Hi Frugalistas! If you follow me on Facebook or Pinterest you will know that, like many bloggers, I repost old content periodically. It’s a good opportunity to connect new followers to some of my older content, and to share old content that is still valid and timely. Recently I re-shared a post on tips for safe solo female travellers. While I was very pleased with the content of my post, I was blown away by the comments from other women travellers. What started out as a small post on my perspective as a female solo traveller turned into a fantastic community of great ideas. Re-reading the post and the comments I’ve been inspired to create a new post – this time curated by me, but with brilliant content provided by real frugalfirstclasstravel readers.
Safety tips for solo women travellers using public transport and taxis
Long time Paris resident Rosemary had some great advice for using the French metro and buses. Great advice for other destinations as well by way. Her tips about entering a carriage where there are other women, or sitting close to the bus driver on the bus, are commonsense.
Her genius solution?
Take a small book in the language of the place you are visiting and “read” it – you will look like a local (or at least look like you are not just visiting in places where you can’t look local).
Young solo traveller Karisa suggests always trying to remember the details of the subway/metro before you board the train:
Better to look confident than be staring at a map in confusion!
Regular commenter on frugalfirstclasstravel, PM, is an older lady who is not quite so mobile, so taxis are a common mode of travel for her. Her tip? If you don’t speak the language always have your destination written down in the local language so there can be no confusion as to where you are taken.
B also shared some fantastic advice on using taxis as a solo traveller. Have a prominent phone conversation as soon as you get in the taxi. Include in your “conversation” what street you got in at, and that you will be meeting them at (insert your destination here) in XX minutes. Telling your “friend” what taxi number to look out for is another safety trick. I must admit, ever since I left my phone in a car in Paris I’ve always been very particular about getting the number of any car I get into.
Dining safety tips for solo women travellers
PM loves good food when she’s travelling in Europe, but always eats her main meal of the day at lunch. Requesting to be seated near other solo diners is a good way to fit in. PM recommends striking up a conversation with other solo diners. You never know who you might meet.
Keep yourself nice
Rosemary has noticed that many young women who visit Paris tend to get very dressed up at night, and show a lot of both leg and cleavage. French girls don’t dress like that. While we can have the debate about whether dressing in a particular way attracts unwanted attention that is deserved (or not as the case may be), what I think is important is about looking like you belong. If you are dressed like you don’t belong, you make yourself more vulnerable to pickpockets and scammers, never mind unwanted male attention.
My good friend Anne is always very sensible and offers some terrific advice. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. Leave straight away if you feel in anyway uncomfortable. Head to where there are groups of other people for safety.
But most importantly?
Don’t panic – you can’t make good decisions.
The Travelling Historian is another solo traveller who likes to aware of her surroundings by keeping your “head on a swivel” and being aware of who is around you. But adds, most importantly that travelling solo is lots of fun!
Keeping your belongings safe
Many commenters echoed my advice about packing light, but DW and PM both had some great advice about looking after your belongings more generally. DW’s advice of not using your phone or iPad in public is sound – firstly if you are distracted using the technology you are a greater risk of falling prey to a pickpocket or bag snatcher, but you also risk having your phone or iPad itself grabbed.
PM highlighted a scam I was not familiar with. Don’t leave your phone or wallet (or anything else valuable for that matter) on a restaurant or café table. It’s so easy for someone to come to your table, put a newspaper or bag over your valuable, engage you in a distracting conversation, then leave, taking your phone or other valuable with you. I see this as being a particular risk in outdoor dining areas where people can just wander up to you.
Late Start Wealth also has some great advice about belongings. I particularly like the idea of keeping your bag/purse in front of you all the time. At restaurant and café tables loop the strap round your ankle. And her most brilliant solution of all?
Learn a few words in an obscure language (she suggests something like Hungarian or Ukrainian as examples) and use them to ward off persistent sales people or potential scammers.
What so many readers who commented made particular mention of was how much fun travelling solo can be. Most suggested being open to meeting and talking to new people. Travelling solo as a woman should not mean travelling in fear or in isolation. Be smart, be vigilant, but be open to the moment to meet people and enjoy life!
Aren’t we all a great community of contributors? Let’s keep the sharing and community going – what favourite tips can you add?
Just a few more scams to be aware of:
1. The ring trick. Usually played by a woman/girl (but can be a man). They might appear to be on their own. She calls you over to look at a ring asking if you’ve dropped it. Might be pretty. Don’t be fooled. Just say No and keep walking. If you are distracted, while you’re looking at the ring her partner (maybe two or more) comes up behind you and relieves you of your handbag or your husband/boyfriend of his wallet. Very common. They tried this on my husband on the Med. and also in Paris. Luckily I’d already warned him and we moved on immediately.
2. The pass the baby trick. A woman will suddenly either toss what appears to be a baby at you (in which case it’s doll wrapped in shawls) or try to hand you a real baby. While you’re caught up in this her accomplices move in behind/beside you – and bingo your handbag/husband’s wallet’s gone. Know several people this has been tried on. luckily most of them weren’t fooled. Understand it happens in Italy too, often gypsies.
3. The sign the petition trick. Specially seems to happen in Paris. Often just across the road from the Louvre. A few girls (usually) will try to tell you some terrible story about abuse or injustice or poverty and ask you to sign their petition. Once you get distracted and take a pen to sign, you can guess what happens. Just say no and keep walking. Occasionally the petition might be real but not worth the risk.
Beggars or buskers. Not a scam. They just want you to give them some money. If you feel like you might want to do so while you’re walking about, keep some coins in your pocket. Best never to open your handbag or wallet in the street/metro/on a bus. Once it’s open it’s so easy for someone else to make a quick grab. Also, when you’ve been seen giving to one, others can quickly approach you. When I was in Paris alone last year there was a middle aged woman in Place St Sulpice (where I was staying). Every day she came after me, very aggressive and persistent, wanting money. The first time she grabbed my arm quite hard. By the third time I was feeling annoyed so told her to go away in French, using the familiar form. She told me I was rude. I replied in French, that she was the rude one and walked off. But she was fairly unusual, most people just step away if you say no firmly. Best wishes, Pamela
Thanks Pamela. I’ve seen the ring scam and the petition scam multiple times in Paris. The baby scam I’ve usually heard of associated with Rome.
Personally I prefer not to give money to beggars for precisely the reasons you’ve outlined, whether I’m at home or travelling.
Not surprised you’re familiar with them all. But thought it might be useful for your readers. A Facebook friend was about to set off to Paris (only her second visit – last time was on an organised tour) so suddenly thought I’d better warn her. She was so pleased I did because very early after her arrival she ran into the ring trick and knew it was a scam. Otherwise she might have stopped to look.
Have heard the baby trick is more common in Italy but have also heard of it in France. Cheers, Pamela
I found that smiling is the best way to get around. I’ve had no problems in a year and a half of traveling and I attribute it to many of these tips and smiling all the time. 🙂
I agree wholeheartedly. Being happy and open to new experiences is essential
I really enjoyed this post! I have been living abroad for almost 2 months now and will be going on my first solo trip next week!
Thank you, and enjoy your first solo trip – exciting times!
Kay Dougherty says
I liked the suggestion of having a publication in the local language and pretending to read it! Lots of good tips.
It’s a fantastic idea isn’t it? And not one I would have thought of
My daughter is just at the beginning of her solo travel life. I will be getting her to have a read through this.
Thanks for this post… I will pass this to a solo traveller friend:) xoxo
Very informational. Even if you are a seasoned traveler you should be careful and update yourself with such knowledge every now and then. Thanks for sharing.
Absolutely. I learned a lot from my readers on this one