If you have followed my blog, you probably know that safety is a top priority for me especially when come to travel. I have travelled solo for business most of the time for nine years and have no problem venturing new places on my own as long as I have assessed that the place of destination is safe for solo female travellers to roam around on their own.
Following are the 14 Do’s and Don’ts for Solo Female Traveller based on my personal experiences. In fact, most are applicable whether we are travelling solo or as a group.
Research on local customs and show respect – Research on the local customs especially for women, be it dressing or places to go or avoid. If I am at a beach resort in Malaysia that most locals go, I will not wear bikinis. This applies whether I am travelling with friends or alone. This has to do with showing respect to the country we are visiting. Also avoid talking about the country’s politics, the royal family and religion, keep our opinion to ourselves.
Pick safe places for meeting locals – I prefer meeting at a café or have them meet me at the hotel lobby lounge that I was staying.
Dress modestly and appropriately – Dress like local women. Do not call attention to yourself. For instance, when I travel to Brunei, I usually wear long sleeves blouse and pants or long skirts.
Travel light – I usually travel light and carry luggage that I can run with. I will carry a handbag that I can strap to my body so that at least one hand is free. If I am carrying a backpack as my handbag, I usually carry it in front and not on my back when I am taking public transport or at places that are crowded. I may look strange but I am not bothered. Safety is more important to me.
Situation awareness – Always be aware of your environment, avoid putting on the headset or earpiece to listen to music or talk on the phone while walking. When walking on the street, avoid staring at your phone, oblivious to the people around you. If I need to make a phone call, I would usually step inside a shop or mall, stand at a side with my back against the wall to make the call.
Carry yourself like you own the place – Walk briskly and confidently, especially at night or on an empty street. Always plan your route and get advice from the hotel concierge on the best route and places to avoid. When I was in Japan and Spain, I have been approached by Asian tourists asking for direction a couple of times. I guess I looked confident and dressed like I was living in that city. I do have a few interesting experiences where locals mistook me for a local when I was in Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. And in Vietnam, the locals commented that I have the features of Vietnamese from Hue, the old Imperial City of Vietnam.
Always have the hotel’s business card in your pocket – With the hotel’s business card, I have the hotel’s name and address in the local language so I can show taxi drivers and get back safely. And a good practice to have the hotel concierge write in the local language the names and addresses of the sights and restaurants you are heading out to see.
Don’t wear flashy jewellery – When travelling, I do not wear my luxury watch nor jewellery to avoid unwanted attention and petty thieves.
Don’t ask direction on the street – Go inside a shop, café or petrol station to ask for direction. Don’t pull out a map on the street either, go indoors to check your map.
Don’t let your bag be out of your sight – When sitting in a restaurant or eatery, especially at an outdoor café, I don’t place my handbag on the ground or the chair next to me or hang it over the back of a chair. I hold it on my lap and preferably with one strap attached to me. Do not keep all your cash and credit cards in one place. As for the passport, I usually keep it in the safe in the hotel room.
Don’t leave your mobile phone or camera on the table – Whether I am at a restaurant or café, I always keep my mobile phone and camera in my bag after use. I also keep my phone lock.
Don’t hail taxis off the street – I usually have the hotel put me in a safe cab to my destination. To get back, I will find a reputable taxi via the doorman of another hotel. Or have the restaurant where I am dining call for a safe taxi. When arriving at an airport at night, I often arrange for a car from the hotel to pick me up. I will also note down the taxi’s license plate once I get into the taxi. You may think I am paranoid. As far as I am concern it is better to be careful especially when travelling alone. If I am in cities that offer safe and efficient subway system, I would prefer taking the public transport. For instance, if I arrived at Kuala Lumpur Airport, I would prefer taking the KLIAExprez to the KL Sentra Station and not taking the taxi.
Don’t go out and party – I don’t go out party nor to the bars, as that’s where I can be taken advantage. Do not put ourselves at risk.
Don’t end up alone on a dark street – To avoid ending up walking back to my hotel on a dark and deserted street, I always choose a hotel in a neighbourhood that’s relatively lively and lit at night, preferably near major public transport like the subway or metro station.
Stay safe, be situation aware, enjoy your trip.
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