Last Updated on 14 June 2020 by Stephanie Langlet
Through some anecdotes that have happened to me during my trips since 2007, I give you my advice as a female travelling alone to ensure safe travels.
I recently read an article from a travel blogger who was taken for a prostitute in a luxury hotel. Not surprisingly, this misadventure has made a lot of noise on various Facebook groups.
Being a female solo traveller, unfortunately also means facing many prejudices.
And sometimes these prejudices have an impact on our security or simply the feeling we have of it.
So I decided to tell you today a few misadventures that happened to me on my trip and how the problem was solved in order to help you learn from it for your next solo safe travels.
At the end of the article, you will find a few safety accessories travellers generally use to ensure the safety of their belongings.
This post may contain compensated links.
The prejudices that female travelling alone face in their own country.
All the solo women travelers will tell you:
Every time we explain that we travel to the other side of the world, the same exchange invariably occurs.
“But you’re going alone?”
“Yes, with my backpack.”
“And you’re not afraid? I would not be able to.”
“But I was scared before my first time, too. Well… Before the second one too, but it was in China.”
And to continue that it is normal to be afraid of the unknown and that I even wrote an article with my tips to reassure myself before and during my first trip abroad.
There are also the much less pleasant exchanges, full of innuendoes…
“Ah, you’re going to Thailand? I hear Thai massages are fun…”, with an ironic smile. No, I’m not a sex tourism fan!!
“You’re going to Bali? Balinese are cute, aren’t they?” Honestly, I don’t care if they’re pretty or ugly, I’m not going for that!
“You’re returning to India? You’ll end up finding a husband there and never come back!” Because I need a husband?
“I think you go to India a lot. You’re hiding a lover over there.” Again, it’s so far from my concerns.
“But are you sure we’re not going to kidnap you there?” No, Asians are as wild as we are and often more civilized.
And the not-so-friendly, totally discriminatory exchanges:
“We’re wondering about your managerial abilities in light of your private life.” So already, my private life is nobody’s business, especially at work. And then, what’s up with my private life?
This exchange is not fictitious at all. It happened when they were suppressing my position for the second time. They even wanted to send me back to the first position of my career at 200 km from home, despite the excellent results I had always had with each of my teams.
In short, prejudice always has a bright future ahead of it.
You have to be prepared when you go to the other side of the world on your own and adopt the right attitude so that you don’t have to face it once you get there.
Because most of your misadventures will arise from this kind of prejudice:
For some people, if you are a female Westerner traveling alone, you are necessarily rich and easy.
Speed dating in a Vietnamese bus.
In September 2011, I made a tour of North Vietnam by local bus.
A great memory and wonderful encounters with ethnic minorities.
During a long bus ride, we stopped for lunch.
Before I got back on the bus, a group invited me to share a coffee and a cigarette.
Once back, one of the boys sat next to me.
A discussion started and ended with a “do you want to sleep with me tonight?”
I answer negatively in the middle of a laughter.
We’re exchanging a few words until the famous question: “do you want to sleep with me?”
Always the same answer.
The boys followed one another until they finally realized that the answer would always be the same.
My advice: In this kind of situation, don’t panic or get angry.
I was on a bus, there were plenty of people around to intervene in case of problems.
This group of young people simply tried their luck and there was no insistence, inappropriate gesture or aggression. No one even allowed themselves to touch my arm.
The best parade is to laugh gently so that everyone saves face.
When you think about it carefully, direct and clear behaviour is more manageable than ambiguous behaviour. As your interlocutor is direct, you can afford to be as direct!
Corruption and Khmer karaoké in Cambodia.
My trip to Cambodia in March 2011 began with Ratanakiri, in the northeast of the country.
On my way back to Phnom Penh, I stopped in the town of Stung Treng to stroll along the Mekong, except that nothing happened as planned!
As I was walking to the riverside via the market, I saw a wedding in a room.
So I approached myself to watch, then film and photograph.
Quite quickly, I was invited by a part of the family, cousins of the bride.
We spent the day together and they invited me to the wedding party.
They even lent me a Khmer princess dress and paid for the hairdresser and makeup artist.
During the evening, I discovered that one of the girls was a world-famous Khmer TV singer/presenter.
And I ended up travelling to Mondulkiri province with them the next day.
Wow, so cool, huh? Yep…
The son of the family had a big crush on me despite my distant attitude.
