Based on years of travelling as a female alone; Francisca has some ideas of how to travel if you are solo female traveller. All of us at African and Oriental Firmly Believe that YOU should be able to see the world as a lady, without fear or interference. But while we strongly believe that everyone has the right to travel and move freely, safely, and to whatever location you would like to go – we know that your safety is part of your enjoyment and that has to be the most important factor.
In order to promote female global travel and adventure, we are always happy to advise and suggest all the locations we sell. Francisca Jah, has first hand experience of living, working, travelling the entire continent of Africa as a woman. In addition to this we have had the privilege of hosting many dynamic ladies in our African lodges who have added to our knowledge base.
You can always Email Francisca, with any (personal) questions and concerns about any location. So here goes, Francisca’s top tips for dynamic women.
FIRST OF ALL:
Do your research. Not just the Lonely Planet or Facebook, but set about to do some serious digging. What do sites, travel agencies, the FCO, other travellers say about your choice? Go back a few years, has it improved, deteriorated – has one single place always stood out? Make an informed decision and tailor your itinerary around it. For example: if a place like Chad is really not fit for single female cyclist – perhaps it is better to accept the reality choose a different place, or not go cycling while in Chad. We should state that we looked at Chad once and the situation there put us off from organising an expedition at that time. And that is boys as well as ladies.
Make a plan – no matter how basic it is. Even if you want to go off the grid, and have no plan: make sure you can get messages from home. Make sure they know you are safe – this does not have to be daily, but at set times, or dates you need to let them know – Even if very briefly. It is not fair to make people wait or worry. And if you do really get lost in the Borneo jungle, you will be happy to know that someone will notice your absence .
If you have a next location planned – let them know. Let your fellow travellers know. Or let your last location know . Don’t disappear.
-get a local SIM card, find some local wifi, or ask to use the hotels’ computers. Most countries still have phone booths at the central post office. carry 2 or 3 numbers with you – you may not have access to your phones’ memory. There is ALWAYS a way to say hi to home.
As an aside to make this easier or cheaper: make a plan with friends or family at home so they can let each other know you are ok – and you only call 1 of them.
Arrive safely – make a booking. There is no shame, at all, in arriving well prepared. Especially when landing (late) at night, or in a new place: book a hotel for the first night and ask them to pick you up. It is much easier to get your bearings in daylight, to get your money sorted, find a SIM card, or your fellow travellers – have a good sleep, and check the reality of the place.
Then you can go and wander around for the next 3 months all you like, footloose – but landing safely is a tried and tested good start.
Ask for recommendations and advice: While travelling and moving around: do not be to proud to ask. If you like the place you stay, you probably would like their friends and affiliated operators. Ask them for their recommendations and ideas. Ask them for a safe taxi or someone to walk you to the ATM, where to go for a drink safely, and what NOT to do. They know best. If they fit your style, their style most probably fits you. If you find a nice, reliable, safe taxi: get the number and stay with him / her. These safe drivers are invaluable.
Stay healthy – and able. We all know that our attention span and judgement cloud when not feeling well or falling ill. So don’t – or at least: as little as possible. Make sure you stay healthy, take some basic pills with you, educate yourself on local diseases and risks, and ask where a good clinic is.
If you feel ill – find a safe place to actually be ill. Book a good and clean room, go see a clinic, buy medicines: do not cut your budget on staying healthy. Sometimes, if in a remote place, it is hard to explain what injury or sickness you have or feel. Your first contact may not be with a medically trained person.
Communicate: Look for the WorldDoctor APP and download this. It has small cartoons of injuries, medicines, and facilities you may need.Download a dictionary with medical words and phrases of your travel region. If you have allergies: take a card with pictures of the item(s) you are allergic to and find the word for ‘allergy’ in the local language.
And if you get into trouble? Stay cool – nothing improves with panic. You need to stop STOP – THINK – ACT. In simple terms that means: Get somewhere safe – think about what you need to do – decide to do it- do it.
It is up to you, as a traveller, to look at the situation and decide what to do. There are a number of different emergency situations of course: Personal, Physical, Financial; yours or others – some require immediate action, some need others to help you, some need you to change your behaviour. There are courses and seminars on how to best deal with these situations, but you can help yourself by going through the various scenarios and how best to avoid trouble. A few small problems averted early, avoid a crisis and make your holiday wonderous.
To avoid is better than to fix:
Here are a few small tricks you can think of to use / prepare / think off hen considering your own safety.
-Wear a wedding ring. Some areas are easier if perceived to be part of 2.
-Carry a small whistle in your bag – pocket – hotel room. Noise scares most small swine off and attracts lots of attention . And once sorted, it quickly gets forgotten.
-Take a tiny doorbell on a string. A catbell even . – hang it on your door handle if you do not trust the lock and the hotel staff: at least you know you will wake up when someone tries to come in.
-If lost in a city or busy streets do not make yourself an obvious target. Get off the streets, find a shop, a cafe, a bus stop even: go inside – THEN find the way.
-If she is around: ask a woman for help.
-If asking for directions to your home or your hotel: ask for one street next to it, or one landmark close to it. Don’t lead anyone to your own place.
-Avoid pickpockets having easy access. Take a few carabiners with you, quick lock the zips of your day bag, or lock them onto the handle. 2 combined Carabiners also allow you to clip a handle of a bag onto train sears, door or window handles, above train berths. Great if you think you will fall asleep, and you are alone .
-Don’t take any more glitter then you plan to actually wear. Leave the really valuable ones at home. Leave your personal favourite at home . Carry a few 2USD plastic pieces that look good but can be lost or taken without any pain.
And: these are GREAT gifts for little girls in villages too, if you do meet some sweeties.
In General: do not let fear or apprehension cloud your judgement or hold you back. The world is an amazing place and is your oyster – but do not do what you would not do at home.
‘But what if Fall ? Oh My Darling – but what if you would fly ?’