By Prime Sarmiento
I’m celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day by launching a monthly series on how to travel alone as a woman.
I made this decision after my exhaustive research (months spent lurking in online forums, reading numerous blog posts and comments, conducting surveys and reading e-mails sent to me by fellow gypsygals) revealed that more and more women want to travel alone but have concerns doing so.
I can see where you’re coming from. I was in that position before. But thanks to persistent research, interviews and prayers, I managed to become a solo female traveler. And it was lovely. Traveling alone as a woman has brought me so many gifts and has made me what I am today– Hip & Happy, Soulful & Sexy Gypsygal.
Now, I hope to share these gifts through this six-part series How to Travel Alone as a Woman.
Starting today – and on the first Thursday of each succeeding month -I will be publishing a post dedicated to solve ONE problem that a female traveler has to deal with.
For this month, I’m focusing on travel safety – a very real concern for most solo female travelers as we don’t only have to deal with theft and scams but the nasty reality that is sexual harassment.
Here are three trued and tested ways that keep me safe in my journeys:
1. Choose your destination based on the three Cs
That is, the place that I want to visit has to be cheap, comfortable and convenient. I discussed this in detail in my previous post on how to look for the best cities for women travelers.
In a nutshell, I always advise women who will travel alone for the first time to go to a place which has a similar or lower standard of living that their hometown, which is within their comfort zone and easy to access.
Staying within your comfort zone is of extreme importance as you become vulnerable when you’re on your own. I prefer to go to a place where English is widely spoken, where the culture is relatively similar to mine, and there’s someone there I can contact in case something happens to me. Generally, I avoid going to the following countries:
a.) where the culture of machismo is very strong and men tend to look at women as nothing more than property (I’d rather not mention names, google it).
b.) where there’s an ongoing conflict (Syria, for instance, is sooo not a place you want to go to right now)
c.) which are just recovering from a major natural disaster and/or epidemic (believe me, I was sooo pissed when I found myself in Myanmar when typhoon Nargis hit the country)
d.) which have a high crime rate
And oh yeah, if your foreign affairs department places a travel advisory against a certain city and country, I strongly advise to heed that advisory. Having a sense of adventure is not an excuse for stupidity.
2. Travel safety starts with what you pack
Research about the culture of the country that you’re visiting and learn to respect it by bringing clothes that won’t offend the locals. In more conservative countries in Asia and the Middle East, it's advisable to pack long skirts, long sleeved blouses and even a veil.
If you think this type of travel wardrobe is anti-feminist and sexist, well, guess what, what you think is irrelevant to the people in the country that you’re visiting.
More than travel safety, this is also about respect. How will you feel if I visited your hometown and insist on imposing my own viewpoint and cultural practices on you? Not cool, noh?
Take note, if your itinerary includes going to temples or other places of worship, please leave your tank tops at home.
Apart from lugging in culturally-appropriate attire, also bring items that will protect your documents and money such as a money belt, a backpack that locks and your own lock and key.
3. Use your common sense
Sometimes, the best way to keep safe is to simply use your brain and think for a few minutes how your planned course of action will affect you.
For instance, would you actually go out in the middle of the night and walk alone in an abandoned street? Would you go to a bar, alone, and get hopelessly drunk with people you barely know, much less trust? Would you leave your bag and wallet just about anywhere?
Unfortunately, as the French philosopher Voltaire once lamented "Common sense is not so common." I have seen so many people committing these mistakes – mistakes that can be avoided by simply taking a few minutes to think.
And when something bad happens to them, they blame everyone (the police, the corrupt system, their parents, the universe) – except their stupidity.
Keeping safe is your responsibility and if you can’t use common sense to get you out of harm’s way please do yourself a favor and stay home. (Yes, seriously)
So that’s my three travel safety tips. How about you, what do you do to keep safe whenever you travel? Please share your safety tips in the comment section.
1. The Art of Solo Travel: A Girls’ Guide by Stephanie Lee is ideal for the woman traveling alone for the first time but has no idea how to go about it. The guide answers all the questions that you have on traveling alone as a woman – from saving money for your travels, to advice on relationships and health on the road and even advice on how to deal with dream crushers.
2. Travel Safety* by security trainer Craig Bidois will prepare you for anything and everything that will happen while you’re on the road. The book offers practical advice on a how you can deal with all sorts of problems- from losing your passport to getting mugged to being a victim of natural disasters.
Credits: Flickr image by Harsh Light.
*Disclosure: This is an affiliate link.