Whether we want to admit it or not, traveling as a woman, especially solo travel, is different from
traveling as a man. There are things women have to worry about specifically because we are women.
Here are 10 things women can do to make international travel safer and more comfortable.
1. Pack feminine hygiene products
Every country has women living in it, so you’d think feminine hygiene products, (think pads, tampons, liners, etc), would be readily available. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
While pads are usually readily available in most places, tampons are not popular in many countries. And if you’re in rural or mountainous areas, the local women may use more traditional methods. So make your life easier and have a supply of your preferred product.
2. Remember your birth control
If you have an IUD you can skip this section. If you’re on the pill or ring or patch, make sure you pack it, I’ve forgotten my pills, so make sure they’re at the top of your packing list.
Packing it in your carry-on is preferable. There is nothing worse than arriving in your destination and
finding that your bags didn’t arrive and on top of that you don’t have your birth control.
I also recommend bringing extra if you can, just in case you run out. If you use a ring or patch you may not find it available the country you’re traveling to. Even if you’re on the pill, don’t count on being able to get your prescription at a local pharmacy, not all brands are sold in every country. And you may not even be able to get a new prescription; countries that are more religiously conservative may have restrictions on who can get the pill.
3. Pack bras that fit & are comfortable
It should go without saying that you only buy bras that fit properly and are comfortable to wear. After all, we spend the bulk of our days in them. However, I’ve been guilty of buying bras that weren’t the most comfortable because they were cute. You don’t want to be dealing with ill-fitting or uncomfortable bras while traveling. Pick up a couple new ones before you leave if necessary.
4. Dress like a local
This one can go for both men and women. You won’t be able to blend in everywhere you travel, but in areas where you can, dressing like a local makes it less likely you’ll be singled out as a tourist and pick-pocketed or scammed.
This is doubly important for women in religiously conservative countries. Dressing like the local women can help you avoid street harassment, fines, and other problems in many countries.
Not that dressing conservatively is guaranteed protection, which brings us to the next point…
5. Carry personal protection
In general, I recommend all women take a basic self-defense course, whether they’re traveling or not.
But, a little extra personal protection can go a long way.
What you can carry will depend on local laws, so do your research. Pepper spray and mace are banned in some places. I carry a wooden kubotan that doubles as my key-chain. Even a tube of rolled up quarters will do in a pinch.
Be proactive and look up use of force laws for the country you’re traveling to. And if the laws favor attackers, you may want to rethink that trip.
7. Don’t check your map or phone for directions in public
Doing this marks you out as a tourist. Duck into a café and get your bearings from there. If you’re really lost ask a waitress or the person working at the counter for directions while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
8. Make friends
A local friend is best, but even if it’s with other tourists it’s a great idea. Maybe they have an idea you didn’t think of. And if you want to go out to bars or clubs late at night it’s often safer in a group.
9. Sit next to women on public transportation
You may not always have a choice, but if you do, opt to sit by another woman. Men have been known to take it as an invitation when women sit next to them on buses and trains.
Often there are cultural issues at play, so get to know the country you’re traveling to before you leave.
The Culture Crossing Guide is a handy resource for local customs and cultural etiquette. It is a community site individuals can contribute to, so make sure to do additional research.
10. Be prepared for intrusive personal questions
In a lot of countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and even some places in Europe, women are still expected to get married and have children as soon as possible. When traveling to those areas you can expect to get questions about your own marital status.
Some travel blogs recommend wearing a fake wedding ring; however, even then you’ll probably face questions about where your husband is and why you’re traveling alone.
I’ve found that in most cases people understand that not every culture has the same expectations of women. But you can still expect prying questions, the people asking usually mean well, so try not to get offended.
There are hundreds of tips about how women can be safer while traveling abroad. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where women have to take extra precautions when traveling, especially if they’re alone. But if you love to travel, taking a few extra steps to secure your comfort and safety are well worth it.