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How to have safe sex traveling

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There’s something about being on the other side of the world where nobody knows you; you feel free, confident and bold, and may be open to trying new things, including getting intimate with someone. Love, romance and maybe something more are all part of the solo travel journey and we’re here to help you make travel sex safe.

Whether it’s a one-night stand with a stranger or a fling with your travel buddy, sex while traveling is exciting, as demonstrated by the amount of comments each thread on sex when traveling get in our online community and by a CDC study which revealed that 20%-34% of international travelers engage in casual sex.

Having sex with someone you just met abroad is fun but comes with its own set of risks. The same study also found that 43% of respondents had unprotected intercourse on their travels which, beyond the risk of pregnancy, can also be the cause of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

We like to talk about sex openly, and educate ourselves and our community on the topic, so in this article, we will provide up to date information and helpful advice to make the most of your sexual experience in your travels while staying safe. 

To further your learning, sign up for Empowerful, our online solo female travel safety, wellness and sexual wellbeing course which empowers women to travel solo safely and includes over 40 sessions on with experts including one with Dr. Deborah Bateson, who gives an informative, no-judgement discussion about everything you need to know relating to sexual wellbeing on the road. Get your access here.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our list of tips of having safe sex when traveling.

Casual sex vs sex tourism

It’s vital to understand the difference between casual sex while traveling and sex tourism. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sex tourism is “travel for the specific purpose of having sex, typically with commercial sex workers”. On the other hand, casual sex during travel, refers to “informal sexual encounters with fellow travelers or locals”.

In this article, we use the term “sex” only referring to casual sex encounters while traveling and do not support sex tourism, a practice which is considered a crime in many countries and is often the origin demand for sex trafficking, and one of the biggest criminal industries in the world. Furthermore, when sex tourism involves a minor, it is also a defined as a federal crime in the US.

Sexually transmitted infections

There’s an undeniable link between traveling and the spread of disease, as we have observed with the COVID-19 pandemic, and this extends to the risk of sexually transmitted infections. 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are “infections transmitted from an infected person to an uninfected person through sexual contact”, as stated by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH). Examples include HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, Human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.

It’s important for travelers to consider that the risk of STIs is high during casual sexual encounters and changing partners and that they can be prevented by using barrier methods every time you engage in sexual activity. 

Stay alert to the risk of sexual assault

Sexual assault can occur anywhere in the world. Being abroad can make you more vulnerable since you don’t know the culture, laws, religion, common behaviors, etc. and others may perceive you as an easier target. You can minimize this risk by getting informed and being prepared during your trip. 

Here are some safety tips you can apply to prevent sexual assault abroad:

  • Investigate and keep the emergency numbers of the country you’re visiting at all times, it’s also useful to learn some emergency phrases in the local language. 
  • If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation or feel like you’re in danger, do anything you can to escape, draw the attention of others or activate a personal security alarm, which will make a strong sound and alert people.  
  • Never open your room door to anyone before confirming their identity
  • Never leave your food and drinks unattended and don’t accept any food from strangers
  • If you happen to invite someone back to your room, ask a friend, or the front desk to check up on you in an hour’s time.

Understand the laws of your destination

What may be legal or commonplace where you live may be illegal or unacceptable elsewhere, it’s important to be informed about local laws and customs of the destination you’re visiting. 

For example, public displays of affection are frowned upon in India, sex outside marriage is considered illegal in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa such as the modern United Arab Emirates, and having sex on a parked motorcycle is unlawful in London. Your hotel in Egypt or Jordan may not let you bring in a local man into your room.

Understand the local laws related to sex when traveling and keep in mind what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially in more religious or conservative countries where there is prosecution, fines or deportation as consequence of certain kinds of affectionate / sexual behavior.

Have a check-up before traveling

Get yourself tested before you travel. It’s vital to make sure your health is good and there are no signs of any disease or infection. 

If you plan on having sex during your trip, share it with your doctor and discuss the best option for contraceptive methods. Be sure to bring enough supplies for your whole trip, and more just in case you need them. Contraceptives like condoms or birth control pills may not be as available where you are going than where you live and getting them over the counter could be troublesome. 

If the contraceptive method you use will be valid during your trip, consider changing. For example, maybe you use a ring and you won’t be able to keep it at the right temperature for the duration of your travels and using condoms or taking the pill may be more convenient.

