Click "Learn Something New".
Click "Learn Something New".
One of the tips listed in the linked article was to carry a whistle. It occurred to me that a whistle could be handy in those pickpocket/pestery areas when people thrust signs at you to sign, try to give you a 'free' rose, shove babies in your face while their kids rifle through your pockets, offer to wipe off the mustard they just squirted on you, tie a 'friendship' bracelet on your wrist, or all the other forms of extortion/petty theft prevalent in some places. Often I know exactly what is going on but it is hard to get them to stop or move away. Betcha a blast from a whistle would move them off fast!
The powers that be thought that it would be a wonderful idea to do a feature on Travel Tips for the Solo Woman for this monthís newsletter. When they presented me with the idea with the expectation for great excitement on my part, I was actually at a loss for a reaction. I started to wonder how does solo travel differ between a man and a woman. What more could I tell my dear reader than you MUST have a strong desire to explore? For you see, I am a solo female traveller. Over the past 18 months I have travelled around the world, making my way through nearly 20 countries. And my attitude hasnít changed from before I started to today Ė Whatís the big deal? When planning for my worldwide adventure, I was constantly accosted by people asking me if I fear the dangers or the unknown. Or the truly annoying who inquired as to why I didnít have a boyfriend I could take along with me. Truth be told, I wanted to travel alone. My friends were all off getting married or getting a Masters degree and I knew that wasnít my path to follow. So I worked for a few months after University, saved my pennies and set off. Through good luck and god fortune I have avoided any major disaster and I have made some truly amazing friendships.
If you still find yourself attracting sleazy men remember that advances can be thwarted by silence, no eye contact and quickly moving away from the source.
But should you see the potential harm that could befall you should you venture off on your own, I have conferred with my fellow female travellers and have here a guide to surviving the road alone.
Travelling Smart, Avoiding Danger and Dealing with Men
Now before you start worrying about what shoes to pack or whether or not you can live without your hair dryer (you can and you will), the main things that youíre going to need for the journey ahead are: a sense of adventure, some common sense and the ability to trust your instincts. When travelling youíll be flung so far outside your comfort zone, a different country makes for a different culture and all that. You need to be able to just roll with it. Youíll need to be aware that as a woman travelling alone you could be a potential target, but donít become paranoid about it. Just be aware. Donít visit unfamiliar or empty neighbourhoods after dark; donít carry a purse Ė use a daypack or a money belt instead; if youíre feeling threatened, scared, unsure, lost, etc ASK FOR HELP! I have never asked for assistance and been turned away.
Also before you leave, learn a little something about the culture youíre going to visit. Take the time to learn their customs and what would be considered obscene or suggestive to other people. Also learn the basics of a familiar language. Hello, goodbye, yes, no, please, thank you. Youíll be amazed at how far this gesture can take you. For the most part, as a solo traveller youíre going to want to dress and behave modestly, this is the best way to avoid unwanted attention. In Muslim countries itís indecent to bare your knees or shoulders; in the Mediterranean looking a man in the eye and smiling is an invitation to have sex. If you still find yourself attracting sleazy men remember that advances can be thwarted by silence, no eye contact and quickly moving away from the source. If this doesnít work, flip the coin and start screaming. There is power in a vocal assault, most predators donít want attention drawn on them and the locals may not know what youíre saying but theyíll get the message and someone will help you. Another option is to pop into a shop or restaurant, explain your situation and ask them to call you a taxi to bring you home or, if need be, the police.
Donít leave yourself open to harassment and hope that things blow over or Mr. Obnoxious just goes away. Use your head and take actions to protect yourself.
But please, donít get the wrong message Ė You need to talk to strangers, to put yourself out there, try new things. Youíll miss out on so much if you cut yourself off from locals and other travellers. Also when youíre travelling in Continental Europe it is much more common for the men to speak English than women, so donít be scared to talk to a man, just be smart about the who, where and when of it all.
Travelling Alone without getting Lonely, Meeting People as You go
Meeting people is one of the easiest things about travelling. Everything you do opens up an opportunity to meet someone new. If itís other travellers you share the same sense of adventure and youíre both on the hunt for a new friend. Locals are able to share something more of the culture youíre exploring, while asking about your home as well. This gives you a chance to boast about the marvels of home. (The longer you travel the more you come to appreciate the everyday things you took for granted at home.) First off, book yourself into a hostel or B&B. This depends on your age and income really. Hostels really are for the young or young at heart. But the shared dorm rooms, kitchens, washrooms, reading rooms, chill out areas, etc are just crawling with new friends you havenít met yet. There are often all female dorms available, if thatís something you feel you need, just ask. The B&Bís are a nice mix, you meet other travellers but you also get to meet the locals who run the B&B and hear their insights on their country, customs and culture. Be sure to pick a B&B that isnít so busy the hosts wonít have time for a chat.
