Women traveling alone

Women traveling alone

Many months have passed since the beginning of the trip and I have visited many other countries in the meantime so as to be able to get an even more complete idea of ​​what to do and what not to do when traveling alone, also in reference to Claudia’s question asking me how to behave in sexist countries , where the risk is not only being robbed but being victims of sexual violence.

Fortunately I have never heard these stories, I have heard of robberies, even those that occurred violently or with armed force but call it coincidence, most of the people who told me about these events are men. Male pride
is known to be sometimes more difficult to manage even in dangerous situations, while women do not resist in case of danger without electing themselves as the Wonder Woman of the situation, handing over what they have without returning home with a black eye, but only with a little fear.

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women traveling dangers
In my travels I have been to Muslim countries on several occasions: Morocco , Malaysia , Indonesia, and chauvinistic countries, one for all Jamaica, where all the men at the sight of a single woman believe that she is there only and exclusively because she is looking for of the “rasta” or the gigolo of the situation.
In some cases the impact has been strong. No more shorts but Bermuda shorts at least up to the knee, short-sleeved t-shirts instead of tank tops, sometimes I had to cover myself completely (Myanmar) despite the 34 degrees or I had to deal with insistent men who made a simple and suggestive walk in beach a sort of nightmare.
In years of travel I have been able to understand that there are actually things to do to avoid pushing locals to believe that as Westerners we are easy and libertine, thus authorizing them (in their own way) to treat you like an object and in extreme cases to abuse.

Before saying what to do and what not to avoid unpleasant situations, I would like to say that a woman could be a victim of violence or abuse anywhere in the world . I was mugged in London and nothing has ever happened to me in Central America. I was treated more like an object in Europe than in Muslim countries, where apart from the attention they always treated me with respect.
In this case the whole world is one country.

