However, for criminals who make a living ripping off tourists, you could seem like an easy target.
There's very little for a girl to be worried about but there are a few things you can do to avoid travel hiccups, unwanted attention and uncomfortable situations.
Violent crime against tourists is scarce in Spain but petty theft is common, so while you needn't be paranoid while wandering, you do need to stay alert. Let these tips for women travellers guide you.
If you're struggling with heavy luggage and looking lost when you arrive in a new city you're sure to attract the wrong kind of attention, especially on the Metro. Packing light means you're more mobile and less vulnerable to pickpockets or thieves.
Handbags are like a bullseye for thieves and can it can be disastrous if yours is stolen. Rather than tossing all your stuff into one bag and making a lucky dip out of your valuables, it's better to carry your cash and cards in a money belt, hidden pocket or at least a zipped off compartment inside the bag.
Carry your bag in front of you and close to your body when you're on the Metro or in a crowded place. Wearing the strap across your body rather than over the shoulder makes it harder for someone to snatch it off you. The same applies for camera straps and long necklaces.
Thieves sometimes fly by on motorbikes or scooters, ripping your bag/camera/ice cream from your hands before tearing off around the corner. Be especially wary of this tactic while waiting near the road at busy intersections.
When eating at a cafe or restaurant, the safest place to store your bag is on your lap. But if you do want to put it down try to place it against a wall or somewhere you can keep an eye on it and no one can snatch it from behind. Looping the straps around your chair leg or your actual leg means if anyone starts probing, you'll know about it.
Spain is very cosmopolitan and multicultural but in some regards quite conservative, the legacy of a sternly Catholic history. Styles of dress differ across the country, becoming a bit more relaxed as you head south, but as a general rule you should avoid overly revealing outfits and bright colours.
At the beach everything is on show but dress standards tighten as you move away from the water. Wandering through the city in a bikini top will instantly single you out as a tourists and a potential target.
The further you travel from the big cities, the more conservative the fashion will become. Pickpockets tend to stick to areas thick with tourists so the threat of theft is also lessened in small rural towns. However, you may get some unwanted attention, especially if you're wearing your comfy short shorts.
In the main streets it will be little more than disapproving scowls or perhaps a few comments as you pass. The best thing to do is just ignore them. Acknowledging or challenging them will likely just spur them on.
Although friendly, most Spanish people aren't overly assertive with strangers. Anyone who approaches you out of the blue on the street, on public transport or around tourist hotspots should be treated with suspicion, especially if they try to touch you or get close.
In social situations it's a slightly different story so you needn't always assume sinister intentions.
People in Spain may be a little more overt and expressive than you're used to, waving their arms animatedly while talking. This can be a little intimidating coming from a stranger, especially if they're up close.
Eye contact isn't quite as suggestive here either; so don't read too much into it if someone holds your gaze. On the other hand, it is still odd for someone to stare unerringly.
It comes down to your own assessment of the situation. If you feel like something's a little amiss, it probably is. If you're feeling uncomfortable or threatened, don't put up with it for the sake of politeness.
Just firmly ask your newfound friend to leave. If it's early in the piece you can just pretend not to understand them. If they persist, talk to a nearby security guard or policeman.
If you're travelling solo you're more likely to experience this one. Eating and drinking are really just an excuse for socialising in Spain, so a woman sitting alone at a bar or cafe sometimes draws some stares.
If you're determined to avoid awkwardness or unwelcome companions you could try draping a jacket over the seat opposite you, making it appear like you're with a friend. Take any valuables out of the pockets first of course.
If you're heading out for the night it's safest to go in a group and make sure you don't get separated from your friends.
The dress code still applies after sundown so steer clear of clingy clothing and showing lots of skin. Some Spanish guys are under the impression all foreign girls are promiscuous and will be much more forward and even aggressive with tourists than with local girls. Make it clear you're not impressed and they should wise up pretty quickly.
Personal attacks and sexual assaults against tourists are rare but they do happen. Other tourists are often the perpetrators so don't assume someone's safe just because they're travelling too.
Beware of drink spiking and date rape drugs. Buy all your own drinks and don't leave them unattended. The bartenders here are rather generous with their measurements too so be careful not to overdo it.
Try not to reveal too much information about where you're staying and if you're travelling alone definitely don't make mention of it. Anyone who seems a little too interested in these sorts of details should raise alarm bells.
A taxi is essential if you're more than a block or so from your accommodation. The Spanish party well into the wee hours and things can get a little weird and dodgy on the streets by the time you're heading home. Taking a cab by yourself isn't ideal but your main concern should be avoiding unlicensed taxis. Authorised drivers will have their license on show in the cab and should have a certificate displayed on the car.
Travelling in Spain shouldn't be any more dangerous than heading to the shops in your hometown. If you're well informed, confident and savvy there will be nothing to stop you falling in love with this vivacious country.
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