A female solo traveller is always at a risk no matter where she is. I have 10 important tips on safety, which I have prepared empirically after traveling solo for over a decade to around 25 countries and more than half of Indian States.
1. Be alert
You must be super alert if you are traveling alone; right from keeping a tight eye on your belongings to your personal safety. I have seen women dozing off on airport benches or getting lost in thoughts with earphones on at railway stations. Casual approach will prove dangerous. Foreign tourists are easy targets; solo female travellers are easier. Be alert on what you are eating or drinking.
2. Be well-equipped
A female traveller should carry everything that is needed for her. At the same time, try to travel light. Have your own checklist. Do browse for ideal checklists and compare it to your own. Always keep an extra of a thing that is crucial, for example, along with your smartphone, you can always carry an old buttoned phone whose battery lasts longer. Don’t forget things like charger, torch, lighter, first aid box, locks, tickets, ATM cards, or toiletries. Keep spare things.It shouldn’t happen that you go out to buy shampoo at 11 pm just to have early bath the next day. I will prepare a checklist for solo female travellers soon and post it here.
3. Listen to your gut feeling
Women are blessed with a superior inner voice. If your inner-voice tells you that something is fishy and could be dangerous, listen to it. If your intuition tells you that a certain person isn’t trustworthy, please obey your gut feeling. Slowly, as a traveller, you will develop a sense which will guide you through your trip. So when in in doubt – cut it out!
4. Be calculative
Everything should be fed in your mind. Your luggage packing should be very well organized. You should know what is kept where. Don’t open all the bags to find, say, a pen! Memorize at least three important phone numbers – like that of your parents, brother, or friend. Handover them your complete travel plan/schedule with dates and phone numbers. Don’t forget roads or addresses. Travel is fun, but with great fun, comes great responsibility! When I was in Germany, I went to a restaurant named ‘Schiffergesellschaft’, I remember the name among other tough names. If you are in foreign country, mug up your passport number. Keep dates and time in mind. A solo female traveller cannot afford missing train or flights. In fact, traveling teaches all these gradually. Be quick at calculating bills and rail/air timings. These minor things form part of safety.
5. Leave your imprints
With cellphone in hand, you can always keep a few trusted people in loop about your present location and next movement. You can send photos of your surroundings, the number plate of your vehicle, license of driver, and your whereabouts to them.
6. Be James Bond-ish
In the digital age, spy cameras can be fitted and operated from anywhere. Make sure that you glance over your room, washroom etc. When you sleep, turn off unwanted electrical gadgets. Lock rooms properly. Keep your eyes moving all the time scanning people and things around you. Raise an alarm if you find suspicious thing. Always keep local police number or traveller helpline number with you. These numbers should be saved on cellphone and written in diary before starting a journey. Always keep back-up of numbers, photos of passport and tickets, addresses and numbers of people and places of travel on your email.
7. Crowded or uncrowded places
If you are hiring an accommodation, homestay or guesthouse, always book the trusted and most frequented one – where families throng. Don’t opt for lonely hotels. When you are at a crowded station or airport, always find a place around CCTV cameras. Homestays are safer; make sure it has female members.
8. Control your diet and sleep
Women are seen sleeping in trains as if they are at home. Avoid this. An alert female traveller should have control on her sleep. To achieve that, don’t get over-worked by trekking or walking. Eat less. Don’t overstuff your stomach. Believe me, it has a connection with your safety. If you are in train, you have to walk down to washroom keeping your luggage in the compartment. If you get sick, say, food poisoning, you may not get proper help.
9. Make a woman friend
Wherever you go, always look out for female friends of any age. It is not that all men are bad, but keeping women friends has its own merits when travelling. Wherever I travel, I make good friends with the women around. I get a peace of mind that I have somebody in the alien land if I need at well past midnight. Once I asked the hotel owner’s sister to accompany me to the airport at 4 am. She was happy to help.
10. Safety weapons and self-defence
Safety tools like chilli-pepper spray should always be with you. It should be handy at doubtful places like a crowded street of a notorious place. Before you embark upon journey, get lessons on fights from your brother or male friend. Practice a few fights. “Judo-karate”, “Taekwondo” etc. need long practice. Instead, learn the natural self-defence like punching, kicking, elbowing, throwing stones, biting, pulling hair, pushing, screaming, or sprinting away. Your life is more important than anything else! I will prepare a list of safety weapons and tricks for female travellers and post it here soon. And yes, do watch fight movies at leisure – who knows when a Jackie Chan or Sunny Deol will enter in you!
A bonus, tip:
11. Don’t be over adventurous
Just to get a better selfie, a solo female traveller should avoid going to unsafe places like at the edge of a cliff or watery areas or to a secluded place. A lot of us like adventures, but surely not at the cost of life. Safety precautions should always be confirmed. I saw how overexcited women para gliding in Himachal got dragged with the parachute on landing leaving bruises all over their faces and bodies. Water bodies should never be taken for granted. You can avoid getting into river (crab or snake may bite you), bathing under a waterfall, plunging into an untrusted swimming pool or boating alone.
The list is not exhaustive. I revisited my previous trips in my mind to jot down these points. Experience is a better teacher, they say. There are ample of such lists available on internet compiled mostly by European or American solo female travellers. I request amateur solo female travellers to take these tips seriously.
- Bharati Nadkarni is a Pune-based software professional, poet and traveller. She has her travel website www.BeeTheMusafir.com
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