Is travelling solo harder for women?
comment 5 Written by on April 21, 2011 – 9:38 pm

kayak.jpg

Yesterday, I made a little contribution to¬† Guardian’s Top 10 Solo Travel for Summer and it got me thinking about solo travel once again.

To be honest, this is not something I do very regularly. The thinking about it part, that is.

Travelling alone has never bothered me. In fact, I like it, especially when I am working as it stops me slipping into holiday mode.

Fellow travel writer Andrea Wren recently asked me some questions about female travel for her blog. We touched on the idea of “female friendly destinations” and “female unfriendly destinations”.

I had to say that I’d never felt the need to draw a line. I have never felt at a disadvantage or especially vulnerable being a female traveller. On the backpacker routes, I tend to meet as many women travelling solo as men. Sometimes I even think being a female traveller is an advantage: people worry about you so you don’t have to.

That’s not to say I am not careful. I just don’t worry.

Sure enough, Latin America can be frustratingly macho at times. A couple of weeks ago I hired a kayak in the delta town of Tigre. The vendor ignored me as he asked the men if they had done it before and then told them to “look after the girls”. This week, a female friend and I were incensed when an Argentine businessman totally blanked us when we asked a question and gave his response to the older, male journalist in our group.

But could you say Argentina is “female unfriendly”? No. In fact, it’s probably the opposite and far too friendly at times.

In other parts of the world, I suppose I have felt conspicuously out of place at times, when realising I am the only woman on the street or in a cafe, but that’s about the extent of it.

However, this is just one female traveller’s opinion. I’d be interested to hear from others. Do you think being a female traveller is an advantage, a disadvantage, or neither one nor the other? Have you been to a place you would consider to be “female friendly/unfriendly”? Have you ever changed your travel plans accordingly?

Photo: men kayaking in Tigre, Flickr creative commons, Alex E Proimos

 

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5 Responses to “Is travelling solo harder for women?”

  1. I’ve been traveling in Latin America for 13 months now. I started in Mexico went overland through Central America, the West Coast of South America and now am in Argentina.

    I can confidently say I think traveling as a woman is EASIER.

    I have found that I am safer, get ripped off less and am protected more when I am alone vs. with others.

    Sure some men ignore me or discount me but I also have bus drivers who insist on taking my bag off the bus first so no one would steal it, women invite me to sit with them, people give me tips on the real price or invite me to lunch.

    I wouldn’t travel any other way. It’s been an amazing experience.

  2. I agree. I have had similar experience, especially during travels in Latin America. Thanks for reading, Ayngelina. Hope to catch you when you are in town.

  3. Hi Vicky – I’m glad the interview on my site provoked this blog post, which has been interesting to read!

    I know what you mean about being a solo female traveller sometimes feeling like an advantage, I’ve certainly had that experience where people have taken me ‘under their wing’ because I’m on my own. And I’ve really started to embrace being a lone female traveller, especially after my recent US trip.

    On the other end of the scale, I really was not comfortable going out solo in Tunisia. Groups of men would hiss or make comments, and I wanted to run back to my hotel and hide. Local women are not seen out, and as a Western woman, I felt like a target. It was such a bad experience I would very much declare Tunisia to not be a female-friendly destination!

    So I suppose it depends on where in the world you are, and how local attitudes about women, and/or Western women, manifest themselves towards female travellers (like with Latin American machismo presenting itself to ‘look after the girls’).

  4. I have spent a lot of time solo on the road in both Europe and South America. I think once you take the step off the ledge and try it you realize that everything is good. HOWEVER, I think women are told from a young age that its not safe and we can’t always go to the same places as a guy could for that reason. Its hard to get over that and to convince many family and friends that its ok for you to go by yourself.

    I’m working on a project, hopefully launching sometime soon that will take small groups of women on trips to places that they would normally think they couldn’t travel to by themselves. I hope to help women to understand its ok to take off solo and that its not as unsafe as others say it is.

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