Female Travelers – How to Avoid Harassment

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A woman traveling alone is often seen as a rare thing in societies outside of the Western world.

To many locals, female travelers will create interest and may even be a target for harassment.

Avoiding Harassment – General Tips
In some countries, you’ll be immediately enquired to as to the location of your husband (or your male companion). In situations such as these (when you don’t have a male companion/husband), it’s often best to just say that he’s back at your hotel.

More persistent men may try to quiz you further, and in cases such as these you should reply by telling them your husband is here on ‘government business’. Wearing a ring on your ‘wedding’ finger will also help to divert attention.

female solo travelerIn addition to this, avoid wearing skimpy clothing such as tight shorts or skirts.

You might also want to consider covering your head with a hat and your shoulders with a scarf. If you’re unsure on how to dress, look at how the local women are dressing and follow their lead.

Walk confidently and speak assertively. Men will soon realize that you aren’t a pushover.

When harassment does occur, keep calm and call for help. Learn how to say “Leave me alone!” and “Help!” in the local language. When being harassed, other people around will respond to you shouting and will come to your aid.

More drastic (but entirely reasonable) options include carrying mace spray in your bag and taking self-defense lessons.

Avoiding Harassment When Traveling in Muslim Countries
Many Muslim regions (such as North Africa, Pakistan, the Middle East and areas of the India) are very male-dominated, which can spell problems for female solo travelers. Other South American countries can also be unfriendly to Western females. Here are a few tips for avoiding unwanted attention:

  • Avoid wearing make-up. Even a small amount can cause you to be seen as a woman who is ‘loose’.
  • Always cover your arms and legs up when visiting temples and other religions places.
  • Be careful with eye contact. In some countries, it can be seen as a strong approach invitation and in others as a sign of disrespect. If in doubt, don a pair of sunglasses so they can’t see your eyes.
  • Avoid using perfume.
  • Avoid traveling at night. In situations when you absolutely need to travel at night, make sure to carry a torch with you.

Avoiding Harassment When Traveling in Europe
In Northern Europe, men will treat you pretty much the same as you’ll be treated in North America. In Southern Europe (Italy in particular), men are more dominant, and will happily stare at you without embarrassment.

Most men are harmless, but you will find some that are more persistent than others. A simple but firm “No” (spoken in their local language) should help them get the message. If they think you’re just playing hard to get, tell them that you want to be left alone and then ignore them.

If he still won’t leave you alone, enroll the help of others. Find a group of people sitting on a bench or at a local café and ask politely if you can sit with them for a minute (explaining your situation to them). Another idea is to go into a local hostel/hotel and to talk to the person behind the desk. If you see your courter waiting outside for you, ask for the person behind the desk to call you a taxi. Everyone loves helping a damsel in distress!

If you find this kind of thing happening all too often, ask a local woman how she deals with persistent men. Oftentimes they’ll give you some simple tips to make men run away with their tail between their legs.

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