I get this question a lot from other single lady travelers, and even some men, who can’t seem to comprehend why I am not married and why I choose to vacation alone. Most of the tips here are common sense, but even I have been guilty of getting caught up in the holiday excitement, and making stupid mistakes that could have ended in a really bad situation (but luckily didn’t).
As a woman who is 5’10 (177) and in good physical shape, rarely do I ever feel threatened by men, and most are quite intimidated by my stature, but I really really sympathize with smaller petite women, and how scary it can actually be having people around who are a foot or more taller and more than double the body weight. It only takes one person with the wrong intentions in mind to turn a situation into a nightmare, and in this day and age it’s really hard to know who to trust. The best advice? Keep your eyes open and trust no one.
Be open minded and educated
First thing to remember is not to get caught up in the news, politics and hate propaganda towards countries that are not that friendly to the west or women in general. This is NOT the opinion or stance of the majority of people who actually live there, (if this was really the case, they wouldn’t allow Iranians to immigrate to America!). The fact is that 99% people around the world are extremely nice, kind, caring and hard working, and will virtually fall over themselves to help you if you ask for it (and even when you don’t). That doesn’t mean u should trust readily, but know that not everyone is out to get you, and if something happens, you can rely on local people to help. if you are not comfortable asking a man, then ask a woman. If you are lost taxi drivers are the best people to ask, and sometimes they will even offer to take you if they are going that way anyway.
Sexual and Inappropriate gestures
Be very careful about your interactions and gestures with locals in other countries. Before traveling to a country I highly recommend reading up on culture, male/female social interactions and what is considered “rude behavior“. Something that is perfectly acceptable to us might be considered a sexual or rude gesture to someone else. For example, just making eye contact with a man in some cultures is considered a sign of sexual interest, and making a thumbs up or showing the bottom of your feet in Thailand is very rude. Know this ahead of time to avoid offending people unintentionally.
Clothing and respecting cultural norms
In most countries you are free to wear whatever clothes you want to wear, but if you want to avoid getting the wrong kind of attention, it’s always better to err on the side of conservative. The funny thing is that more often then not, it’s the women who will stare you down and make rude comments, not the men. It’s always a good idea to pack a lot of long skirts, pants and shirts, and if you are traveling to a country with a Muslim influence, bring a scarf to wrap over your head and shoulders. Now far be it from me to condone hijab wearing. I hate doing it, i don’t like anything on my face or head and I certainly don’t like the symbolism behind it, but I do it out of respect for other people, especially when visiting religious and cultural sites. Remember you are guest in their country and you need to act accordingly.
I know, the boring safety talk, but it will just take a minute. Keep your valuables on your person, don’t wear expensive jewelry or have it on display. You don’t really know who you will meet, and even in the states, some of the historic and touristy areas and smack in the middle of ghettos…Yes…I’m looking at you Graceland.
Keep a low profile, try to meet up with friends or acquaintances when you are traveling and go exploring with them. make a note of where your embassy is, keep important phone numbers handy and call/e-mail home often and let people know where you are and what your plan is for the day. The 5 minutes it takes to do that could be your lifeline. Also keep a photocopy of your passport and important documents.
Take advantage of segregation. In some places, like all over the Middle East and some parts of Asia, there is separate seating for men and women, and oftentimes separate train carriages. Now I know what you fellow westerners are thinking..Boo! How archaic and sexist! Yea, let me tell you something. If they had Separate female carriages on the Sydney train system when I was in college, I would have taken full advantage of it! It’s the difference between sitting peacefully with other women, or watching an intoxicated man shit in his pants, and then walk up and down the isle singing ‘I like the night life’. Ask me how I know about this, and it’s by far an isolated incident. Yes, women get drunk and crazy too, but you are far more likely to have a safer and more pleasant journey by staying in a group of other women.
Some countries like India, Thailand, UAE, Iran, Mexico, Russia and the UK have women for women taxi services with lady drivers. All of these segregation services are designed to prevent rape and violence towards women, offer employment and increase public awareness and safety. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and for the record, I’ve never had any problems with male drivers either, except being ripped off, but that happens everywhere.
