What I Learned Travelling as a Single Woman

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Travelling alone can be an amazing experience, there is a great freedom in having no one to please but yourself. You can dine out and read the newspapers through dinner, or happily watch the world go by. You can have your own agenda and meet some great people along the way. Here are a few things I learned that can help to make your experience as enjoyable and safe as possible.

Sweet Dreams!

If you are staying anywhere overnight make sure you book reputable accommodation with rooms that lock. Lock away your valuables, traveller’s cheques, passport and tickets when you’re not using them (in a safe if possible) – and make sure you remember the combination. I’ve had more than one moment of panic when trying to open a hotel safe!

A friend always advised me to ask for a hotel room that is on the first floor or higher if you are concerned about burglaries or break-ins. If you are staying in a hostel, ask for a dorm that is women only. It should help you feel more comfortable and there will always be someone to ask if you have run out of shampoo.

Solo female traveler

A Little Holiday Research

When you are abroad, it’s always a good idea to check the customs and laws regarding dress codes in public. A good rule of thumb is to dress as conservatively as the women around you (unless you are visiting a red-light district, of course!). A bikini might be perfectly fine on a beach in France, but completely frowned upon in India.

If you are planning to visit places of worship (such as temples and churches), it’s good to know the local customs as you may be asked to cover your head or wear long trousers. I was unable to visit The Vatican in Rome on the day I had planned to as I was wearing a dress that didn’t completely cover my shoulders. The security guards were very serious (the kind that could out-stare a goldfish) and wouldn’t let me in. A good tip is to carry a scarf that you can use to cover your head or shoulders if necessary.

Swot up on a little local language to help you get by – it will always help if you’re able to order a meal or buy travel tickets – investing in a phrase book is always wise and can help you no end with common situations such as asking for directions or where the bathroom is. Speaking of bathrooms, if you are eating out, be sure to stick to local fresh produce. Many a case of ‘Delhi-belly’ have been caused by miss-ordering suspect seafood hundreds of miles inland.

Getting Around Gracefully

Avoid high-risk means of travelling (such as hitchhiking), even though it may be tempting and free. Single women are far more likely to be offered a lift, but unless you’re being picked up by a group of travelling nuns it’s generally not a good idea. In addition to this, stick to well-known routes and reliable public transport services.

If you are carrying valuables, use a shoulder bag rather than a rucksack. I have personally had a camera taken from the back of a rucksack without me knowing. I was very cross at the time, and I always wondered what they thought of the photos of my dog. Always try to avoid getting your wallet or purse out in public – instead keep any spare change that you might need in a pocket – preferably with a zip.

If you are travelling by train, pick a compartment with other people rather than an empty one. Sit near the driver or conductor if you are using the bus and make sure you know where you are getting off. I have even asked a bus driver in France to give me a shout when we got to the right stop to make sure that I didn’t lose my way – it saved a lot of hassle. Finally if you are using a taxi, make sure that the taxi company is licensed and reputable.

Taking Care of Number One

Always take photocopies of any important documents you have (such as your driving license and passport) in case you lose them.

If you are worried about unwanted attention from men, how about wearing a fake wedding ring? I have been approached by a rather sleazy Italian man and simply claimed that I was waiting for my husband. I still am as it happens.

Sometimes it may be difficult, but try to avoid looking too much like a tourist. Standing in the middle of the street with a giant map and a confused look suggests vulnerability. Instead, explore new places with confidence and purpose even if you don’t feel like that at the time. Hold your head high and get lost in style!

Eat where the locals are eating and drink where they’re drinking – you will get generally get good quality food at much better prices. Watch out for additional service charges, though (especially in Europe). I was once charged €10 just for sitting at a table in the Piazza San Marco, Venice! I could have bought a good Bellini for that in Harry’s Bar.

Finally, if you’re out at night on your own, avoid drinking too much alcohol as it can impair your judgment somewhat. Failing that, stick to well known brands rather than the local firewater that you may be offered. You’ll feel much better in the morning!

For more travel tips, check out www.GreatTravels.co.uk!

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