One evening, while we were having dinner with whisky… like every night – I warned you – two “officials” from the province joined us.
At the end of the meal, the singer gave them a large bundle of money to celebrate and to drink to her health.
I quickly understood that it was all about backhander.
We had gone to Mondulkiri to see some land to buy.
And in Cambodia, as in many Asian countries, it only takes a few banknotes for officials to evict a family that has lived on the land for generations and obtain proper title deeds…
As we were going back to the hotel, the son asked me to accompany him to bring the car back.
But instead of taking the road to the parking lot, our car starts following the two men.
We park on a poorly lit parking lot and enter a light green corridor with even more pale light.
Young girls in very sexy outfits are looking at us and I’m starting to feel really bad…
We are brought into a large room with a big screen, sofas and a coffee table.
Oh, my God, I’m in a Khmer karaoke!
And believe me, Khmer women hate it when their husbands hang out in this kind of place where everything can be bought.
One of the young women sits next to me – uh… Thanks, but no thanks!
They bring us whiskey and the sound system starts to spit out all its decibels, at the risk of killing our eardrums.
The two men are totally drunk.
They start singing, or should I say howling?
One of them tries to get one of the girls to sit on him, his hands are very wandering and the girl resists.
My “girlfriend” is trying to get me drunk.
And then, all of a sudden, I was caught with a severe migraine headache that forced us to go back to the hotel.
When we get back, we meet one of the girls of the family.
“Were you at the karaoke? And now you’re going to have sex?” followed by a big, stupid burst of laughter that makes me want to slit her throat.
Of course, I slept alone in my room, with the door locked…
Read more: Khmer traditions in Battambang.
My advice: ¤ “Always keep your senses in check. While the whole family drank their dry whisky or with a bit of soda, I measured mine like syrup. In Cambodia, the custom is that if someone drinks, the whole table must toast and accompany them! At the wedding, some young people, boys and girls, even held contests. Everyone had to drink a can of beer down in one go…
¤ Karaoke is a bit of an institution in Cambodia. I had met a French couple at Ratanakiri who had also been there without knowing it. If you’re being tricked, don’t panic. Those who go there think it’s natural, but they’ll understand that you don’t want to stay.
¤ The Khmer people have suffered a lot and we still feel it, especially in the way some people live in excesses of all kinds: drinking, sex, divorce, mistresses. During our trip, the mother called me a bitch for no reason at all and on several occasions, laughing loudly. The family has claimed that she suffered from nerve disease. Yet, her son is divorced, one of the girls has a child without a father and they all wore sexy outfits, unlike my pants and reserved attitude.
“The idiot of the village” in Egypt.
In October 2008, I was in Egypt and as usual, I spent my time walking around.
One day, while I was walking in the countryside near Luxor, a young man started to follow and annoy me.
I turn back to the village, he does the same. I’m trying to chase him away, I am turning around again. The result is always the same.
I have no choice but to go back to the village…
The inhabitants, hearing me screaming, leave their homes and quickly understand the situation: it is the “village idiot” who bothers me.
The women then circle around me while the men chase the individual and then babbled their excuses.
In 2008, Egypt had already suffered terrorist attacks for more than 10 years. I never felt insecure though, even though I was often alone walking in isolated places.
If you travel in a group, you will unfortunately often have military or police convoys to surround you, which is more distressing than reassuring in my opinion!
I often met the same people at the checkpoints and we talked in an extremely relaxed atmosphere.
For Abu Simbel, avoid the packages offered by all hotels in Aswan.
There are local buses that run during the day, allow you to find accommodation, walk around the village, admire the sound and light show in the evening, the fabulous sunrise alone in front of the colossus of Ramses II and visit the temples before leaving with another day bus. I was even able to be alone – and photograph without a flash – in both temples.
With the packages, you will travel at night in buses accompanied by military convoys travelling very fast. There are often accidents. You will arrive at the site in the early morning, after sunrise. You will leave after spending the rush hour in the temples.
As for Luxor’s anecdote, it clearly shows that you can count on the locals to help you in case of a problem.
So don’t hesitate to ask for their help.
Travelling India alone: is it safe?
I am always annoyed to read comments about India’s alleged dangerousness for lone female travelers.
After 4 trips to India, about 5 months travelling alone through the country, I was really bothered only once.
