As women, we’re more likely to feel – and be – more vulnerable when we travel than our male counterparts, or even compared with when we’re in the familiar surroundings of our home town.
If you know anything about the Thelma & Louise Club, it’s that we rarely shy away from travel challenges. And we understand that what constitutes a travel challenge to one of our members may be a walk in the park to another. And we celebrate that.
No matter what your travel style, whether you’re galloping across the remotest Mongolian steppes, checking out the samba clubs in Rio de Janeiro or sunning yourself on an all-inclusive beach resort, we want you to get out there and explore, meet people and have a horizon-broadening experience. So, we’ve compiled this list of travel apps to help you feel safer when you’re doing just that.
1. GeoSure: a location-based, real-time safety measurement platform
When in a new city, have you ever wondered if you’d be safe to stroll from your hotel to a restaurant, if you’d be wiser to pre-book a taxi or if you’d be better off just staying put in your room until the sun comes up? GeoSure helps you make that decision.
The app combines data from a variety of sources, including the World Health Organisation, local authorities, the United Nations and real-time reports, into ‘GeoSafeScores’ across seven different safety categories, including physical harm, health and medical, LGBTQ safety and women’s safety.
The GeoSafeScore works on a scale of 1 (extremely safe) to 100 (extremely dangerous) and it’s easy to compare an unfamiliar location with somewhere you know well. As I’m writing this, London, for example, averages a score of 38, while parts of Tegucigalpa in Honduras are 86.
“You can report positive and negative experiences to help build a clearer picture of a destination.”
It’s a community-based app too. You can report positive and negative experiences to help build a clearer picture of a destination. Complete parts of your profile, such as your gender and whom you’re travelling with (if anyone) to personalise your safety scores. Once I did this, my personal safety score for London increased to 42, and Tegucigalpa to 94. Gulp.
Best for: building an overarching awareness of the safety levels in a major city’s neighbourhoods before you arrive.
If you’re heading to a part of the United States that’s prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes, make sure you download the relevant American Red Cross Disaster App.
The Hurricane app monitors hurricane conditions in your area; the Tornado app sends weather alerts whenever the NOAA issues a tornado watch for your location and even sounds a siren if you need to take shelter; and the Earthquake app notifies you when an earthquake occurs and helps you find help. The Hurricane and Tornado apps will let others know you’re safe even if the power is out too.
The Emergency: Alerts app monitors more than 35 different real-time severe weather and emergency alerts, such as floods, tsunamis and wildfires, and is preloaded with critical emergency content and a toolkit with a flashlight and audible alarm. It also maps open Red Cross shelters.
Best for: emergency alerts and notifications on trips to natural disaster-prone locations in the USA.
3. Sitata: one-stop shop for travel-disrupting events
Check out health and safety concerns in your destination before you go, get alerts about any new developments that could affect your travels when you’re on the road, and have emergency info at your fingertips in case something does happen.
“Focused on health and safety, Sitata monitors media sites around the globe for news on events that could disrupt travel.”
Focused on health and safety, Sitata monitors media sites around the globe for news on events that could disrupt travel. The info is displayed on a map alongside ‘what to do’ advice for more than 200 countries. There are emergency numbers and hospital locations, plus you can keep a record of your own prescription medication and immunisation history here too. Sitata also has a crowd-sourcing element, so users can add to the map any travel tips or dangers such as tourist scams. And it all works offline.
Best for: location-based, real-time travel alerts for events such as natural disasters, airport strikes, terrorist activity, civil unrest and outbreaks of disease.
4. bSafe: a personal safety alarm system
This app is as much a peace of mind offering for your loved ones as it is a personal safety app for you.
The cleverest thing about bSafe is the SOS button. It can be voice activated, so you don’t even need to touch your phone to alert your pre-chosen safety network of ‘guardians’ that you’re in danger.
Activate it and send your location and a live stream of video and audio to your guardians so they can see and/or hear what’s happening in real time; that data is automatically saved on your network’s devices too, in case your phone gets broken. And, if it comes to it, the audio and video can be used in court.
Also useful is the Follow Me tool, which allows your guardians to track you as you walk via live GPS tracking, until you alert them that you’re safely home. You can also activate the Fake Call to help get you out of unpleasant or potentially threatening situations, or use the timed alarm or the siren.
Best for: reassurance for you and for those who worry about you.
5. Various ride-hail apps: avoid hanging around waiting for transport
Few scenarios make a woman feel more vulnerable than trying to get back to her accommodation at night in an unfamiliar city. Hanging around on the street trying to hail a taxi isn’t a wise move, and late-night public transport can vary from unappealing to downright risky, depending on where you are. Enter the ride-hail app!
First, let’s clarify the difference between ride-hailing and ride-sharing. The terms are often used interchangeably but there are key differences. Ride-hailing is like using a taxi; you have a personal driver who picks you up and drops you off exactly where you request – all that’s changed is you use your phone to hail rather than stand on the street. Ride-sharing is like carpooling; you share the vehicle, which makes several stops to pick up and drop off other riders. Many outfits offer both ride-hailing and ride-sharing options.
Key safety points with ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps are that you know exactly when and where your ride will pull up, the vehicle’s registration number and the driver’s name – and you can share this info with family and friends if you wish. You know the estimated cost of the journey in advance, the automatic payment process is fumble-free, and some apps even let you rate your experience, making it safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Drivers can usually rate passengers too.
Before you travel, find out which ride-sharing/hailing organisation is most popular – and safe – in your destination. Download the app and make sure you’ve pre-entered all your personal details.
Some of the most popular apps are Uber
(available in more than 600 cities worldwide), Lyft
(mostly in the USA and Canada), Grab
(popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore), Yandex
(for Russia), EasyTaxi
(in Brazil, across South America and elsewhere) and Cabify
(in Spain, Portugal and South and Central American countries).
If the choice threatens to overwhelm you, try Bellhop
, a rideshare price comparison tool that compares all the major ride options; it’s mostly a US innovation but is expanding globally.
Best for: safer, cheaper, more reliable transport in the city.
Which of these apps are you most likely to use? Or do you use any of them already?