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10 Essential Tips for Solo Girls in Dubious Places

Published 22-09-2008
 
by Dana Van De Walker ~ 2 mins, 33 secs read

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 Cuphttp://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.

Be prepared on the road.

Be prepared on the road.

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,┬átake you. I can guarantee there has been a woman traveller there before you.


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Dana is an eclectic, impulsive free-thinker who likes stray cats and interpretive dance. She has lived/traveled in the US, India, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, South and North Korea, China and currently resides in Korea working as a teacher, writer, and freelance editor. The world is her potato skin (because she doesn't like oysters).
    6 Comments, have your say...
    1. Excellent ten tips I think :D Very straight forward and useful, and I agree with each and every one of them. Being stubborn about your so called feminist beliefs like "I can wear very tight and revealing cloths becasue I can, and no one will stop me." often get girls into trouble. I've seen it happen. Besides, I think it is always a good idea to respect the culture of the country you're visiting, and that will definitely get you on the right track with the locals, who'd be overjoyed to help you. So yes :D thanks a bunch for the article. Keep up the good work!

    2. Thanks Natasha, a great, straight forward but helpful article by Dana. Good to see a female view point on solo traveling, it can be quite daunting for anyone if you have never done it before.

      TravMonkey

    3. I think they are very good tips and that women should not be put off at the prospect of travelling alone. I went away for five months on my own to SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa but did take one simple precaution in SE Asia and Africa – I travelled as part of a tour.

      If you are apprehensive about travelling alone in a certain part of the world just book yourself on a tour and you'll find yourself travelling with a range of people and also with a guide who can tell you more about the countries you are in and do's and don'ts in those places. I definitely felt safer as part of a group and it meant I didn't have to miss out on seeing SE Asia and Africa.

    4. Thanks Amy,

      I agree with your point on tours. But also think that sometimes you don't need to use a tour as you can do it yourself. It's just a case of knowing where, when and what's best for you.

    5. This is a very insightful post. And I definitely agree with number 2. A friend of mine had the same sitch. Not looking like a tourist is the key.

    6. This is an excellent list, thanks Dana. It is very sensible advice.

      Just one comment on number 9. Calling someone a pig is much more offensive in some cultures than others. I would hesitate before using this in a Muslim country, for example. You may come out looking worse than the person you are trying to insult.

      I guess I would add one last point: know as much as possible about the customs of the place you are going. That is valid for any traveller though, not just solo women, isn't it?

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