From a Beijing hospital to a drag bar down a dark Jerusalem alley, I have a habit of finding myself in questionable places . . . usually alone.
But I don’t mind. Ever the free spirit, I quite like solo travel. As with any travel, you will inevitably end up in some dubious locations and/or situations. As women, we are presented with unique challenges, but fear not – a grain of knowledge and a heaping mound of common sense will serve you well.
1. Dress like the women around you.
Of course this means different things in different places, but as a general rule of thumb- keep it modest and try to blend in. Don’t walk around Hyderabad in jeans and a tank top; invest in a few Punjabi dresses. They’re cheap and cute.
2. Walk down the street like you own the place.
Speak with authority, preferably in the native language, and walk quickly. You are less likely to be harassed if people think you’re a tough cookie.
3. Get a Diva Cup – http://www.divacup.com/
. . . Or risk many an unfortunate moment.
4. Speak with women, when possible.
Need directions? Have a problem? Want the sauce on the side? Always try to find a woman first. Many men may mistake a simple question for flirting. This is not a path you want to go down.
5. When dining alone, look for “family-friendly” places.
Chances are, other solo diners are bachelors. Now imagine yourself in a restaurant with twenty or so bachelors.
6. Purchase a multi-purpose piece of cloth.
The measurements of which would ideally be around 30cm x 2m. I picked up a lime green chunni in India and it has gone everywhere with me since. Multi-purpose is an understatement – I’ve used it as a shawl, scarf, sarong, head covering, wound bandage, picnic blanket, bath towel, you name it. And yes, it gets washed often.
7. Wear appropriate shoes.
That means no Tevas in the nightclub, and no heels everywhere else. Easy enough?
8. Know your limits and use common sense.
If it sounds like a bad idea, it probably is.
9. Learn the following phrases in the local language:
“You are a pig!” and “Your mother should be ashamed of you!”
Don’t be afraid to use them. The best way to ward off a harasser to attract attention, and therefore shame.
10. Pack light.
Yeah, you’ve heard this before, but seriously eight pairs of shoes (see #7)? A curling iron? Six boxes of tampons (see #3)? My rule is this: If you can’t carry all of your baggage at once (and I do mean carry, not roll!), you need to get a grip and re-evaluate your strategy.
And number eleven, if there was a number eleven, would be to get going already. Sure, we have some unique challenges as solo women travellers (the least of which is footwear), but don’t let those stop you from travelling wherever the wind, and your aching Teva-clad feet, take you. I can guarantee there has been a woman traveller there before you.