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10 Tips for Women Traveling Alone

10 Tips for Women Traveling Alone
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BY KITT WALSH

Whether you are a single woman or just have a partner who isn’t interested in travel, you shouldn’t have to sit home and miss out on seeing the big wide world. Pack your bags and hit the road—solo–and have the adventure of a lifetime. Here’s some tips to make it a trip to remember (fondly):

Research your destination: Did you know going out with wet hair in Iraq has a sexual connotation? Learn about the local culture to avoid awkward (or dangerous) situations.

Pack appropriately: Be comfortable, but conservative. Go for knee length or longer skirts, and remember, bare skin is considered risqué in some places. Take a shawl that can also serve as skin or head covering (you can’t get in some churches or mosques without one.) Dark glasses help avoid eye contact with strange men. Leave your valuable jewelry at home.

Stow documents safely: Make copies of your passport, visas, and credit cards. Give a set to a few trusted friends (along with a copy of your itinerary and contact information.) Keep an extra set on you at all times somewhere secure (I’m a fan of making my underwear do double duty.) Keep all your documents in a daypack (not an expensive purse) you never let out of your sight (use a small wallet to store daily spending money). Hook the strap across your chest and hold the pack when you walk; hook it under a chair leg when you sit. Consider a money belt to hold your valuables—wear it while you sleep.

No nighttime arrivals: The airport or train station may close early (or be scary after dark). Consider arranging online for a driver to meet you or see if your hotel offers shuttle service. Don’t just walk outside and grab a cab.

Staying safe at your hotel: Consider small B&Bs where you get to meet the family who owns the place. In a larger hotel, register with your initial not a “Miss or Mrs.” Have the clerk write down your room number, not say it out loud. If he already did, ask for another room—near the elevator so you don’t have a long walk down a dark hall. Don’t hang out a breakfast card—it’s a tip-off you are alone. Bring along a rubber doorstop to wedge under the door. Lock all locks.

Seek out others: Look for women-only waiting rooms in some countries’ trains stations. Hang near families in public markets and bazaars. Check out the Independent Travelers Meeting Places 
listed in the Lonely Planet guidebooks. These are bookstores, cafes or bulletin boards where you’ll find an inexpensive tour, travel companions, rides wanted, free lectures and social gatherings.

Keep in touch: Register your trip with the US State Department online  so the US embassy knows you are in the country (helpful in event of natural disasters). Email or phone home regularly, so someone will notice if you don’t get in touch.

Taking care: It may be flattering to be followed around by a handsome, young Italian for a while, but embarrassment can get out of hand. Don’t engage and eventually the one annoying you may go away. Learn the local phrase for “Leave me alone”. Carry a paperback to avoid eye contact. If all else fails, make a scene. Don’t consult maps in public. Plan your route before you set out, and if you get lost anyway, get direction from a shop, not on the street. Ask at the hotel for neighborhoods to avoid. Wear a wedding band and invent a (large) fake husband waiting back at the hotel. Don’t tell anyone you are traveling alone. Do I really need to say never hitchhike?

Use your brain: You are on vacation somewhere fascinating, but don’t be too distracted–always hear your mother’s voice in your head: Don’t walk alone at night, take money out of an ATM on a deserted street, ride in empty train cars, or drink (and leave) with strange men. Have a cell phone that works (and you are familiar with using) in a foreign country. Know how to call the cops.

Have fun: Now that your safety is covered, remember to stretch your worldview on this vacation. Take a walking tour of the city (you’ll meet other travelers), visit a church service (you’ll always be welcome), sit with families at a local festa, dance at a community center ceili, stop at a grocery and picnic in a park (you’ll meet locals), and get up early to visit a farmer’s market for breakfast. Talk to women, children and old people wherever you go. A big smile can cover a lack of local lingo.

For a wealth of articles and tips about women traveling solo, visit www.journeywoman.com/SoloTravel/SoloIndex.htm

 

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