If the time difference is a problem, then find a busy, well-lit internet cafť to catch up on your e-mails
When you get to a new city take a walking tour. This helps you to familiarize yourself with different neighbourhoods and an initial glimpse at some of the sights youíll want to explore further. This is also an excellent way to find out which neighbourhoods your better off avoiding and you get to meet other travellers new to the city. You can meet a friend to share dinner with or a little exploring later in the day.
Night times can often be the loneliest hours for a solo-female traveller as youíre often advised to stay in. There are many cures to this. This is a perfect time to make calls home, catch up with friends and family. Hearing a familiar voice is always an instant cure to loneliness, as is knowing someone is missing you. But if the time difference is a problem, then find a busy, well-lit internet cafť to catch up on your e-mails. Best part is that you get to send home tales of adventure and when you next check your inbox youíve got friendly replies. You could also catch a late dinner; just try to find a place that is nearby where youíre staying. You donít want to have far to go if youíre feeling uneasy about your surroundings. If you chose to dine out take a book or a journal with you for company. Another great idea is to book a room with a balcony over looking the main drag in town. Perfect for people watching. Most hostels and B&Bís will have places to relax with TVís and movies as well. A quiet night will allow you to get up early the next day so you can cram in as much sight-seeing as you can handle.
The best way to meet people is to take every advantage you can to talk with people. Sure youíll get snubbed by some, but thatís okay, you donít want them for friends anyway. But the vast majority of people are always willing to partake in some interesting chit-chat.
Nice tips PM4HIRE! I will definitely follow this during my long trips.
I hope it's okay to add tips and anecdotes? Remember that the place you're visiting is home to people-- including women! Watch the women around you (without being creepy) and take your cues from how they act. If you are out someplace, especially at night, and don't see any other solo women, it might be a good time for you to go "home." I know that seems obvious, but sometimes people get so caught up in the glamour of travel that they forget that countless women actually live there and generally know how to be safe.
If you find yourself having to stay in at night because it's not safe, then wear yourself out with lots of walking during the day. Besides being a great way to stave off vacation weight gain, you'll be so tired by the time evening rolls around that you won't mind the fact you went to bed at 9 or 10 pm.
I discovered this accidentally while I was in Europe a few years back. At the time I was more pleased about the fact that I didn't gain weight from consuming curries, french food and beer.
Thank you for the tips!
I guess one thing I'd add is to be familiar with the way local women dress. If you can avoid catching the unwanted eye in the first place, you're nipping some problem situations in the bud. So avoid wearing plunging necklines and push-up bras, daisy dukes, uncovered midriffs, flashy jewelry, designer label purses, etc.
While I'm at it, might I recommend a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as an excellent "purse"? Pretty much slashproof, and no fancy label to make people think you're a rich American.
When I'm traveling to a new place I always try to find the place where the locals hang out. Its a lot more interesting than the touristy spots. I really like this site Journeywoman, travel magazine for women they have a lot of tips about all things travel related.
My TB Ristretto was a great "purse" while in Thailand. Granted, I was a guest at a university, so my travel experience was not like your typical tourist. However, I agree with many of the views expressed so far. As a tall and large woman of Scotch-Irish/German/English/Monocan (Am. Indian) descent, I knew I'd stand out in any Asian culture. I researched what women usually wear to work and for leisure, which turned out to be particularly important.
I also brought too much "personal" toiletry stuff -- I could have purchased some of those items in Thailand and fairly cheaply too. But lesson learned for future travels!
Oh, something else. I have major gut issues, and was concerned about what might happen in a totally different environment. I started taking Sustenex about a month before I left (I usually eat yogurt too for happy bacteria), and took it faithfully while I was in Thailand. Took along a run of Cipro, but didn't need it. Also took along Immodium -- that's something you don't want to have to buy last minute. Drank lots of water (bottled, of course) on the flight and in Thailand. Ate healthily while in Thailand -- didn't eat anything that might be dicey, and my gut was just fine! Granted, people with severe gut issues may not be as successful, but I was pleasantly surprised with the results!