The Female Traveller

Why the female traveller is different:

female         suitcase

Women have many of the same travel issues as men; however different cultures and religious beliefs affect them in a very different way.  It is important to research your destination and seek travel health advice (preferably 4-6 weeks) prior to leaving.  Whether you are a young business woman or a grandmother, “know before you go”   to ensure you have a safe and healthy trip.

Things you may not know…

  • “In southeast Asia certain religious landmarks have signs posted asking women not to enter if they are menstruating”                       (from “On her own way” Foreign Affairs of Canada publication)
  • Shoes are never worn in Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples (pack heavy socks when visiting such places)
  • When visiting a religious site, women should dress conservatively and bring a scarf in case her head needs to be covered.            
  • In some countries local women swim entirely in their clothes depending on their religious beliefs
  • In the Pacific Islands, a woman’s thighs are considered to be an erotic area of the body and are not to be exposed in public
  • In India, a woman’s upper arms are considered to be an erotic area of the body and should not be exposed in public
  • In Saudi Arabia, women must wear an abbaya; a scarf should be carried to cover the head upon request. Women are also not allowed to drive a motor vehicle or ride a bicycle; they must have a male driver
  •  In parts of Asia and Africa expect to see a jug of water left beside the toilet; this is in lieu of toilet paper.

Things to consider before and during travel:

Research your destinations and places you will be visiting.  Find out about the culture and customs of local women as well as religious beliefs.  The more informed you are, the better prepared you will be.  Supplement research with real life experiences from other women, they may provide you with valuable information and possible contacts for your destination.

Have you ever considered self defense? This may be a good opportunity to explore something new and gain added confidence.

The less luggage you have the better off you will be.  Try to ensure you have one hand free at all times and avoid being loaded down with heavy bags.  For short excursions bring a fanny pack or small back pack… something with a thick strap and zippered inner pockets is ideal. Best way to carry a bag is in front of you.

Carry only necessities ie things you can afford to have stolen.  Use a money belt that can be concealed for important documents and money.

Avoid luggage tags that expose your identity (find one with a flap to hide your personal information)

If you check in to a hotel/room ensure that your room is kept private. If an employee yells out your name or room number request a different one. Ensure the door locks securely and that the room is up to standards.  If you don’t feel safe, speak up and trust your intuition!

While in air if you are on contraceptives ensure you are taking them every 24 hours; don’t let time zones fool you. Tampons/pads may not be available at your destination, carry a supply with you.

It is common for women to stop menstruating while away, if you don’t suspect pregnancy, don’t worry.  Yeast Infections are also common in certain climates, you should pack appropriate medication in your personal first aid kit.

Avoid STD’s and other blood borne diseases:  If you are sexually active while away ensure you use a condom. Avoiding things such as tattoos, ear piercing, acupuncture and manicures will help protect you against Hep B and HIV due to unsterilized instruments.

Avoid travelling alone whenever possible, groups are always better. If there is “women only” transportation, use it.

Don’t accept a drink from strangers unless you have seen it poured.

In countries (especially rural ones) bathrooms may be as minimal as a hole in the ground.  To avoid discomfort and give yourself some sense of privacy consider wearing a long, full skirt in such areas.  Also always carry a supply of toilet paper with you as it may not be readily available.

Resource for women: www.journeywomen.com