The +1 decalogue of safe travel for the woman who travels alone

  1. Dress appropriately and in relation to the culture of the country.
    A miniskirt that is too mini, dizzying necklines attract attention, if you are in a seaside or tourist location it is fine to wear a bikini, but avoid topless or skimpy bikinis that leave little room for the imagination .
    When you walk the streets, wear a sarong or shirt that can cover you without walking around practically naked.
    It may also happen that you visit countries where culture and tradition dictate that you wear a veil, or sarong (long skirts) and tight or sleeveless t-shirts are not appreciated. Remember that you are not at home and even too much cleavage could annoy the locals, this way you will not only have men whistling all the time but also women angry at your unscrupulousness.
    So find out about local traditions and customs, you could accidentally say something you don’t want with simple and harmless (for us) gestures. For example in  French Polynesia  if you wear a flower with your hair down you are telling the man that we are looking for a husband, the Hibiscus on your head is beautiful and extremely exotic but without wanting to we are sending signals opposite to our current intentions.
  2. Don’t let anyone misunderstand what you don’t want, try to be direct
    Of all the countries where I have been, perhaps Jamaica could be the most annoying for a single woman traveling given the constant calls from men and the notorious male prostitution, the famous “Rastafarian gigolo “. She tries to be decisive and respond with a firm NO I’m not interested and they will leave you alone.
    There are no “no thanks” or “no sorry”. At first you will feel rude but this is the only way to make him understand that you are not interested in the shirt, or the ganja, or the sex.
    Indonesia  and in particular Bali, known for the Bali Boys  who have little to do with the Lady Boys, where male prostitution is a reality, even if they actually had to say it to me, is in fact the country largest Muslim in the world. The people are nice, kind and helpful but there may be some annoyances, eye contact for example is extremely important. To avoid trouble, wear sunglasses and when called or whistled, walk without stopping. By this I don’t mean don’t socialize, on the contrary, but rather don’t make people understand something you don’t want, avoid misunderstandings and try to be direct.
  3. You are single? The boyfriend or husband at home excuse always works.
    You have neither but in many cases this excuse works great. I recommend wearing a ring that you bought at the central market for $1, and having with you a photo of your much loved “husband” who is far away and who you miss. The excuse holds up. Your unavailability will leave the suitor looking for someone else.
  4. Don’t flirt for fun and don’t be accompanied home by strangers
    Traveling doesn’t have to be like feeling in prison, rather it stimulates freedom and why not also fun. But we are still far from home, in countries we don’t know and above all we don’t understand their culture. Being kind is one thing but being available for fun in some countries is not the right move. Maintain your seriousness, avoid pranks and dirty jokes, and don’t be a seasoned woman.
  5. Don’t walk alone in the evening or in isolated areas.
    In some countries, walking alone in the evening (this also applies to men) is not a wise choice. You are saving $2 in taxi fare maybe but you are putting your safety at risk.
    There is poverty around and even just $10 can be attractive for those who would earn it in 7 days of work.
    So walk in company but even in this case take a taxi and you will be sure to return to the hostel safe and sound.
  6. Don’t get drunk and pay attention to those who offer drinks
    In vino veritas. But we no longer understand anything about wine and, just by looking at how English women are reduced, we could find ourselves in unpleasant situations without perhaps really wanting to.
    If you want to drink more than you should, do it in the company of someone you know, some travel companion, there are those who can take advantage of this state of inebriation. You are in a place you don’t know, you speak a different language and in those conditions you don’t have enough strength.
    Mom always told me not to accept drinks from strangers. She was right somehow. Apart from the fact that the theory is now increasingly widespread according to which if I offer a drink and you accept then you have to give me something in return but you never know so why not refuse by saying that you pay for your drink, without commitments. Nobody in this way is under obligation to anyone.
    Same thing for drugs. In Indonesia above all you will be offered everything, quite common LSD, speed, amphetamines, whatever your decision on the matter remember that in some countries, a common practice in Latin America, as soon as the purchase is completed the police are called and you risk to end up in prison or if you like with a bribe to pay to the policemen to bribe.
    Be careful especially in Thailand where they are very strict about this and the story of money to the policeman works less frequently than it might in Mexico, I know those who ended up in prison for a joint.
  7. Sunsets on lonely beaches
    In some countries the sunsets are splendid. If you have the opportunity to do it yourself, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately there are circumstances in which, no matter how beautiful the sunset, it would be better not to do it alone, the risk of robberies and violence can be high.
    In Nicaragua a friend of mine was badly robbed during sunset. She learned her lesson (which is something all travelers should know before arriving) but the fear that it could happen again led her to leave Central America earlier than expected.
  8. Saying no is not synonymous with racism or rudeness.
    Sometimes it is difficult to say no, say it badly and walk away without looking in the face but in some cases it is necessary. Don’t feel wrong or that you are experiencing the trip badly or worse yet racist. There are cultures in which women are not integrated into society like we are and men see a glimmer of “hope” in women.
    Simply refuse to be taken around for romantic and solitary horseback rides (in Mexico in San Cristobal de Las Casas a man was arrested who raped many women under the guise of horseback riding), rides, walks and excursions.
    For tours, rely on agencies or ask someone at the hostel who will be able to point you to a trusted person. in short, find out who this person is. Don’t get in a car to be driven around if you don’t know the person.
    You are not offending anyone but think only and exclusively about your own safety and do what makes you feel comfortable. Women in these countries know how to say NO. We learn too.
  9. Ask women who have already taken a trip or read about these topics on forums and blogs.
    You will not be the first nor the last woman to leave alone. On the internet there are thousands of resources and above all forums and blogs where you can find answers to your questions regarding solo travel and trips taken by women alone. If the country is actually dangerous just don’t go, you don’t have to prove to anyone that you are a super hero.
  10. If you feel danger nearby, take refuge in a shop or shout for help.
    Sometimes you can sense what could happen. When I was mugged I understood it without seeing the person who was coming from behind but hearing their footsteps. In case you find yourself in this situation, take refuge in a shop, a bar, ring the first house, talk to anyone you meet on the street and walk with them.
  11. Ask women or families for directions.
    Are you lost and don’t know how to get back to the hostel? Ask women or families for directions, it often happens that they want to accompany you to make sure you arrive safely and therefore they just want to do a favor.
    Unfortunately something unpleasant happened to me in Morocco just when I was asking for directions, I was lost and as usual I asked a gentleman how I could get home. After showing him the address he told me to follow him. He only spoke Arabic so I didn’t understand but I didn’t like it. Unfortunately he didn’t want to take me to my house but to his house. I managed to run back to the main street and grab a taxi on the fly.
    My instinct made me understand that this person was not stable and in fact I was right, but generally I had never refused an invitation to tea.

two women facing backwards

But then to trust or not to trust?

I know that it may seem that you are not free to do anything or even have the opportunity to learn about the local culture but the truth is different.
Our instincts will tell us how to behave and are usually not wrong.
I spent 2 months in Morocco and lived in the homes of locals, all people I met on the train, on the buses, with whom I did the volunteer camp. I felt safe, I was with their family and all this only and exclusively because Moroccans are hospitable and kind.
On one occasion I didn’t trust it and my instincts weren’t wrong. I managed to avoid a dangerous situation because my instincts told me that person could be potentially dangerous.
This experience has not affected my love for this country and its people. I continued to travel alone and trust people because in 98% of cases what arrives is a cultural exchange and help and not violence or robberies.
The only recommendation is that before completely trusting strangers it is better to listen to what our instinct has to tell us, it is rarely wrong.

Please note: In fact, stories of sexual assault are very rare and my advice is more aimed at avoiding getting robbed than anything else. So valid advice for both men and women.
Travel with responsibility towards the cultures and countries that host us and with respect for ourselves.

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