So yes, we hear about sexual assaults and rapes in India, and that is a reality.
But it must be brought back to the scale of the subcontinent, inhabited by more than 1.3 billion people!
There is no such thing as zero risk, whether in India or in your own country.
That day, I was on a bus between Delhi and Jaipur after a long stay in Central India.
We were a little tight on our seats.
After a while, a seat becomes available on my row of three except that my neighbour, instead of moving, would continue to stick up against me, with one hand regularly brushing against my arm.
I ask him to move around first gently and he answers me with a simple “why?”
Obvious, isn’t it? There are 3 seats, there are two of us, so we have no reason to stick together!
I insist, and he still won’t listen.
My only solution was to speak very loudly to chase him away, which he did while grumbling.
My advice: Once again, the best solution is to alert people around you.
In this particular case, a young man in front of us turned around and then kept making sure that everything was going well.
When I asked this young man if he knew my destination area – I was invited via Couchsurfing-, he invited me to share his tuk-tuk because he was going to the same area.
I don’t know if that was true or if he just wanted to make sure that I would get there.
When we arrived, as the driver couldn’t find the house, he phoned my guests, waited for one of them to arrive and refused to let me pay for the ride.
Almost every time I get a misadventure, someone rushes to do such a good deed that the problem is quickly forgotten!
Is Sri Lanka safe for single female travelers?
I was in Sri Lanka in February 2013 and I have a bad memory of it despite the fabulous landscapes and beautiful beaches.
Simply because of the behaviour of most men.
I hate stereotyping, yet I have to admit that most men in Sri Lanka behave in a highly inappropriate way with women.
And here, you don’t have to rely on the local police: they don’t move or they sexually harass you too!
In short, here is a small anthology of my worst experiences:
¤ a man leaning on a tree, masturbating and calling me on a southern beach. The police never showed up.
¤ the hellos with their eyes systematically on my chest.
¤ the “do you want to sleep with me tonight?” after barely two words exchanged.
¤ the young agent of the bank’s exchange counter coming to my guesthouse – address indicated on the exchange document – to spend the night with me.
¤ the police officer of a checkpoint harassing me every day on the phone – mobile phone number indicated on the document to be filled out.
¤ two hands laid on my chest during the Shivaratri festival in a religious place – nothing stops them.
¤ hands wandering around on a bus. Despite my shouting, NO ONE intervened. It was only after I found a seat that my neighbour asked me what happened!!!
My advice: Boycott Sri Lanka!
A family of French travellers recently told me that their daughter had been harassed while travelling with them.
I was able to discuss this issue openly with two Sri Lankans.
The first acknowledged that he himself was obsessed with sex and did not know why all Sri Lankans were like that.
The second one spent his time caring for me and warning me.
Best travel accessories for women safe travels.
Here are some of the most popular safety accessories used by female travelers to easily prevent from thieves.
It can be used both during your trips and in your own countries as RFID technologies can be useful to protect your credit card information.
Click on the pics to know more and order.
RFID system prevents from stealing your passport and credit card information.
TSA approved travel lock allows TSA agents to unlock and check your bagage, then relock it.
Travel safe bags.
Travelon anti-theft bags feature hidden compartments, chain link construction and locking zippers.
If you’re looking for a nice waterproof backpack, you can opt for the Pacsafe backpack Citysafe. Available in different colors, it has interlocking zippers, cut proof material and RFID pockets. Pacsafe is the original anti-theft brand.
Conclusion: even if prejudice are strong, it is easy to ensure safe travels for a woman.
As you can see throughout these anecdotes, it is not more dangerous for a woman to travel alone and ensure safe travels.
Just as everywhere else, it is enough not to do nonsense, to dress decently and with respect for the local culture, to be self-confident.
In case of a problem, you will most often be able to rely on the local population to help you.
If you mingle with the local population and respect their culture, you will soon realize that they will do everything possible to make it easier for you to discover the country.
Follow your instincts and desires: you won’t be judged negatively, on the contrary, if you mingle with the population to learn more about their culture.
Beware of everyone would only ruin your trip and won’t make your trip safer.
It’s your turn!
I am very curious to have your feedback on this article!
Have you ever travelled alone?
Would you like to travel alone but are afraid to do so?
Do you have an anecdote to share?
Use the comments below.
Do you have any topics that you would like to see covered in the Traveller FAQ?
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