Nowadays, there are a lot more women traveling alone, both for business and pleasure. As much as we'd like to think that being a woman doesn't make any difference, the reality is that it does. This is particularly true if you're planning to travel abroad, to countries and cultures that have different views about what is appropriate behavior for women. You may be tempted to dismiss these opposing views and do things your own way, but think again - do you really need the sort of hassles that could result from not taking into account these differences? In Saudi Arabia, for example, you can be arrested for "improper dress".
But not all women traveling alone will be visiting such diverse destinations. However it's still important to recognize that as a woman, you are wise to take a little more care of yourself, to ensure your travel is hassle free. These 10 tips will help you to enjoy your travels.
1. Passports and visas - if you're traveling abroad, make sure your passport is valid long before you plan to travel. Check whether the countries you plan to visit require travel documents or visas, and apply for these well in advance.
2. Your destination - find out a little bit about the countries you're going to visit. Either borrow or buy a good guidebook, such as a Lonely Planet, and read the introduction. This should give you an idea of the culture and any potential problems you might face, particularly as a woman. It will also alert you to anything that may be regarded as improper dress in that area.
3. Your itinerary - always leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or family member, along with copies of your passport's identification pages, flight and ticket information, and travelers cheque numbers if you're taking them. Include names, addresses and telephone numbers of the places you plan to stay.
4. Stay in touch - make sure you regularly contact people back home, even if it's just a quick email from an internet cafe. It's a good idea to have an established schedule, so that if you miss one contact, people know to start asking questions.
5. Leave it at home - when you're traveling, leave everything valuable at home unless it's absolutely necessary. You don't need expensive jewelry (or even expensive LOOKING jewelry) or extra credit cards when you're traveling. The less you have, the less tempting a target you are for thieves.
6. Insurance - make sure you have adequate health insurance if you're traveling overseas, and if not, purchase travel insurance. It seems a hassle, but if something goes wrong, you will be really glad you've got it.
7. See your doctor - if you have any condition that could develop complications while traveling, see your doctor before leaving. If you're pregnant, you may even find you're refused permission to travel, so find out in advance if any flights or travel arrangements could be affected, and take whatever medical certification you might need to bypass those problems. As for prescriptions, if you have a regular prescription, make sure you take enough to cover the whole trip, plus a bit extra in case of delays. Make sure you carry the prescription in its labeled container, NEVER carry pills in unlabeled containers. Take a copy of your prescription with you, just in case.
8. Look after your luggage - never leave your luggage unattended in a public place, and definitely never accept packages from a stranger. Don't even offer to carry something on behalf of someone you know, you could end up in a lot of trouble.
9. Never admit you're alone! - As a woman traveling alone, you will be regarded as an easy target. Never admit you're traveling alone, and if you're traveling to an area that could be more dangerous, it may be worth wearing a wedding ring. If you think you're being followed, enter a store or other safe place and wait to see if the person following you goes past. Never be afraid to ask for help.
10. Know where you're going - if you appear confident, you're less likely to attract undesirable attention. Always ask for directions before you set out from your hotel, and stop and ask someone for help if you get lost. In that situation, try to stop a family or a woman with children. It's also good to book hotels with good access to transportation, so you don't have to walk long distances by yourself. If you're uncomfortable, ask hotel security to escort you to the parking lot or to the closest train station.
Remember, the best thing you can do as a woman traveling alone is blend in. If you don't attract attention to yourself, chances are you'll be left alone. Remember, too, that traveling shouldn't be a stressful experience, so don't get yourself so worked up worrying about all the things that could go wrong. Relax, follow the tips listed here, and chances are you'll have a great time.