What works for one woman does not necessarily work for another. We must each make our own individual checklists to ensure that our own customs and habits are accommodated. Preparation for a long-distance travel does not eliminate the opportunity for discoveries and surprises on the road. Every trip is full of serendipity. Planning ahead leaves you free from many unnecessary burden and allows you more freedom to simply enjoy yourself.
You may already know a great deal about staying safe at home. Such experience and just good habits will serve you quite well abroad. But don’t be surprised if you make mistakes and feel awkward as you adjust to new customs, languages, food, water, and time zones. Many travelers also experience loneliness and feelings of vulnerability that can come with being far away from home, family, and the familiar.
The advice in this writing offers specific and tested tactics and techniques to help women travel safely and securely. In all aspects of travel there is an element of danger and the information in this book will help you assess and reduce the risks to your own personal comfort level. However, there is no substitute and never will be for your own awareness and instinct supported by on-the-spot observation and information gleaned from locals.
Tips for female travelers to help feel their best
- Packing a destination-specific traveling medicine cabinet is well worth the trouble and expense. Most of the pills and sprays you’ll want the insect repellents and cramp relief compounds that are available over the counter at home may be harder, if not impossible, to find once you get on the road. High-potency vitamin C, for example, the type available at any U.S. health food store or chain drug store, is an unknown item in many European stores, let alone Third World markets.
- Precription medicine: Ask your doctor to suggest and write prescriptions for medicines you may need specifically for the places where you are traveling. Get them filled at home, because the prescriptions may be invalid abroad. Keep the pills in their respective containers with the labels attached so that border guards don’t suspect your vitamins or birth control pills to be illegal narcotics. (That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Years ago Peter was held by the San Francisco police until he was able to convince them that what they claimed was peyote and LSD was, in fact, dried peaches and tapioca pudding mix!)
- Inner garments: A warm country can turn cold unpredictably. Bring clothes that can be layered easily to provide extra warmth. The lingerie sections of most department stores stock thin cotton tops that add protection without looking like bulky underwear.
- Formal/Partywear Dress: A long black dress and some dressy shoes should be packed in case of a chance meeting with a diplomat who invites you to a reception at the embassy or if you get an unexpected invitation to a symphony concert.
- Informing trusted neighbour: Remember to do the standard pre-departure steps at your house like stopping the mail and the newspaper. Let a trusted neighbor know you’re traveling. Leave a light on or buy a timer that turns a few lights on and off at irregular times to provide a lived-in appearance to the casual observer who may be casing your place. Consider arranging for the grass to be cut or the snow to be shoveled while you’re gone.
- Ask a friend to checkin: If you live alone, it might be worthwhile insurance to bring along a friend or someone with a dog. When you do return home after a long time away, just in case somebody uninvited is inside when you arrive. Leave a radio on tuned to a 24-hour news or talk station.
- Provide a backup key to trusted family member/friend: Leave a key to your house with family members, trusted friends, or neighbors. You may need them to go in and check on something while you’re gone. And, if you lose your own keys during the trip, you won’t end up locked out of your own house.
- Appoint a house sitter: Consider using a house sitter if you are going on an extended trip. Bad guys can tell if a house is not being lived in. Copy all your airline ticket numbers and airline phone numbers. Leave one with a friend at home and one copy packed separate from the tickets. If you lose your tickets or they are stolen, having those numbers and the itinerary will make it much easier to convince the airline to help you continue your journey.
- A photocopy of your credit cards and ATM cards will make on-the-road replacement much quicker and easier, and will make it faster for you to notify the companies if your cards are lost or stolen so that you will not be responsible for any fraudulent charges. On the reverse side of most cards is the company’s emergency 800 number. 800 numbers can now be called from overseas for a standard toll charge.
- Passports, visas, and any requisite health certificates should also be photocopied and stored separately from the originals.
- If you want to reduce attention from strange men, wear a wedding ring and carry a photograph of your husband (or an ersatz husband) that you can show to persistent suitors. Another picture of the children at holiday time can be helpful too. Use anybody’s children if you don’t have a family.
- You don’t need to replace your suitcase with a cardboard box, or your camera case with a brown paper bag, but depending on the potential dangers of your destination you may wish to use ordinary-looking luggage that does not call an cut ion to your relative affluence or your femininity.
- Use luggage tags that close over your name and address hiding them from the view of would-be thieves and con artists.
- Make some effort to connect with women at home who have roots in the countries where you’ll be traveling. You can find them easily at places such as ethnic restaurants, language schools, and social organizations.
- If a meal is being served on your flight, order a fruit plate or vegetarian plate at least 24 hours in advance, unless you like airplane food or pack your own meal. Chances are you’ll feel better on arrival.
- Expatriates living in America can provide contacts for you in their countries of origin and offer all sorts of ideas for your trips, from destinations the guidebooks may miss to places that it might by worthwhile for a woman to avoid. In addition, such a connection can help you learn what subtle customs and practices to expect, information that can make quite a difference for the woman traveler in many parts of the world.
- Bring a purse-sized flashlight and extra batteries for it. Hotels sometimes suffer power failures and you’ll be happy to have your own light to see around the room and to help guide you out of the building.
- It is vital for your security that you are not burdened by your luggage. Although it may seem convenient if some fellow offers to carry your bags, better not to allow it unless you know him or are certain he’s an official baggage handler.
- Make sure you do not pack more than you can carry comfortably for long distances. Never be forced to compromise your safety because your belongings are too heavy or awkward to lug by yourself.
- Pack two cases, one with your vital necessities and the other with the types of clothing and incidentals that you can just abandon if you need to escape quickly from a dicey situation. You can always replace your clothes.
- Always carry with you those things that you really will be inconvenienced without: passport, credit cards, cash, and onward tickets. Never wander around without your passport. It is your ultimate identification to foreign authorities and if stolen, your passport is worth thousands of dollars on the black market. That can make it quite tempting to an underpaid hotel housekeeper or bell boy.
- Your purse should be a shoulder bag with a zippered closure. Always remember to close the zipper and hold on to the purse even if you wear it slung over one shoulder and across your body. Otherwise thieves in crowds can easily slash the strap and run with the purse or slit the purse itself and empty it of your wallet before you know you’ve been attacked. If you wear a fanny pack, avoid wearing it on your back where you can’t see it.
- Bring along small unique presents to offer those who provide you with hospitality or assistance. If you work for a company that uses pens or pins or other tokens adorned with its logo for promotion, consider packing a handful of them. Similarly, simple tourist trinkets even postcards from your hometown will be well-received.
- To break the ice with children (and their parents), bring along a wind-up toy or simple game; if you play a small instrument such as a harmonica, Jew’s harp, or penny whistle, be sure to bring it and use it.
- Snapshots of your belongings as you pack them will help you deal with an insurance claim if your bags are lost or stolen.