Your bags are packed and you’re ready to go. But you’re going solo or travelling with your girl friends. To the very orthodox, a woman travelling without a male escort may seem unimaginable. But it’s no big deal if you just keep a few common-sense travel safety tips in mind.
Here are ten safe travel tips for women on the move.
Educate yourself about the place you’re visiting
Mrs. Bhavana Shinde, Tourist Officer, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, advises, “When you are travelling to any place you need to learn about its culture, habits and traditions. Learn about the country’s dress codes and mannerisms.
Try not to behave or dress in a way which may violate the country’s traditions as it may after all get you the wrong type of attention.
The best way to find out about a new place is through the country’s embassy, consulate, tourist offices, tourist brochures and reliable websites.”
Also try to find out about the safety levels of the place you are visiting – the crime rate against women and if it is the norm for women to travel on the streets late in the evening.
Arrive when its still daylight
Try your best to get a flight, train or bus which arrives at your new destination when enough daylight hours are left to reach your hotel safely. You may also opt to reach the airport or railway station during the day while leaving.
Choose a safe hotel
According to Mrs. Shinde, government approved hotels are safe. You may also ask your friends who have toured the place for hotel recommendations. Internet pictures may show you alluring pictures of hotels, but when you reach the hotel bag and baggage you may find it doesn’t quite meet your safety or comfort requirements.
Make sure the hotel is located in a well-trafficked and well-lit street. Choose a hotel that offers doors with double locks with a dead bolt and a peep-hole. Opt for a safe hotel even if it costs more. A ladies hostel is also a safe option.
Katrina Kaif may have avoided that controversy about wearing a skirt in a place of worship if she’d considered our advice. As Mrs. Shinde notes, “It is not that you need to be dressed in a burkha or very puritanically when travelling alone but your attire should not go against the ambience or customs of the place. For instance when you a visiting a place of pilgrimage, worship or a shrine maybe skimpy clothes could be avoided.”
Certain Islamic countries have norms that women should cover their hair, arms and legs. Many Buddhist temples in South East Asia want visitors to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and be bare feet. Bathing suits are prohibited on certain beaches. So do pay heed to the place’s dress codes.
Sometimes dressing like a local really helps. It makes you less conspicuous as a tourist and may win approval that you are liberal enough to adapt the culture of the place. However attire and personal security are not always correlated. Women dressed very conservatively may also get attacked.
Avoid wearing jewellery or expensive watches to keep pick pockets and robbers away from you. Also opt for a simple bag or purse, instead of a very discernible tourist pouch, to prevent people from promptly identifying you as a tourist. Don’t display large amounts of money in public. Carry traveller’s checks when possible.
Be transportation savvy
Don’t hitchhike. It is best to hire a taxi recommended by the airport or your hotel (if you feel it is a reliable hotel). Don’t choose a taxi which has another man accompanying the taxi driver. Lock all doors securely while travelling by car, and don’t pull over when a stranger on the road is signalling you to stop.
As far as train travel is concerned it’s best to travel in the air conditioned first class. If you choose to travel second class, ticket less travellers may sometimes invade your compartment. It is best to choose the upper berth in the train as that ensures maximum privacy. Never accept packages, eatables and drinks from strangers on train no matter how nice and friendly they may appear to be.
Use your instincts to avoid bad company
Danger doesn’t come calling. Nor do criminals always look sinister, making you aware that you should stay away from them. Nevertheless use your instincts to avoid seemingly bad company and unsafe spots.
If you don’t walk down a dark alley in your hometown, why should you do the same in an alien city? Be wary of over-friendly men. Stay away from anyone who gives you bad vibes. Try your best to avoid eye contact with strangers while travelling.
Try not to look like a tourist
Try not to look or behave like a tourist. If you are extremely clueless and confused about where in the city you are and how you’ll be reaching your destination you may be an easy target of miscreants.
Study the road map carefully before you go out so you have a better idea of where you are going. Don’t publicly display tourist guides. Keep your camera out of sight until you need it. Its also a good idea to learn a few common phrases in the local language.
Always carry a mobile phone with you and make sure it has essential contacts like the police, ambulance services and the hotel where you are staying. Also store the numbers of reliable friends and relatives who live in the place you are visiting and of well-known women’s organisations in the city.
What to do if attacked or harassed
Ignore cat calls and irritating comments by passers-by. If they continue to pester you complain to the police. Learning self-defence skills and carrying protection equipment, like a chilly spray or a stun gun, helps.
Avoid wearing high heels as it may make it very difficult for you to escape if attacked. If you feel you can’t physically overpower or escape from your attacker lie to him that you have AIDS or a serious communicable disease.
Travel with confidence
Most importantly, travel confidently. Stay alert and keep your wits about you at all times. If you act like a damsel in distress in an alien city, you’ll attract more trouble. Treat miscreants sternly but don’t allow paranoia to ruin your trip by imagining that every person is out to harm you. Just be cautious within reason and enjoy your trip!