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Tips for ladies travelling solo...

August 05, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

These tips may not only apply to ladies - or to solo travellers - but I'm coming from the perspective of me travelling on my own and what I make conscious decisions about. For the most part they are probably just common sense thoughts.

  1. Dress conservatively. I usually don't want to draw unnecessary attention to myself so I dress modestly. Also take into consideration the culture of the country you're in and follow the rules. There are plenty of times my appearance has been pretty frumpy, but it's definitely helped with blending in a bit more.
  2. Think about hair colour. This only really applies for certain countries, but blonde hair is a real draw sometimes. I'm naturally blonde (more grey these days!), and once travelled through Morocco with a brunette friend and we definitely had different experiences even though we were side-by-side.
  3. Split up your money. I usually place my cash in a few different pockets/sections in my backpack/suitcase, and there's usually an emergency $100 note stuffed in a sock just in case everything else gets pillaged. I also usually travel with a couple of credit cards and keep them separated. When I leave my room I tidy everything up and lock my bag if I can. Opportunist theft is usually how most valuables are taken. Of course if there is a safe in the room then use it, or leave it with Reception but make sure you count everything in front of them and get a receipt.
  4. Be smart about carrying cash. If I have to take money out of an ATM or change money I go to the option nearest to my hotel in daylight, and take the money straight back to my hotel rather than walk around with large amounts.I only carry what I need for the day and leave the rest in the room. I carry a small soft purse rather than my usual bulky wallet/purse and I use a handbag with a strap that goes across my body. In some dodgier countries in South America and Africa I have kept my cash in a small pouch stuffed into the band of my underwear...I'd like to see the pickpockets try to get it there!  I never use a money belt as this is far too obvious and impractical when you need to access it...and you look like a gringo :)
  5. Think about bag snatchers. I usually wear my handbag at the front and have one hand on a strap. I also think about what side the bag is on and make sure it's away from the road to deter bike snatchers. In the past I've used a small backpack as my day bag and if I'm in crowded places I will usually wear it at the front also. Lock up any pockets on the outside, or don't put anything in them. Crowded public transport is a great place for thieves to operate so think about what provides an opportunity. When your bag is on the floor slip a foot/chair leg through a strap.
  6. Don't read your map on the street. If you're lost then walk into a shop and look at your map. Standing on the street corner confused only makes you a target. I try to memorise where I'm going before I head off so I don't have to stop and look at a map - or I draw a mud-map that I can put in my pocket for quicker and easier reference.
  7. Carry your camera across your body. There's no point keeping your camera safe in your bag as you'll never use it. If you're moving from one point to another then certainly put it away, but otherwise I suggest having your strap long enough to go across your body and to be able to bring it up to your face to shoot. Wearing it around your neck is also fine, but not as comfortable as across your body.
  8. Book transport to arrive during the day. Arriving at a new destination at night is confusing and sometimes a bit dangerous, so I usually try to arrive somewhere with enough daylight for me to get oriented to my local surroundings. I like to know where I'm going to eat that first night and how to get to and from the hotel without having to look at a map.
  9. Travel during the day. I don't usually book night transport if I'm on my own unless I'm sure it's safe. I would be fine with it in Vietnam/Thailand, but never in South America or Africa. And you see more during the day anyway!
  10. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them know your plans.
  11. Don't stay out too late at night. When I'm on my own I usually aim to be back in my room by 9/9.30pm. This generally feels like a safe time before the crowds starting thinning out and people have a few too many drinks.
  12. Walk on main roads. Avoid dark narrow streets even if it's a faster route to where you're going. Even during the day be aware of quieter streets.
  13. Look confident. Attitude is nine tenths of the equation. If you look like you know where you're going and what you're doing you'll look less vulnerable. If you are lost then walk confidently to the nearest safe-looking place and regroup.
  14. Don't travel with anything you couldn't bare to lose. I leave all my good jewellery at home unless I'm sure it will be safe.
  15. Be aware of your surroundings. Take note of landmarks so you can find your way back to your hotel, or orientate yourself if you get a little lost. Look out for anyone that may look a little suspect and perhaps cross the road, or walk into a shop/cafe.
  16. Get insurance.
  17. Take care of your documents. Keep your passport locked away unless you need it and make sure you have copies of everything important with a third party. Have scanned copies stored electronically if you need them.
  18. Don't be paranoid. In my experience people are generally honest and good the world over. The dodgy one's are the minority, so don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone is going to rob you or rip you off.
  19. Trust your instincts. Get in tune and obey! If something doesn't feel quite right then don't do it....EVERY time.
  20. Don't get drunk!
  21. Talk to other travellers. They are the greatest up-to-date source of information on the ground.
  22. Smile...good things will happen :)

While I've been in Vietnam I've broken a few of these rules but only once I felt comfortable with my environment. This is a really safe country, although bag snatching can occur in Nha Trang and Saigon, so I was careful there. I would apply this to Hanoi also - it's a large city after all.

 

 

 


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