The Smart Woman's Guide to Common Sense Travel is all about using your brain to create a well thought out itinerary. I have a very practical approach to travel and believe that if you plan right you can almost guarantee a smooth travel experience. Notice that I said "almost." There will be times in your travels where something unexpected comes up and you need to be able to think quickly to get out of an unfortunate situation. This is where your common sense can help you. In my prior post Learning The Hard Way I discuss some of my tough lessons learned. Women have come a long way since the days when they were considered the weaker sex, but the reality is that women are physically more vulnerable than their male counterparts when they travel, and they face unique risks. When flying home from Barcelona I sat next to a woman that had been traveling with a friend. They decided to go to Morocco and do some shopping. Originally they were going to go by themselves but after talking to numerous people they decided to hire a (male) guide to accompany them. It was money well spent. She couldn't believe how aggressive some of the men were and apparently it is widely accepted (by other men -- probably not by the women) to behave that way. She would have felt very unsafe traveling alone (or even with a woman friend) in this country. She was happy they had a guide but unfortunately it ruined her experience of Morocco.
As an American woman I tend to think that I can have the same freedoms and independence that I'm accustom to at home. It is still hard for me to believe that women in some of these countries have no rights! However, even though I may not agree with their politics or lack of women rights I still have to be respectful of their culture. It's a good lesson in tolerance and it makes me appreciate my homeland.
Here are some common sense ideas specifically for the woman traveler:
• Do your homework - Thoroughly research your destination and determine a safe area to stay. This is not the time to go cheap! If it costs more to stay in the nicer hotel than just figure that you're investing in your future (or ensuring that you have a future). Plus it will give you the extra peace of mind and probably make your impression of the country more favorable.
• Study a map before going out - once on the street, use a pocket-size guidebook to avoid looking like a tourist. Your hotel's concierge or a female employee can mark any dangerous areas on your map.
• Avoid jewelry - even a chain that's fake gold can be ripped off your neck.
• Learn while on the plane - Talk to female passengers and flight attendants on the plane about the safety of your destination.
• Stand near the elevator buttons - keep your back to the wall and if threatened, push all the buttons at once with your back.
• Request a room near the elevators - Have your key out when you leave the elevator.
• Pack an LED Flashlight - You never know when a power outage will leave you in the dark.
• Business Card - Always get the business card of where you are staying. If you get lost you can show the taxi driver the address and easily get back where you belong.
• Cell Phone - This can be a life line. If your US phone won't work overseas you may be able to buy an inexpensive one at your destination. If it has GPS with it then that's even better!
Knowledge is power! The key is to maintain a balance between having a wonderful time and keeping yourself safe.
Always remember to pack your common sense and have a great vacation!