Aren't there days when you just wake up with a compelling need to escape into the unknown? But slowly as the light thickens, your inner Goddess who had been such a valiant spirit a few minutes ago slips under the covers and all those reports of violence scuttle back like foul insects. The question is do you let them overpower you?
Women's safety is a burning issue these days. No matter how dark the scenario is, there is always a way to deal with it. Avoiding something out of fear is not the solution. No reason is strong enough for us travel freaks to throttle our wanderlust and lock ourselves indoors. Ask seasoned women travelers, and they are quick to indicate that we are as safe in our hometown as we are in some exotic foreign city. If travelling solo, it is important to remember that a little awareness goes a long way. While being a daredevil is certainly not discouraged, exercising common sense in the trickiest of situations can mitigate most disasters. Gypsy Shack supports the cause of Women Empowerment & encourages more women on the path of self-discovery.
Here are 12 tips to be safe on the road and enjoy your solo flight into the wide wide world.
Research. Research. & research some more. The more you know about the place you are going to, the happier and safer your travels will be. Do detailed risk assessments, check out the current socio-political situation, and obtain security information and information on prevalent cultural norms. Learn about restrictions imposed on women. While drinking with men and wearing short dresses might be usual in your country, it doesn't mean they will be so elsewhere. Try finding out about the crime rates and be well aware of the dangerous neighbourhoods. Always keep scanned copies of your passport, ID card, credit cards and all other documents. Also, keep photocopies of each and few passport sized photographs with you.
Research well on your destination (Photo courtesy: travel-ideas.makemytrip.com)
If you're aware of your surroundings, chances of falling into any kind of trouble is very slim. In case of doubt, always pay absolute heed to your instincts. If something tells you that a person isn't trustworthy or a place doesn't feel safe, get way from there as fast as you can. Be alert no matter where or with who you are and trust your senses. Melanie Nayer of Women on their Way suggests carrying a whistle in your purse and blowing it if you're in danger as it's an alert signal recognized in every country.
India Travel Tip: Keeping the volume of your earphone low makes you more aware of what is going on in your surrounding.
Be well aware of your surroundings (Photo courtesy: apexselfdefense.files.wordpress.com)
While your gypsy soul craves adventure, we still suggest that you draw up an itinerary and leave a copy with your family or a trusted friend. It is not necessary that you follow it minute to minute- we understand that few off the track places are simply irresistible- but when travelling through sensitive or risk-prone zones, it is safer to stick to it because if you find yourself in trouble, there is always someone who will know how to get to you. Always make sure to pre-book accommodation for the first night. Check you arrival timings. It is never safe to be stranded at a railway station in the middle of the night.
India Travel Tip: While making reservations, try to travel by women only coaches. If traveling overnight by train in India, it is best to get an upper berth.
Plan an itinerary & leave it with friends back home (Photo courtesy: tryuruguay.com)
Crimes against women are an evil that plagues every country. In some, the situation is worse but even in places deemed safe, it is always best to be on your guard. Listening to your instincts and being street-smart will almost always help avert trouble.
India Travel Tip: Sometimes politeness does not work. Holler and draw attention of bystanders if someone tries crossing your personal space.
Never leave your drink unattended (Photo courtesy: youthvillage.co.za)
In certain circumstances behaving as if you are not traveling solo makes life even more easier. Try wearing a fake wedding band or just blatantly lie sometimes. Married women are often spared a lot of annoying attention. Using "we" instead of "I" also gives the impression that you are with others. Some seasoned travelers suggest sitting beside elderly women in buses or trains as it both lets you have company as well as appear less vulnerable. There are two pluses to this - one; you're not as vulnerable to either the unwanted advances of men or to being robbed and two; they are often the most intriguing, well read, socially astute people to meet.
India Travel Tip: Saying you have an Indian husband & even carrying a photo of your fake husband often helps, says Mariellen Ward of Breath Dream Go.
Women's physical security map (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons)
Never wear expensive jewelry or carry flashy gadgets. Also, do not carry too much cash on yourself. Nothing screams tourist more than having that expensive camera hanging around your neck. Mugging is a problem worldwide and the lesser wealth you flaunt, the lesser conspicuous you will be.
It is best to be a chameleon & look like you're a local and not a tourist! Dress up like the locals to blend seamlessly in the crowd. Shannon O'Donell of A Little Adrift says, "Research the local dress codes and dress appropriately; this doesn't mean dressing in ethic/local dress unless you want to, but it does mean covering all appropriate spots." In societies where covering your head is custom, it helps if you do the same. Also, avoid walking around with giant paper maps. Downloading maps on your smart phones in a better idea. It is always easier if you can learn phrases from the local language. Not only does it help to interact with the locals, but also to ask for help in case you land up in trouble.
India Travel Tip: When visiting places of religious importance, keep your head covered and avoid short and sleeveless clothes. Basic Hindi words like "jaao" meaning go away, "bachao" meaning help, "nahi" meaning no comes handy and are recognised all over the nation.
Dress like locals (Photo courtesy: agirlwhotravels.com)
Before booking, research well on the place you are thinking of stay at. Read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor & Expedia. If using services like Couch Surfing & Airbnb, be extra careful before you book. Some women choose to stay only with female hosts or families. Find out hotels & hostels that have women only floors. The following tips might help:
Even though you are planning to unwind and unplug, do carry a mobile phone, preferably one with a working internet plan. Put in the simplest way, it helps you stay on the map and in case of emergencies, you can just call for help. Use GPS to help you track the routes.
India Travel Tip: Local SIMs are inexpensive and in most cases you will just need to submit a photocopy of your passport to avail one. Choose a plan that suits you best and you are good to go.
Always keep a mobile phone (Photo courtesy: Huffington Post)
Keep them on your phone + keep them written in a safe place. Make sure you have the numbers of the consulate, embassy, the place you are staying at and the local police station. Also, keep a list of the hotels with their numbers with a friend back home.
If you're planning to go on guided tours, we recommend that you book with reputed companies only. Scamming happens all over the world. You might find tour guides who speak your language fluently and promise you safe, budget experiences but who might just be a human traffickers tricking you into deep trouble. Check if the company is registered, read reviews and ask for information on the guides who will accompany you. If you are keen on trekking to some lesser known place, try joining a group. Going solo might not be a good idea. At all times, remember #9.
Be confident. Take your stand. Voice your discomfort. That will solve half of the issues.
Travel solo, Have fun (Photo courtesy: amormagazine.co.uk)
Women's safety is a burning issue these days. No matter how dark the scenario is, there is always a way to deal with it. Avoiding something out of fear is not the solution. Embrace your inner goddess & stand up for your rights.
If you know of any other precautionary measure that you have gathered during your travels, feel free to share them with us.
Women Helpline Numbers in India:
Article by: Mohana Das