Pay for a better hotel room
This is one of the few occasions where i actually spring for a top hotel. It pains me to do it, but after flying all the way overseas, and navigating around
a foreign city alone, I am in no mood to stay in some crap hole motel or hostel in a seedy area. There are several reasons for this. The cheap hotels are often in areas that are considered poor and are FAR from safe. Not only are the rooms inferior, but often things like doors and locks are not maintained and can easily be broken or picked. Other countries have different rules and legalities and you really don’t know who you are dealing with. You might catch the eye of a man hanging out in front of the hotel, he might be friends with the owner of that hotel, and he could be given access to your room. Not only that but your personal belongings are in there. Always use the room safe if available.
If you stay with a high class hotel chain (like Radisson Blu, or one of the Sheraton group properties), you can guarantee that these hotels follow the same strict standards everywhere and your safety is a top priority. Rooms are amazing, there are employees everywhere to help and security/concierge at the front door. No ones getting up there or through there without your permission. It really is worth paying the extra $50.0o or so for. A lot of them also have free airport shuttles, which is great if you are landing late at night.
Don’t let anyone stay overnight
I’m not judging you and I’ve done it myself, but it really is stupid, having people in your room is risky business. Remember you have all of your personal belongings and luggage in your room. if you invite someone back, hang out and fall asleep, there is a real possibility that you could wake up with absolutely nothing! Robberies happen every day in every country, and you only have to go to the bathroom or fall asleep for a few minutes and your passport and money could be gone. Don’t let anyone stay over in your room unless you know them really well. it’s also illegal in some countries unless you are married, so also check the customs and legalities before you go.
*The state department doesn’t like to advertise this, but AT LEAST 20 thousand plus passports are stolen every year.*
Keep your home guard up
If you wouldn’t do something at home don’t do it on vacation. If you wouldn’t go somewhere with a guy or be alone with him in your own country, DON’T do it overseas. Yes it’s your vacation and everyone is having fun and partying, but you need to keep your guard up and protect yourself, especially if you are drinking alcohol. The same rules apply, watch that nobody touches your drink, if you want to go out to bars/clubs, try and find a group of girls your age range or older to sit with, most people will gladly allow that and look out for you.
Always organize your own transport to and from where you are going. In my younger days I have made the mistake of getting into strangers cars which seemed perfectly OK at the time, but on later reflection, was very dangerous and stupid.
If you want to read some far-out crazy stories from a woman who makes international sex and dating her lifestyle, check it out, and read the comments too, its a good laugh.
Bring condoms and medication
Some countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East do not readily sell condoms and birth control due to moral and religious reasons. They think that sex should only happen between married people and shun those who practice sex out of marriage. Instead of acknowledging that it happens and providing disease and pregnancy prevention, your on your own. It’s always a good idea to bring condoms in your suitcase, and if you can get hold of Plan B, bring that too for emergencies. Also bring enough of your prescriptions with you. Even if you can get hold of medicine, in some countries you never know whats in it or where it’s manufactured.
Get the most out of your experience
Traveling alone can be very rewarding and offers a different vibe then traveling with others. It gives you time to reflect and time to really do what you want to do. A lot of people say they never knew they had the strength or the confidence until they took the plunge and set off on their own adventure. As westerners, we really have a bad reputation in some places for being close minded and uneducated about other cultures. I really commend you for wanting to step out of your community, travel and see the world. It’s one of the best education tools we have available and it will change your life. It can be very scary, but that’s part of the fun. As a woman you will be treated with respect by most people, as long as you give respect for your host country. Don’t accept anything from anyone no matter how small, you don’t know what strings might be attached to it. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations, be friendly and kind towards people and act with humility and intelligence.
Follow these basic tips, do your research and plan ahead. See and do as much as you can, and don’t let traveling single stop you from seeing the world and living your dreams. You will have a great time and i hope the best for you!