While I write this, I’m in my New York hotel room, enjoying a nice little jet lag. Since I’m going home tomorrow, there’s no point trying to adjust anyway, so I best make the most of it and write this article. Now, I’m surely not the only woman traveling alone (people who follow my blog know that I love traveling alone), and there are more hazardous places in the world than New York City, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on safe traveling alone as a woman.
With the amount of traveling I do, some people (read: my mother) often ask how I will look after myself and if I’m never scared or frightened when I’m on my own in a foreign country. I think it’s fair to say that, depending on where I am in the world, 95% of the time I feel confident and safe and 5% of the time I’m pretending I feel that way (like when they stick an automatic gun in your face whilst checking your passport when you want to cross the border from Israel to Palestine). Here a few rules and tricks that I generally observe when I’m traveling alone.
Rule 1. Attitude
Regardless of where I am (because in my own city there are naughty people too), I always (try to) give the impression that I’m confident, that I know where I am going or what I’m doing. I keep my head up, and walk purposeful to where-ever I’m going, even if I don’t know where I am going. If I need directions, I’ll either try to find a hotel lobby (free wifi too!!) or a shop to check my map/phone/local person. This however, won’t be needed when you follow the next rule.
Rule 2. Mental maps and points of reference
Try to remember the route you need to take, rather than looking at a map (left at the park, right at street X, then 2nd left). I often explore the area around my hotel beforehand on googlemaps street view; this gives a few very good points of reference. Right now, I’m a stone’s throw away from the Chrysler building for instance, so if I forget everything, I’ll just try to look for that. Tall buildings make perfect points of reference. Just like we, tall people, do in a crowd at a concert for instance (ever noticed that the path to the bar in a crowded venue always goes past you? Exactly!)
Rule 3. Keep your hotel to yourself
I never tell people who I have just met where I stay. It’s none of their business. I’m all up for conversations with locals and meeting new people, but I do not tell them where I stay immediately. If they ask, I usually say something polite like: ‘near landmark X (Grand Central Station / the Eiffel tower / Hyde Park / Dam square / etc.)’ or ‘at the West side of town / area XYZ’ . I also do not keep my hotel room key card in the wrap they give you upon check in; should you lose it, the finder will not only know your hotel, but also your room number and they might get there before you do. If you are really bad with remembering your room number, create a fake contact in your phone.
Rule 4. Lock down
I always lock my room from the inside, and if I’m not expecting room service or a delivery, I always check who is on the other side before opening.
Rule 5. Organise transport
If I’m going somewhere alone and I’m not sure how transport links from the airport to my hotel work, if I don’t speak the language or all of the above, I often arrange a taxi through my hotel to pick me up at the airport. This might be a bit more expensive, but after a long flight, I don’t want to be looking for taxi rank and explain in Swahili / Russian / Chinese where I need to go. Those weren’t my strong languages in school. 😉
Rule 6. Dress according to local standards
I’m not saying you should invest in buying a full local attire (though I’d love to see you all in clogs 😉 ), but if you are going to countries where different dress codes apply due to religion or local habits, adjust to it, be modest and respectful. I once was in Jordan where we met a couple from a country in the West, and she was wearing shorts that were barely covering her bum and a very low-cut top showing side-boob. Though Jordan is one of the more ‘easy-going’ Middle East countries and relatively easy to travel, it still isn’t Miami Beach. Not only might ‘underdressing’ offend locals, it also might give men the wrong impression and they might approach you in ways you would like to avoid.
Rule 7 . The obvious ones & common sense
Because I don’t think you need a lecture and I assume you have common sense (the best thing to take on a trip!), just a few obvious points to help you remember: Bags with zips YES / Flashy watches or jewellery NO / Use hotel safe YES/ Dodgy areas NO / Take out cash in the day when it’s busy YES / Take out cash when it’s dark and quiet NO / Bring a business card of the hotel when you are traveling in a country where you don’t speak or can’t read the language YES / Inform loved ones on your travel plans YES.
All pictures courtesy of Pinterest.