Whether you’re a travel pro or heading off on your first big trip overseas it pays to brush up on a few essential travel tips.
1. DON’T LOOK LIKE A TOURIST
Ever scanned your own city streets and noticed a tourist sticking out like a sore thumb? We’ve all seen it – the tourist look – an awkward assembly of backpacks, weird walking shoes, cameras and confused expressions. Don’t do that!
Apart from wearing appropriate clothes to blend in or respect local customs, you can also think about what you’re carrying as a pretty clear sign-post that you’re a tourist. Marching around with big shopping bags, especially from souvenir shops, is a dead giveaway. Ditto large bulky back bags. Go with a small day pack instead, and carry a low key tote for your shopping. Keep phones and cameras stowed in your bag, and watch where you place sight-seeing brochures and maps.
2. DRESS THE PART
Many countries have specific rules about what women, and sometimes men, can wear. Whether you like it or not, it’s definitely better to go with the flow on religious and traditional dress codes. Most Islamic countries insist that women cover their hair, arms and legs, while in Buddhist temples in South East Asia, it’s required that women (and men) wear long pants and sleeved shirts as a sign of respect.
Dressing the part also means fitting in with the local styles and customs. Like not being too formal or casual, or sightseeing in a bikini top and shorts, or heading to a silver service eatery in thongs.
3. VIBE LOW KEY
Women should be able to wear whatever they want. We all know that. But we also know that the way we dress gets interpreted by other people, and in some countries, men can unfortunately judge your sexual availability by the clothes you wear. While we work on changing the world, let’s avoid revealing or figure hugging outfits in places where covering up is more the norm. *Sigh*
4. WATCH YOUR FACE
Back to that confused expression I mentioned earlier, your facial expressions and body language can broadcast touristy-ness loud and clear. So if you’re lost, or trying to figure out an address or public transport route, relax your worried little face and strike a more confident expression. Better yet, jump into a cafe or shop to do your figuring-out there, instead of out in the open.
5. WATCH YOUR HANDS
Did you know in many parts of the Middle East, West Africa and South America, giving someone a friendly thumbs up is the equivalent of flipping the bird? Or to be more precise, shoving your thumb where the sun don’t shine! Over in Brazil the OK gesture roughly translates to the same thing – a middle finger.
Meanwhile in Greece, a hand held up, as if to say no or give a high five, is akin to saying you want to rub ‘bad stuff’ on the recipient’s face. It’s known as the moutza, and there’s a double hand version if you really want to stick it to the man. Best to keep your paws in neutral until you have a firm grip on local gestures.
6. CHECK YOUR RING FINGER
As a general rule it’s safer for women to appear ‘off the market’ while travelling. In many regions, it also helps you dodge awkward enquiries into the whereabouts of your husband, because surely a delicate rose such as yourself cannot be travelling sans man?
As annoying as that is, it’s better to play it safe, so slip on a wedding band of some sort, unless you’re already wearing one, and keep unwanted attention at arms length.
7. KNOW WHEN TO GET OUT
In some regions you may become the focus of unrequited attention simply for being a woman. Try to maintain your composure and move away from a concerning situation quickly, without attracting further attention. Get to a safe, public location or hotel. If you’re worried about re-emerging, call a taxi to take you back to your accommodation, or ask the hotel concierge if they can spare a staff member to walk you where you need to be – tipped for their assistance of course.
8. GET A WINGMAN
In Africa and Asia, hiring a local guide is quite a normal way to get around, so look into that if you’re feeling uncomfortable about going it alone.
A guide can double as a driver and can negotiate entry to tourist spots, sometimes even getting you access to sightseeing gems that are off the tourist radar or impossible or pricey to get into through the usual avenues.
9. MONEY BACKUPS
Travel money comes in all shapes and sizes and the more variety you have, the better. A travel-friendly credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction or currency conversion fees is a handy go-to for larger purchases and online bookings. A spare credit card, stashed in your suitcase acts as a smart backup.
Cash wise, keep a small amount on hand for minor purchases, markets, street vendors, bars, restaurants and taxis. Hang onto smaller bills for tips.
10. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Of course I’m going to add travel insurance to the list! As the saying goes, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel. The fact is, things can, and do go awry. When the banana hits the fan at home, we have the knowledge and resources to clean up. When we’re overseas however, we’re without our normal safety-net.
That’s when travel insurance becomes essential. It’s your backup overseas. From helping you to organise a new passport if yours gets nicked, to replacing stolen belongings, or, worst case scenario, taking care of you in a medical emergency, travel insurance offers more than just a financial service. A good travel insurance provider becomes a medical advisor, travel agent and courier in times of emergency.
First time female travellers can make their amazing trip all the more amazing by sticking to a few essential time-honoured travel safety tips. Getting travel insurance comes in at number 10 on the list of safety tips for lady globetrotters but really it applies to travellers of every variety – male, female, first timer, old hat – you name it. Find out how Travel with Jane travel insurance can cover your next overseas adventure.