Is it safe for a woman to travel alone?
One of the questions I often get asked on Travel forums: “Is it safe for a woman to travel alone?”. Young women ask me this question because I frequently travel alone and have backpacked solo as well.
A lot of women are scared to travel alone in a strange country. I honestly don´t blame them. Travelling alone can be daunting at times. Travelling is seldom smooth sailing and for a woman travelling on her own, it can be more complicated. Through all my travels I only had a few encounters which left me running for cover.
The realties women face when travelling alone.
The first incident was in Egypt. I was careless and most of it was my own fault. I could see the Nile River from my hotel window and decided to take a stroll to one of the most famous rivers in the world. I left my passport in the hotel safe and started to walk. It was not difficult to find the river but nothing could have prepared me for the traffic. I couldn´t cross the busy street and decided to go back to the hotel. When I turned back I got lost. All the street names were written in Arabic and I had no clue where I was going. To make things worse I didn´t have a hotel card!
Instinct told me to find a person in uniform. This I did but the person couldn´t speak English. Many of the veiled women on the street ignored me when I approached them. I eventually found help from another woman and she guided me back to the right street. By now I was a little shaken. It was a quiet street and a lot of men came outside whistling and signalling for me to come and talk to them. I only realized then that I was the only woman walking in this street. Friendly person as I am I politely declined and kept on walking nearly crying because I was so scared.
By the time I got to the hotel I realized how stupid I was. No identification, no hotel card and God only knows what could have happened to me because I was so careless.
The 2nd incident was also in Egypt. I have a lot of reservations for women travelling alone to Egypt. In any case this happened in a market. We were a group of people together and were browsing the stores. A man called me over to show me some of the goods that he was selling. He was very friendly and gave me a necklace made from beads. I was very grateful and thanked him for being so kind. He asked me to have a look at other jewellery that he had at the back of his store. There was another man sitting there. He took another necklace and hanged it around my neck. But while he was doing it he started to press himself against me. I ripped the necklace off and gave it back to him and got away as quickly as possible, warning the other women in our group. That was a horrible experience.
The 3rd incident, guess where? Egypt! Some of the crew on the boat that I was travelling the Nile were very irritating. They absolutely had no shame and targeted single women. They would walk up to you in a conversation and ask you out. This became such a problem that the men on the boat would shield the women without being rude. This aggravated the problem and after I had somebody fiddling with my window 2 nights in a row, we informed the captain. It stopped. That was very creepy and I felt very uncomfortable alone.
An unpleasant experience in Thailand in 2006.
The last experience was in Thailand of all places. You have to be very careful of the Tuk-Tuk drivers in Bangkok. They tend to take passengers on a joy ride to their vendor friends and in return they get a can of fuel. This driver asked me if he could stop quickly to refuel.He told me there is a beautiful temple and I could have a look while I wait for them. The temple was there but deserted and while I was inside this temple I felt very, very uncomfortable and had to get out. Just as well I did! As I left the building 4 men came around the corner and when they saw me I knew something was wrong. I started to run in the opposite direction until I found the Tuk-Tuk but no driver and he wasn´t refueling! He appeared out of the blue and was very upset when I asked him to go. I am sure they wanted to rob me!
By now you must be saying I will never travel alone! I still do! Always listen to that inner voice and follow some easy tips.
Tips for women travelling alone.
1. As a woman travelling on her own, read up on places before you go. Don’t carry a map in your hand in broad daylight, you’re a walking target!If you get lost, then well and good. You get the chance to discover an area of town that you hadn’t planned on seeing. Enjoy the experience! As long as it’s not a bad area of town. If so, then high tail it out of there, as fast as you can.
2. One of the most important tips is getting that bed the first night without hassle. Wherever it is that you’re arriving, whether it be a bus station or an airport, have an idea of how to get to your pre-booked hotel or hostel, and how much it should cost. Lonely Planet has lots of info in their guidebooks so read it, and know it.It’s too easy to get ripped off when you’re under slept or jet lagged.
3. Use one of the booking sites to book a room. Read the reviews and make sure you can see a photo of the rooms. I normally useHostelworld or Hostelbookers.
4. Print out your name and a contact telephone number. Take a photo of it with your digital camera, and leave that photo as the first one on your digital camera. That way, if you misplace your camera you at least have a chance of the finder getting it back to you.
5. Always carry some identification on you. Photocopies are the best and leave your passport and valuables safely locked up in the hotel or hostel.