Check you are up to date with all the necessary vaccines such as Hepatitis B and Human papillomavirus (HPV), which are two sexually transmitted infections for which vaccines are available.

Buy travel insurance and be familiar with local healthcare

We strongly recommend getting travel insurance every time you travel. It may save your life and give you peace of mind as a solo female traveler. 

We also suggest you search for local health clinics or hospitals that are near your accommodation and compatible with your insurance. Have their address and phone number handy in case you have a health emergency.

Book a private room

Make things more practical by booking a single room, so you can have privacy in case you’re planning on inviting someone over to your room. If you want to stay in a hostel, most have single rooms available for only a few dollars more a night. Or you may consider booking an entire apartment on Airbnb. 

We recommend booking an accommodation with 24-hour front desk service, so you can stay safe get assistance in case anything happens.

Get tested as soon as possible

If you think that you may have contracted an STI, go get tested as soon as possible so you can get treatment early.

Be clear about consent

To have sex, it’s vital to have mutual consent. Consent is a clear voluntary agreement to take part in sexual activity. This includes all sexual activity like kissing, touching, oral sex, anal sex and vaginal sex. Have a talk with the person, express what you like and don’t like, and stop if you’re not comfortable. 

If you don’t feel like having sex with someone you just met or you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, assess if it is safe for you to leave and if it it is, do so. Don’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do.

A great safety tool is The Ursafe app, which should definitely be on your phone during your travels. Ursafe is the best personal safety app for women traveling. It’s an emergency app that works in 200 countries and has some really kick ass features like voice activation for SOS, live streaming in an emergency, checking in with friends and family, and it also has a function that makes fake calls to your phone if you need to get out of an uncomfortable situation. As our group member you can try Ursafe for 30 days for free here.

Tell somebody

Like with safe travel dating, If you’re going on a date or plan to have a hookup while traveling, share the details with a travel buddy or a friend you trust. 

Inform them about where you are going, who you are going with and when you expect to be back. Take a picture of the person and share any details about them with your trusted friend.

Use protection

This is one of the most critical points to ensure a safe sex experience when traveling or at home. By using protection, we mean using contraceptive methods. 

We strongly suggest using condoms, because they are the only contraceptive method that can prevent both a pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections like HIV. Bring enough for your whole stay, and some more in case one tears or breaks when it’s being put on. 

Other effective contraceptive methods while traveling can be birth control options, but they will only prevent pregnancy and not STIs. You should also consider that it may be tricky to stick to a routine when your daily habits and schedules are constantly changing. If you choose to use birth control, we recommend to pair it with a condom for extra safety and prevention. 

It’s key to consider the destination you’re traveling to, because it might be difficult to find contraceptives like condoms or birth control pills over the counter as they are not sold without a prescription.

Maintain your full awareness

Excessive alcohol and drug use interferes with decision-making and increases the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease as it impairs your ability to make smart decisions. Research also shows that excessive alcohol consumption is a contributing factor to sexual assault and puts you in a more vulnerable situation.

Additionally, alcohol can cause orgasmic dysfunction making sex less enjoyable for the person who is inebriated. That means, it takes longer to reach an orgasm and it makes it less intense. 

Don’t be ashamed

Based on a recent study, sexual health and satisfaction are key components of health and well-being. Women had been taught by society to hide and protect their sexuality. This has caused many women to feel ashamed for having an active sex life.  

There’s no reason to be embarrassed for having sex while traveling. It’s perfectly ok to feel adventurous and experiment with sexual activity abroad. What is more, this can provide an added understanding of a culture that goes beyond the sights and sounds. 

We all remember the steamy summer love stories and encounters and the fun words we learned while in bed with a handsome local abroad.

Be alert and look after yourself

Always remember to stay vigilant. Having intimacy with strangers may bring your defenses down or distract you. There’s always the risk of theft, so keep your valuables and belongings in sight or place them in a hard-to-reach spot. 

If the person invites you to his/her home, it may not be safe or you may not have an easy way out. So it’s preferable to invite them over to your hotel where you can get assistance from the front desk in case of an emergency and where you control the surroundings. 

Protect your feelings, don’t get emotionally involved

Last but not least, it can be exciting to have a hookup with someone you just met and have been chatting with on a dating app. It’s easy to catch feelings and expect something more long-lasting out of it even though you may live 10,000 miles away and have a life back home.

You would not be the first one to find love on a solo trip, but you would also not be the first one to be disappointed or heart broken when the summer love ends.

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