You’ve probably read about the Malaysian girl that managed to hitchhike her way from Sweden back to KL with just USD200 to her name, travelling across 22 countries without fixed accommodation and transportation.
That’s right. No booked flights, no booked hotels, not even camping gear (though someone did give her one midway through her journey)! How did Petrina Thong survive?
As exciting as it sounds, travelling alone is also dangerous. On her way back to KL, Petrina had to travel through countries like Iran, Pakistan, and India that are not very ‘solo female traveller friendly’. There are even times where she needed the army to ferry her from one destination to another.
Despite the danger, cold nights, and some less-than-satisfactory meals, Petrina encourages girls to try travelling alone at least once. Through her recent travels, she said that she has gained a “comforting new outlook on the world”.
So if you’re tempted by the idea of going on a solo trip, do take note of these tips from seasoned solo female travellers:
On traversing India alone, Mukherjee suggests that you do not ask strangers for directions. It’s not that people are out there to cheat you, but asking for directions or referring to a map in public areas draws unnecessary attention to yourself.
Doing so will show people that you’re a tourist and new to the place. Don’t do that. This gives the baddies a chance to follow and ambush you knowing that you’re alone and unfamiliar with the area.
What you should do: Refer to a map in a private area, eg. your hotel room, a restaurant, toilet. If you really need directions, ask the hotel receptionist or waiter and ask them to mark down the places that are unsafe.
Don’t stinge on accommodation. It’s not only about comfort but also about service. This is vital if you’re travelling to countries that have high civil unrest, crime rate and political instability.
Certain backpacker hostels and inns have comfortable rooms at cheap prices, but it’s better to splurge on the same type of rooms with better service. This is so that during emergencies, you can count on the staff to provide assistance.
A shawl is very useful when you’re travelling in many Asian countries. These countries are mostly conservative when it comes to women’s attires especially if you’re entering holy places like temples and mosques. A shawl comes in handy when you have to cover exposed shoulders, hair, and even legs.
Besides that, a shawl is a lifesaver during unexpected cold weathers and it’s not a very troublesome item to fit into your luggage, so why not?
It’s important to always let your family members know exactly where you are during your travels, because when travelling alone, no one will know if you’re in danger.
Update your family whenever there are changes in your plans so they can watch over you as you progress. Make it a point to send them a text every day so they know that you’re alright.
Chances are if you hire a taxi at night, you’re going to get scammed. What’s scarier; there’s also a chance that worse things might happen to you. Get one of the hotel staff to hail a taxi for you so that at least the driver knows that someone else is aware of your whereabouts.
That little voice bugging you in your head and stressing you out when you board a taxi could be your lifesaver. When you don’t feel comfortable, get out. When you get a hostile vibe from a local, stop talking and move on.
You might sound rude or weird but what matters more is your own safety. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
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Words by Esther Chung.
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