These days more and more women are opting to travel alone, unfettered by a travelling companion who may cramp their style or bicker over holiday plans. This said though, it does take a special kind of woman to set out alone, conquer her fears and take on the world by boat, plane or train. For while most people think of holidays as time to spend with family and friends the solo female tourist has no one but herself to consider or please.
There is a huge sense of freedom for any woman travelling alone but equally there are some drawbacks to consider. Here are a few tips to guide you safely and smoothly through your travel experience.
If you are not quite ready for the completely solo plunge why not try a women-only holiday? These have become very popular, especially with professional women who regard this type of holiday as time to connect with other women or to go on courses to learn new skills and face challenges. There are lots of choices available, simply go on the internet and dial up ‘women only holidays’ to see a plethora of opportunities from health spas to adventure travel.
Catering for the modern age, you will find that there are plenty of female-friendly hotels with special rooms designed with the woman traveller in mind. Bedrooms are definitely more feminine with hair dryers, irons and other useful bits and pieces, so you can dispense with room service. Always ask for a room away from deserted areas in the hotel e.g. not facing a deserted car park.
If you don’t relish eating alone in the hotel restaurant or even the bar, you could try to book rooms with kitchen facilities. Many Travel Lodge and Great Western chains etc. usually cater for the independent traveller who wants to prepare their own food but check with the bigger chains to see whether they offer the same amenities.
You will sometimes need to be careful about buying local produce in the market and storing it in the room fridge. Some hotels, in places such as the South of France, have a zero tolerance policy of guests consuming their own food in the room – so if you are going to do this don’t leave any evidence around for housekeeping!
Quite a few tour groups cater especially for women travelling on their own so surf the net and find out what’s on offer – there are often special rates for single travellers, but beware of cruises. They often penalise single travellers with a huge extra supplement, although they sometimes have last-minute deals when they will waive the extra fee to fill an empty cabin.
If you arrange your trip before or after peak travel times you can save money, avoid expensive periods such as half-term and school holidays. Going out of season is a good way of getting a bargain if you don’t mind chancing the weather, although with climate changes you can often have fantastic sunshine when you and the travel agents least expect it. You can reduce the cost of your airfare and lodging considerably plus, restaurants and attractions will be less crowded. Bear in mind that you will often get the best deals by calling hotel or motels directly when you can ask about them about their special offers and deals.
When travelling alone it is very important, that as a single woman, you take absolutely no chances and put your safety above all else, including having a good time.
Try to act and dress as much like a local as possible, it makes you inconspicuous and much less vulnerable to any local men who think that a foreign woman on her own is fair game and ‘just asking for it’. To avoid attracting unwanted attention, don’t wear short skirts, clingy clothing, skimpy shorts, revealing beachwear and see-through tops. DON’T go topless at any time – it is just like sticking a ‘take me’ notice on your body. Wearing sunglasses means you can avoid direct eye contact and a wedding ring gives out a ‘not available’ signal.
Always walk confidently, with an apparent sense of purpose and don’t smile at strangers, especially in Arab countries where you can be followed. If this does happen lead your pursuer into a crowded place then whack him hard where it really hurts, with your knee or fist, and then while he is bent double lose yourself in the crowd.
If you can’t avoid going out at night alone don’t wear any make-up or do your hair. You can even use eye shadow smeared under the eyes and talc rubbed on your face to make yourself look old and haggard. Not your favourite look maybe – but better than it being your last look!
When travelling on public transport try to have the appropriate fare in your hand so that you don’t need to rummage through your bag or money belt and show any potential thieves just what you’ve got and where it is.
Never trust other travellers with your stuff, no matter how nice they seem and never go home at night with anyone you don’t know. You could end up drugged and robbed or worse!
Be careful about what may seem like harmless flirting to you as in some cultures your harmless chit chat could be mis-construed as an invitation for sex.
Don’t get drunk, especially if you are out on your own if not for any other reason than you may forget to pay attention to the security of your valuables, your passport and your own personal safety.
Find out from the locals and fellow travellers which places are safe for women and which are not. Keep your eyes open and your guard up but also enjoy the fact you are a woman travelling alone and allow people to help you and even make a fuss of you when appropriate.
Carry money in two places in case you are robbed and carry something to defend yourself, like a small umbrella or a deterrent spray. Although a knife may seem tempting don’t forget it could be used against you by a strong assailant and in some countries it is just plain illegal to have one about your person.
Finally remember that while it is tempting to enjoy male companionship when travelling alone many men are just looking for easy sex with a comparative stranger and may expect more than a good night kiss if they have bought you a meal or even a few drinks. To refuse to have sex later may lead to a great deal of unpleasantness and to comply may mean you hate yourself in the morning when you have sobered up and find yourself alone in a strange bed while he has gone back to his wife and family!
Travelling alone is something that all women should experience at least once in their lives, since it is a great opportunity for self development and self appraisal and often an experience to be treasured for life.