Thinking of traveling to Ireland alone? Regardless of race, religion or gender, traveling in Ireland solo is generally quite safe. While there are some places on earth where women traveling alone face additional threats to safety, Ireland is definitely not one of them. In fact, Ireland could be regarded as a very safe place for the female traveler. This, however, does not change the fact that single travelers should always exercise some caution, as globally, women are often targeted more than men by predators.
Crimes Against Women in Ireland
While Ireland is generally a safe country to travel in, it is an unfortunate fact that sexually motivated crimes against women are still on the rise in Ireland. While such general statistics include a large amount of domestic and spousal abuse, they are certainly a warning. The Justice Minister noted that the rise in reported incidents came in the wake of a larger public focus on #MeToo. But overall, the risk to women traveling in Ireland seems to be on par with the majority of Middle-European countries, the USA, and Canada.
To put the level of crime in perspective, of all the tourists killed in Ireland during the last few years, most were traffic casualties or victims of other accidents. However, it is sobering to know that the only foreign murder victims were young women traveling alone at the time of death. Therefore normal precautions should be taken – the same precautions you would take in every city or country you are a stranger to.
Attitudes Towards Solo Women in Ireland
Ireland has become a much more socially progressive country in the last several years, passing many new laws by public majorities which increase rights for people who were previously marginalized and putting the right to choose in the hands of women. No one will raise an eyebrow if you tell them that you are in Ireland traveling alone. In fact, most people will simply want to share even more advice with you.
At the same time, a woman out by herself often seems to invite conversation, even if you might not be in the mood to speak. Men may approach women who are out dining or drinking solo and strike up a conversation. This flirty approach is referred to as "being chatted up," and more often than not, it is all lighthearted. Most Irish men assume this is all a part of their famous charm, and will readily complement and joke with women they have never met before. Joking back does not mean you have to take the conversation any further, but for some, a refusal or a lack of interest is sometimes not taken lightly. Expect choruses of “Aw, c’moooon …”
Sex in Ireland
Sex outside of marriage was scandalous to most Irish until fairly recently, the sexual revolution by-passing the Emerald Isle several times, and by miles. This has changed dramatically over the last years and it seems as if part of the population is trying to make up for lost time, occasionally. Unfortunately, neither sexual education nor hygiene seems to have kept up with this trend.
So whatever you do - use protection. Ideally, bring your own, condoms are fairly expensive in Ireland and not always easily to be found after hours. Protection is key, but should anything go wrong, it is good to be aware that emergency contraception is available (even over the counter) in Ireland.
What Part of "No" Don't Irish Men Understand?
Irish men often have to be told repeatedly (and at times forcefully) that the object of their desire is not interested at all. It is generally the local custom to keep trying your luck, even after being turned down, as though it is all a part of the banter.
If you feel that a man is being too aggressive and you are not interested, it is perfectly acceptable to bluntly tell him s. Stand firm and take a businesslike approach to give the message that this is not a part of some game. It might take him a few more tries to give up, though.
If even a strong no does not get the message across, ask for help if necessary. Out in public in Ireland, people are occasionally too hesitant to interfere in other people's business, sometimes even ignoring a crime in progress. You can also try a direct approach with others around you, requesting "Could you help me, please?" Involving more people means you don't have to face an increasingly uncomfortable situation alone and most people are happy to help once asked.
Things to Avoid in Ireland
There are a few things you might better avoid if traveling alone as a female in Ireland:
- Avoid lingering out of politeness - if you object to any contact, state so clearly, and break away from it immediately.
- Avoid ambiguity - use a clear, loud "No!" and appropriate body language to make your point.
- Avoid getting drunk - if you render yourself defenseless, you are a fool. Also watch out for "spiked" drinks (though a sneaked-in shot of vodka is often more likely than a dose of flunitrazepam).
- Avoid being alone with (a) male stranger(s), especially with somebody wanting to show you "a short cut".
- Avoid hitch-hiking alone.
- Avoid any known trouble spots, enquire at your accommodation about them.
- Avoid following any invitation to a "house party" with strangers.
- Under any circumstances avoid drugs – they are more than likely going to impair your judgment, and there are some lethal mixtures on the market as well.
And finally - never assume that all is well because you heard the Irish are all so nice and helpful. There are potential perpetrators about everywhere, even on the Emerald Isle.
What To Do In an Emergency
Leave any uncomfortable situation quickly before it has a chance to escalate. Walk away from the person or people who are bothering or threatening you, choosing a safe direction (i.e. up to the barman or a bouncer, into the nearest open establishment, into a crowd, even up to the nearest front door), and make others aware of your plight.
Call for police assistance as soon as possible - and raise such a fuss that witnesses cannot ignore you and feel compelled to dial 112, the emergency number.
Self-Defence and Weapons
Due to the threat of terrorism Ireland's laws on weapons are strict - in fact, any weapons apart from shotguns and hunting rifles are illegal. This includes many items traditionally used for non-lethal self-defense. Tazers, stun guns, pepper spray and similar instruments are banned. If you possess, let alone use, them, you might find yourself in a difficult legal position. They are not approved for self-defense purposes and so it is best not to bring them to Ireland, keeping in mind that the best defense is following basic safety guidelines and staying away from potentially dangerous situations.