Keith Hockton – IL Malaysia Correspondent
“The” safest country is a hard one to call Sally but there are safer countries than others for women and its a good question.
I live in Malaysia and there are quite a few single expat women living here. Lots of support groups too, including The International Womens Association which guides new arrivals and provides a lot for them.
The crime rate is low and George Town in Penang where I live is a safe place at night. Additionally there are a fair few expat women in business here, running very successful businesses I might add.
Hope this answers your question.
Gigi Griffis – IL Europe Correspondent
I’m a single woman living in Europe and I feel incredibly safe (even moreso than I do in the US) pretty everywhere I’ve been here (with the exception of certain neighborhoods in big cities, but it’s not hard to avoid those parts of town). France, Italy, Malta, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium…I’ve been able to find good neighborhoods, walk home alone at night, and navigate public transportation without any issue in all these places. With Europe, the sky is really the limit.
Hope that helps!
Glynna Prentice – IL Mexico Editor
If you’re from the US, you’re already in the most dangerous place you’re likely to spend time in. ALL the foreign countries that you see mentioned here as expat destinations are far safer.
I am single and have lived large chunks of my life living and traveling throughout Europe and Latin America. I have seldom felt uneasy anyplace, and can’t remember ever being in fear of my life.
I’ve lived in Mexico for the last eight-plus years, and despite what the media may tell you, most of Mexico is very, very safe. Many single women live here quite happily, and every major expat haven has loads of singles of both sexes. Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende, Merida, Lake Chapala, the Riviera Maya… all these destinations are fun, filled with expats both married and single, and probably far safer than where you live now. Naturally, you’ll find a certain amount of crime in cities like Merida–it has nearly a million inhabitants, after all–but a mere fraction of what you’d see in a US city of that size.
So safety is not really a problem. Focus instead on what kind of ambience, climate, etc, that you want in a destination–and start researching and traveling to find it!
Suzan Haskins – IL Editor
I would rather advise you on the safest “communities” than countries. Just as the US or Canada, every country has places that may not be as safe as you’d like. And every country has communities that are very safe. Where would you like to go? I’d advise you to decide that first and then find the community that best suits you.
Jason Holland – IL Roving Latin America Editor
Costa Rica in general is a safe and stable country with a low crime rate. Violent crime, in particular, is rare. Most expats feel safe. And there are many single expat woman who live throughout the country. You’ll also find that the expat communities are very welcoming of singles as well. There are lots of clubs, social groups, and other activities to take part in.
If you like beaches, you check out Pacific coast towns like Jaco (a bustling resort town), Manuel Antonio (a community set in the rain forest on the beach), or the area around Dominical/Uvita/Ojochal – which is a naturally beautiful and mostly undeveloped area with lots of wildlife.
In the mountains, in a region called the the Central Valley, you’ll find a temperate climate and more of a rural lifestyle. Check out towns like Grecia, Atenas, and San Ramon.
All these areas have long term rentals for good prices for small condos and homes.
Bonnie Hayman – IL Nicaragua Correspondent
You may be surprised, but Nicaragua is very safe for single women! I moved here alone 8 years ago and I’ve never had a problem. In fact, Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America. And like Suzan said, I feel much more fearful and worried when I’m walking around alone in the U.S. when I visit my daughter there.
Here in Nicaragua, I take the buses alone, drive around alone, sometimes dine alone or do things like go out in the evening to listen to jazz at night. I’ve made a beautiful life for myself here and after so many years, don’t really even think about the issue of safety anymore. And there are many expats that you’ll meet and before you know it you’ll have lots of friends. When you are single in Nicaragua, you never feel lonely because there are always others around and many things to do. In addition, Nicaragua is close to the U.S. if you need to get back AND it’s one of the cheapest countries in the world to live. You can get a one bedroom furnished apartment in any of the main cities and live a nice life for $1200 a month.
Jessica Ramesch – IL Panama Editor
Suzan makes an important point. Every country on the IL beat is safe for single women, though ideally you will want to read about towns in the country you like best and choose one that has a good size expat community.
Panama is one of the safer countries in the region. You’ll hear this statement everywhere you go in Panama, and parroted by the mainstream media. Many expats here will tell you it’s hard to make yourself a target for violence here, and only if you go looking for trouble will it find you.
I myself am single and live alone in Panama City, and have for over eight years. I travel the country, usually on my own, without fear. I blend in, do not have a car or attire to make me look wealthy, and have learned to speak Spanish.
People sometimes make the mistake of letting their guard down completely…something they’d never do back home. It’s important to remember that no place on earth is free from crime. Big cities (and small ones, too) always have good and bad areas.
That said, there are many positives that continue to draw people to Panama. It continues to grow its middle class and make successful efforts to reduce poverty. Panama City has a cadre of tourist police and crimes against tourists—or any foreigners, for that matter—are seriously dealt with. Panamanians are welcoming of foreign tourists and residents. There isn’t the envy or racial tension you might find in economically deprived countries. Perhaps because Panama is a land of opportunity, and locals who strive to improve their lot can go far.
There are plenty of single expats in towns outside of Panama City, such as Coronado, Pedasi, Boquete and more. Many list safety as one of their reasons for living here, and this includes many single women (many of them over the age of 40).
Local organizations like Alto al Crimen have helped improve reporting of crimes and, importantly, much of the crime in Boquete is non-violent (petty theft and break-ins).
That said it is important to do as the locals do…have some kind of security and avoid making yourself an easy target.
It is important to note that safety is relative. Latin American cities (and U.S. cities) tend not to rank amongst the top 20 safest in the world according to indexes by organizations like Mercer. Generally Canada and European countries take the top spots.
Talk to expats and locals when you visit. Many of the expats living in the countries we at IL write about will tell you that they feel safe. Many comment about the visible police presence and experiences with helpful members of the police. These same expats also agree that it’s best to use common sense and never take safety for granted. It all boils down to not making yourself a target.
IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch