Travelling solo as a woman brings its own unique concerns, particularly when visiting an unfamiliar culture. I’ve been reading a lot of advice online in this regard – here are some of the tips I’ve found the most helpful (I’m imagining; I haven’t actually left yet!):
- Keep valuables in your main pack, rather than an outside pocket so they won’t be as easily stolen. In the same vein, don’t put all your valuables in the one place and keep copies of all important documents elsewhere in your bag. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: This is solid advice. I would add that if you’re carrying a backpack in a crowded area, put it on your front. I was followed around a temple by a young boy for quite some time (I tried to lose him by ducking into various buildings and stopping a number of times, but he somehow kept reappearing at my heels – he didn’t go away until I forcefully told him to). He couldn’t pickpocket me as I switched my backpack to my front and kept one hand on top of my shoulder bag at all times. Phew!
- It may go against your own beliefs or philosophy, but in the name of safety don’t refuse to adapt to local culture. If you’re going to a country where women are expected to act and dress conservatively, do so. Of course you should be allowed to wear what you’d like, but drawing unnecessary attention to yourself is extremely foolhardy. Besides the safety aspect, showing respect for local customs shows consideration and openness, and locals may be more welcoming towards you as a result. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Agree, though you should remember that you’ll stick out like a sore thumb regardlessly, particularly if you’re as pale as I am.
- This depends on the country, but in some countries it may be helpful to wear a ring in order to feign married status. In some cultures it is unheard of for a woman to travel alone. Having a fictional husband waiting for you at the hotel can help deterred unwanted attention. (Again, annoying for an independent woman, but safety should be the priority.) POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Not helpful, if you’re being harassed they’re going to start harassing you before they get close enough to see your ring finger to be honest. Best to ignore them/firmly tell them to stop harassing you – telling them you’re married is an invitation to converse, which is better avoided. It still doesn’t hurt to say there’s a husband waiting for you at the hotel though – don’t let anyone think you’re alone.
- If you are being harassed, make a fuss. Don’t be embarrassed; it is not you who is in the wrong. Shout, scream, tell all and sundry in a loud voice what this man has just done, and tell the police. Send a clear message that this is not acceptable behaviour and you won’t tolerate it under any circumstances. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Agree. Unfortunately though it’s hard to think to do this in the moment when you are still in shock.
- When you’re checking into a hotel room, if the receptionist says your room number aloud request a new room and insist that the number is written down for you. You don’t know who may be listening in. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: I didn’t need to do this. While I think it seems like good advice I think I’d possibly be a bit too embarrassed to insist on a new room, and in smaller guest houses it’s unlikely to be an option in any case.
- This is an interesting tip I’d never heard of: Put your cash into a travel sized opaque shampoo bottle. That way you can take it with you while showering in a hostel and reduce the chances of theft. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Helpful advice, especially in terms of hiding money in your bag in a discreet way. Didn’t bother bringing it in the shower with me though as the hostels I stayed in had lockers.
- If you’re travelling solo, at the start of the day leave a note in your hotel room stating where you’re going. Very morbid, but if you go missing this could aid investigators. Not sure how I feel about this advice POST TRAVEL UPDATE: I never did this, but I usually kept my boyfriend and family up to date with regard to where I was staying and what I was up to anyway.
- Never tell strangers where you’re staying or about your travel plans generally. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Good advice, but I didn’t stick to it strictly – it’s hard work to lie to people and sometimes you just have to trust that the person’s only making conversation!
- Try to use taxis through automated number services only, particularly at night. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Nice advice, but not really an option in much of Asia. You can try getting a tuk tuk driver number from your guest house/hotel though.
- Behave confidently. Stand up straight, look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going. Act like you’ve been here a million times before and avoid looking at a map in public. POST TRAVEL UPDATE: Amaze travel tip A+++++ will behave confidently again. BUT I do need my maps though soz.
- Always wear suncream 😉 POST TRAVEL UPDATE: YES my poor upper left arm agrees (missed a spot 😦 ).