single_girls_guide_to_traveling_alone_main.jpgIn earlier times, a woman traveling unchaperoned would have met with reproach on the grounds of impropriety, bordering on scandal. Now, a single girl on a solo flight to her dream destination is commended for perpetuating fem lib—or at least being cool enough to country-hop without a wingman.

But as awesome as traveling alone might seem to some of us, there are a few preparatory measures (not to mention safety precautions) that any woman with half a mind should heed. “Don’t forget the essentials: eyes, ears, cultural sensitivity, and common sense,” shares this Boston.com article for lone lady travelers. In the following guide, we’ve noted our own suggestions for not-so-plain Janes who are journeying alone. Take these tips along on your trip for one!


STUDY YOUR GUIDEBOOK.


First things first: get yourself a guidebook. Comprehensive manuals for single travelers are now available at any good bookstore. These guides will help you get around the city of your choice by plotting out famous landmarks and hidden gems that shouldn’t be missed on your visit, and basically getting you settled into the local scene. Pick out a book that lists accommodations, restaurants, and popular watering holes that are geared towards the independent voyager, such as the Lonely Planet series, as cited by this article on WomenTravelTips.com. Many cities have go-to spots for those traveling solo, whether it’s a cafe, a hostel, or a bulletin board—familiarize yourself with these areas by mapping them out ahead of time.

And don’t take for granted the other non-directional contents of your guidebook. Study the chapters on culture, national etiquette, and safety, as these will be of huge assistance in acclimatizing yourself to unfamiliar terrain.


LEARN THE LANGUAGE.


When in Rome! There’s no better way to get ready for the challenges of flying solo than knowing how to express yourself in any (foreign) situation. Learning the language of a country you are visiting is tantamount to packing the right clothes—it’s all part of good preparation. Before setting off, enroll in a class that teaches basic to conversational levels of the predominant dialect—and when finally abroad, practice your new skills as often as you can. Not only will you be able to communicate with cab drivers and waiters (without a buffer, since you’ll be on your own), but you will also blend in quite nicely as a seasoned local, rather than a clueless tourist.

Don’t have the time or the money to go to scheduled classes? There are loads of audio language tutors you can get on disc—the Pimsleur Approach to language learning offers 20- to 30-minute modules on 40 different languages that you can play and learn with on your daily commute to and from work.


DON'T OVERPACK.


Since there won't be anyone to share the load with you, try to avoid overpacking. Pack your suitcase a few days before you have to go, make sure that you can manage it on your own, then repack if you need to. Porters here may be 20 to 50 pesos for a quick lift-and-carry, but the same is not true everywhere. You don't want to spend the money you could be using for a shopping spree paying for someone to lug your baggage about. Besides, if you do have shopping on your mind, why not pack light to make space for those perfect purchases?

Even worse than wrestling with a pile of luggage is paying surcharges for going over the free baggage allowance for your airline, which now carries even steeper prices than they did, say, five years ago. Your baggage allowance will depend on your airline and your destination, so weigh your bags before heading for the airport. Digital scales are best for these, and when weighing your luggage, make sure you weigh it hands free for a more accurate reading. Try to make sure you're a pound or two under the limit since there might be a disparity between the scales at your home and at the airport.

Need some packing tips? Check out FN's guide to efficient packing.


TAKE A SELF-DEFENSE CLASS.

You are a woman, traveling alone—need we say more? The first tip on this solo trip guide by eHow.com says that basic self-defense skills are a must. You don’t have to be a black belt before you get on the plane—just acquaint yourself with the fundamentals of self-preservation. For instance, did you know that an ordinary woman can disable an attacker with a single strike to his eyes, nose, throat, groin, or knees?

Don’t get too paranoid, though. A quick review of your guidebook and a bit of common sense should have you steering clear of any dangerous territory. As long as you keep a clear head and a fully-charged cell phone stocked with emergency numbers, you should be fine.


BEWARE OF THE BOYS.

Who else puts the gratuitous fun in foreign travel than the gorgeous foreign men? But if you’re banking on a hot holiday fling with one of the local lover boys, be smart about it. Different countries have different codes for romantic socialization. You wouldn’t want to accept a simple cocktail from a guy at the bar only to realize you’d just invited him into your boudoir!

Unaccompanied women often fall victim to theft and other, more serious crimes—sometimes even at the hands of people they had thought their friends. This is how a lot of assailants are able to get so close. If you feel as if you might be in trouble, this article by WomenTravelTips.com says to always follow your instincts. Duck into the nearest store or hotel and inform the person in charge that you feel unsafe, so that they can ask the authorities to intervene. And in the future, be careful about who you choose to trust—especially of the male species.


DRESS TO FIT IN.

A fail-safe way to divert danger is to avoid drawing attention to yourself—and that includes the way you are clothed. This article by TravelingAlone.co.uk advises female voyagers to research the acceptable modes of dress in their vacation destinations. Europe is very liberal about fashion (and exhibiting flesh)—but when in Middle-Eastern or Asian nations, you’ll probably have to go easy on the cleavage and leg-show, and at times even cover up your hair.


TALK TO OTHER SOLO TRAVELERS.

Remember how your mother told you, “Never talk to strangers?” When you are a lone woman exploring unknown overseas states, strangers will probably turn out to be your best buddies. Now, don’t think that the unshaven man on the street corner with a cigarette behind his ear is your brand-new BFF—that’s not what we’re saying (and really, he isn’t). What we are saying, however, is that single travelers (especially women) tend to welcome their fellow soloists with open arms, forming bonds that may last an hour, an entire trip, or a lifetime. This travel article on Suite101.com recommends talking to other solo travelers in order to learn from their past adventures and get first-hand tips on how to have the best ones of your life. Who knows, you might end up on a trip for two or more!


RELISH THE FREEDOM.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to a modern girl’s mindset. You live in a time when females don’t require an escort to usher them from one place to another; when women are celebrated for their independence and resilience; when ladies are just as good on their own as lads. You are a strong, confident woman on fabulous, foreign voyage in a beautiful, mysterious country just waiting to unfold beneath your feet—own it!


(Photo source: sxc.hu)

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