Being a lone female traveller in Southeast Asia
En route to Australia in May last year, I took a few days to explore the iconic landmarks, experience the sights and sounds, and more importantly, to taste the exquisite foods of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!
While I had an exceptional experience visiting the most unique 20.9-acre public aviary, visiting Bukit Bintang and standing under the 451-metre-tall Petronas Twin Towers, I recall my experience with hesitation.
Be it exploring the capital by train or bus, I was incredibly aware of my personal security, and I come from London!! The pink carriages especially for female commuters was off-putting and I was also wary of going out at night time or travelling back to my accommodation after dark. I seemed to attract a lot of attention in crowded places including shopping districts and airports, which made me feel very uncomfortable. Although this won’t be every lone female’s travelling experience to the country of Malaysia, and while I certainly don’t regret my adventure, I certainly regretted not checking out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s local laws and customs page prior to my flight out there. This would have given me a greater understanding of the entirely different social setting I was stepping into and educated me on certain tips and considerations I could have taken with me that would have probably made me feel a little more at ease and safe.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office encourages people to be more prepared by researching the local laws and customs of any holiday destination they are considering to travel to. They also provide key information and advice to ensure you don’t get caught out while abroad, and have information specifically for lone female travellers as unfortunately, women can sometimes be a target for criminals.
I urge any woman considering travelling alone this year to read ‘Appendix 2: advice for women travellers’ in a Policy paper on 2010 to 2015 government policy: British nationals overseas published by the FCO in partnership with the Ministry of Defence.
I came back from my travels tanned, loaded with souvenirs, anecdotes and a photo album full of the most incredible selfies, but some women are not always that lucky. So go and travel the world freely, as you should be able to, but also consider the FCO advice and use it to help you have a safe and amazing travel experience.
As a great starting point for wherever you’re heading check out the “The Lone Female Traveller Top Ten Tips”, a tongue twister courtesy of the FCO, below:
- When abroad, think about how your clothing will fit in with local customs – what are local women wearing?
- Try not to wear expensive jewellery
- When travelling alone, you may attract unwelcome attention and receive unwelcome propositions or remarks – ignore it
- Plan your daily itinerary - know where you’re going, what you’re doing and how to get back
- Never hitchhike or accept car rides from strangers
- For airport transfers or early/late night journeys, ask your hotel or hostel to recommend a trustworthy taxi firm
- When you are out for the evening, never leave drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers.
- Only use your first initial and no title (‘Miss’, ‘Ms’ or ‘Mrs’) when checking in
- Always remember to lock your room door even when you are inside the room
- If you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger, don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself by shouting and making a fuss.