More females are traveling the world than ever and many of them do so alone. While the thrill of travel can be the experience of a lifetime, certain considerations need to be minded, particularly when visiting certain male-dominated cultures and societies. You need to read up well on your destination and know how to handle yourself to avoid sticky situations.
Women should be allowed to travel where ever they want without being hassled. At least that would be expected in a perfect world. But in reality, there are unfortunately still countries where women are treated as second-class citizens, viewed as objects rather than equal human beings. There is no denying this. For this reason, female travelers need to take a few extra precautions to ensure their safety while venturing in foreign lands.
The world is generally a safe place. Most of the time, when a traveler finds him or herself in an unsafe situation it is something that they probably could have avoided. This might mean staying out of unstable war zones or not travelling alone in dangerous parts of a city late at night. Regardless, there are definite safety rules to follow when travelling.
This does not mean that female travelers have to stay indoors and hide. It just means that they have to be extra cautious in some instances. This might include avoiding hitch-hiking, sticking with a trusted partner when walking at night and not letting yourself fall into uncomfortable situations. Of course, all females are different, and these rules would probably apply to many men too.
Safe Traveling Strategies
- educate yourself on the local dress codes and customs. If dressed inappropriately, you may find yourself either offending the locals…or really turning them on.
- try to look like a local by acting and dressing as they do
- act like you know what you are doing and where you are going at all times, even if you don’t
- learn about the places to avoid (from other travelers or friendly locals)
- make yourself very clear if someone is bothering you or making you feel uncomfortable. A loud “NO” (or a few) should get the point across.
- try to ignore obnoxious comments and gestures from local men. Sometimes they are really compliments and completely harmless.
- avoid clothing that will attract unwanted attention. Loose clothing that covers more of the body is a safer bet, applicable in some countries more than others.
- look for all-female train cars when traveling at night
- if you are being hassled, try to stay in a public place or where there is a lot of people
Sexual harassment and verbal abuse when traveling alone for women in some countries can be a problem, especially in places where a huge number of local and foreign women are sexually harassed year on year. Macho cultures of Latino descent, such as Italy and many South American countries, also have these problems.
In these predominantly male-dominated places, women traveling by themselves is not the done thing and they are often considered fair game or an easy target. You will generally be openly stared at by both men and women in societies where you look different from the norm.
Tips to avoid sexual harassment:
- Understand as much as possible about the local culture and customs of the place you are visiting when traveling; especially the roles men and women play in society.
- Watch how local women behave and dress and how they avoid sexual harassment.
- See how local men interact with local women; that is, do strangers make eye contact when conversing, how far apart do men and women sit when chatting, and so on.
- Wear sunglasses when out and about to avoid unwanted eye contact in male-dominated cultures.
- Familiarize yourself with how to find police and other authority figures.
- Behave confidently when traveling, knowing where you are and where you’re going.
- An absolute must is to not wander around alone at night in unfamiliar areas.
- Above all, avoid wearing provocative, tight clothing. Bikinis and swimsuits may be fine for the beach, but should be totally avoided in downtown Cairo for instance.
What to do if you find yourself being sexually harassed:
- When traveling alone, consider that you may appear fair game and prepare yourself for any possible unwanted male interactions, such as catcalls. Ultimately, you should ignore them and not retaliate, unless you are being physically harassed of course.
- Local women are a great tool for understanding how to avoid unwanted advances from local men. Learn from them and their cues. While shooing the opposite sex away may seem extreme, if this is the done thing then don’t hesitate to do so to dissuade a pursuer.
- Be assertive and forceful when saying ‘no’ to ward off any unwanted advances, and make sure your body language is also so inclined. Be prepared to head for a busier area if this doesn’t work.
- Appeal to local women if a pursuer will not back off as they will generally be able to deal with him.
- Know how to find local police and observe conductors on public transport in order to raise the alarm.
Sites for Female Travelers
- Christine Columbus - valuable travel information for women. "Christopher Columbus may have discovered the New World, but it was Christine who packed his bags," says this site.
- Hermail.net - connects traveling women around the world. Good place to find traveling information from other women.
- Hitchhiking Vietnam - a woman’s inspirational experience hitchhiking Vietnam alone. Offers plenty of advice and tips too.
- Journeywoman - online travel magazine for women who love to travel.
- My Travel Coach - provides travel classes and coaching by phone for women who want to pursue solo journeys, pilgrimages, learning vacation, work or relationshiop sabbaticals, and personal retreats.
- Vagabunda! - a travel e-zine written by a group of enthusiastic women. More than tips on how to fold your clothes so that they don’t crease, Vagabunda! wants to encourage the wonder of exploring the world.
- Women’s Travel Club - self-proclaimed as the largest travel club in America, they plan and organize over 20 trips abroad each year. They also offer plenty of travel advice, tips and a thorough packing list.