Welcome to Women on the Road News, the monthly newsletter designed to keep you informed of what's new on the Women on the Road website and in the big broad world of women's solo backpacking.
This month, we'll take a look at how to stay safe on the road. Many of you are gearing up for trips in January - don't let unexpected irritants spoil it for you. Remember the motto? Be prepared!
Women on the Road News: Issue #1
- 7 Tips to Stay Safe During Your Holiday Travels
- New on the Website
Travel Book Review
Campaign of the month
Next month's topic
- Getting your travel vaccinations
- How to treat motion sickness
- Cheap accommodation while you travel
- Dealing with street beggars
7 Tips to Stay Safe During Your Holiday Travels
Staying safe while you travel isn't rocket science, and for those of us who travel a lot, complacency often sets in - until something happens. Rather than wait, lets make sure we anticipate.
The following simple tips should help make your next solo trip hassle-free and memorable - for the right reasons.
1. Photocopy your important papers before you go
I can't say this often enough - and even I forget to update my files. It shouldn't take long - copy your passport, any visas to where you're going, your credit cards, vaccination yellow card, air tickets, reservation confirmations - you get the picture. Either leave the printed copies with a friend or family member, or scan them first. If you lose your papers on the road, you'll be able to get them by email (a lot easier than by fax these days).
2. Carry your originals on your body
A simple travel money belt should do the trick - so can a neck or ankle wallet. Whatever you choose, it should be comfortable and able to breathe. You don't want sticky lycra against your stomach. Put a few bills - the day's money - into your pocket so you won't have to dip into your belt too often. Don't, under any circumstance, put your valuables in your daypack, even if you're gripping it fiercely. I broke my own rule - and only once. I left my passport in my daypack for a couple of blocks because I couldn't be bothered to find a private place to put it back into my travel belt. You can guess the rest...
3. Don't lose sight of your backpack or bag
If you're planning on relaxing or turning around a lot to look for someone, loop the strap over your leg. It may not stop someone from getting inside, but they won't run off with the entire thing. As a backpacker, you're already potentially wealthier than most people if you're traveling in a developing country, so don't let the temptation of poverty ruin your trip.
4. Secure your hotel room...
...whether you're in it or not. When you're in it, always keep the door locked. If the lock doesn't work, use your own - that's why packing a plain rubber doorstop is so useful. If your door has a lock, leave the key in it but twist it sideways so no one can jiggle it and slip it under the door. And never open your door unless you know who's behind it. If you're out of your room, try to leave some noise in your room, a radio turned on, for example. And lock your windows. A final hotel room safety tip: put a flashlight in your shoe. If there's a fire or other emergency, your first instinct will be to put on your shoes - and you won't forget your flashlight.
5. Don't look too rich!
This may seem obvious but looking rich doesn't necessarily mean wearing dozens of gold bangles. In many countries, looking rich may simply mean having clean new shoes. No one suggests you wear rags everywhere but do be conscious of your surroundings. If you're in a hunger-stricken area, your flashy new travel gadgets may call more attention to yourself than you want. Dressing conservatively may also help deflect excessive or unwelcome male attention.
6. Be cautious with people who approach you on the street
Meeting new people is one of the great joys of travel but being accosted on the street is somewhat less so. If someone accosts you, it will usually be to sell you something (and on occasion, to deprive you of your belongings). Ignore them. Even the slightest eye contact will be seen as an encouragement. If you suspect they're up to no good, take evasive action before they get to you - turn down or cross a street.
7. Beware of travel scams
There are too many travel scams to list here but a few good rules of thumb include the following: always pay after (rather than before) a service; be careful with anything related to gems; stay away from counterfeit goods - a Vuitton bag really doesn't cost $40 - and the same goes for software; count your change; be discreet when using the ATM; be especially vigilant if you have a few drinks. And learn to walk away.
What's New: Women on the Road Website
International Travel Vaccinations
Any long-distance journey outside western urban areas requires
international travel vaccinations. Each country is different, so early research is essential to find out what vaccinations you need, and where.
Treat Motion Sickness
Nothing can ruin trip like illness yet many of these can easily be avoided. If you get dizzy easily, learning to treat motion sickness or better yet, prevent it altogether, will go a long way towards making your journey more agreeable.
Cheap Hostel Beds
Cheap hostel beds help stretch your budget on the road and are ideal for women traveling on their own - a great place to meet like-minded travelers. If you've never done it before, try couch surfing and similar hospitality exchange clubs - you might get hooked!
Giving money to street beggars when you travel can do more harm than good. It's a hard one and the temptation is great, but there are alternatives that not only help people, but the community too.
The Surveys Confirm It!
Two surveys have confirmed that women's solo travel is taking off! One was done by American Express, the other by Trip Adviser, both of them reliable sources. Apparently, women's travel is the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry. The most popular are so-called 'girlfriend getaways', women getting away from families for a few days together. But the long-term solo phenomenon is growing too, as women realize they actually can backpack on their own.
A Journey of One's Own
by Thalia Zepatos
Published by The Eighth Mountain Press, Portland, Oregon, USA
This is possibly the best book I've ever read on solo travel for women. Walking separate paths, she and I both concluded there weren't enough resources out there for women wanting to travel on their own. My answer was the Women on the Road website, and hers was this stellar book.
Thalia's book is practical. She questions her own decisions to travel solo and looks at the pros and cons of traveling companions; she outlines the solo travel basics - safety, packing, life on the road. And she packs her book wit checklists that turn decision-making into a breeze. Add to that a sprinkling of personal stories about women she met on the road and this is the one-stop resource for the do-it-yourself solo woman traveler.
My rating: 5/5
Campaign of the Month
Each month, this newsletter features a campaign or an issue of social concern, related to women and their rights. This month, I'd like to direct your attention to the Saudi Arabian rape victim whose own punishment (for being raped) was doubled for speaking out about the injustice. Read more about it on Human Rights News.
It's a good time to get involved: on 25 November each year, 16 Days of Activism fights to eliminate violence against women. Raise your voice!
Voluntourism - or how to volunteer your way around the world.
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Dear Women on the Road,
I'd like this newsletter to carry practical information that will help you make your solo backpacking dreams a reality so please send me your ideas, news items, or anything else you'd like to see published. All your comments are welcome - good and bad. Just Reply to this ezine. Getting in touch is the only way I'll know what you like, and what you don't!
Also, this is the first issue - so if it doesn't appear correctly or the format is all wrong, please tell me and I'll do my best to correct it next month.
Meantime, for those of you celebrating holidays around this time, I hope they're wonderful.
And, Happy travels! Leyla