Southeast Asia forum

Safety for solo female traveller, 26

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    Hi,

    This will be my first time to SE Asia (and i'm relatively new at backpacking to begin with).

    I wasn't worried but now everyone from back home has been telling me horror stories and warning me against travelling alone as a girl.

    I was planning to do about 2 months from Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Phuket. I wasn't going to book anything in advance, more so just show up and get cheap accommodation (backpacker style!) and get info/travel advice from them to head to the next place (also have ideas of which places I want to head to, just not sure of how to get there or where to go once I arrive....etc).

    Is this safe???? I was so excited but now the people from back home are putting ideas into my head that maybe it's not such a good idea........

    Appreciate any advice :)
    Thanks!

    #1 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 07:20

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  • viajero2011

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2010
    Posts: 22

    Sorry I can't really offer much advice as I am also a solo traveler about to embark on my first trip to SEA, but I would say you could hop over to the "travel companion forum" to try and meet up with some like-minded backpackers. There are plenty of us that are doing the same thing!!! Good luck and I'm sure you will get some great advice here on Travelfish....

    Cheers,
    DB

    #2 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 07:52

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    Don't let other peoples fears become yours and spoil your dream. Can't speak from a female point of view but I think you should be alright. There are a lot of single female travelers on this board. I know a woman from Sweden, who should be 71 this year that has traveled extensively in asia by herself. She did have a problem with a motorcycle/purse snatch a few years back but she didn't let it deter her. Just keep your wits, use common sense and don't automaticly trust everyone you meet. That includes other foreigners.

    #3 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 08:06

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    Good advice from Neosho. Just use some common sense. Don't get drunk and wander the streets late at night or stupid crap like that. This place is safe - at least I think so.

    #4 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 11:48

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    Thanks so much for weighing in. I wasn't worried to begin with, so I'm just going to stick to what I've already planned and keep my common sense. Let the others back home do their worrying (where i'm from, nobody really travels, so it's easy for them to voice their concerns - they don't have any first or secondhand experience, just movies and overexaggerated news articles!)

    DB - if I can find others to meet up with, I definitely will! But at least this way I can rest assured that I'll still be able to get out there and experience SE Asia on my own :)

    #5 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 12:09

  • SBE

    Click here to learn more about SBE
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Global Village
    Posts: 1946
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    I don't know where you're from but you'll probably feel a lot safer in SE Asia than you do back home and you probably will be but there are a few things to be aware of.

    Don't think that well-known tourist areas full of foreigners are less risky than more off the beaten track places ... in my experience the exact opposite is true. Locals who aren't yet jaded by mass tourism are generally extremely hospitable and friendly.

    However, when lots of badly behaved culturally insensitive foreigners with too much money accumulate en mass in one place that tends to attract lots of pond life and scam artists ... including other foreigners.

    For someone your age I'd say the main danger spots are going to be Khao San Road in Bangkok, the Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan and Vang Vieng in Laos... party places where thousands and thousands of youngsters go and get totally wasted. Getting drunk or stoned is when you're most at risk of something bad happening ... theft, assault or a motorbike accident.

    Don't imagine that because someone is a foreign tourist like you they are necessarily trustworthy. Most people are, and I can guarantee you'll make LOADS of new friends, but there are a few unscrupulous characters about who see wide-eyed newbies as easy prey... for money or sex. Bear in mind that when you meet someone on the road you don't know anything about their background except what they tell you ... and that could be all made up.

    #6 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 13:46

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    More good advice from SBE.

    #7 Posted: 18/8/2010 - 17:37

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 2383
    Total reviews: 47
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    At least 98

    My female friends have consistently commented on how generally safe they feel in southeast Asia, particularly when compared to major US cities. Like MADMAC and SBE say, use good sense about when and where you party. Don't get drunk or otherwise out of control, don't accept drinks or rides from people you don't know, stuff like that.

    SBE's comments about the mass of tourists attracting lots of low life reminds me of Venice and St. Mark's Square. There were so many obvious pick-pockets and other scummies it ruined the experience. I've never know southeast Asia to have anything like that, which is likely one of the reasons we all love it there so much.

    If you haven't yet, you might consider registering with your home country's foreign service and/or your embassies in the countries where you'll be visiting. Most have an online form you can easily fill out listing the countries where you'll be and the approximate dates of travel. It could add a little extra bit of security for you.

    Also, don't forget to have a copy of your passport and other ID with you but separate from where you keep your passport and ID. Leave a copy with someone you trust back home too. Buy travel insurance. Stuff like that.

    Have fun. Regards.

    #8 Posted: 19/8/2010 - 03:02

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    This is some really great info, definitely puts me more at ease. I'm not even sure I want to visit those "over-touristy" areas... but if I do, I won't be wandering around night alone while pissed drunk & stoned (not what this trip's about!) :)

    Just wondering what you all think about not booking things in advance??? Is that smart??? Safe to just show up in daylight, set down in a cafe or something and figure out where to go next??

    #9 Posted: 19/8/2010 - 07:03

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    I don't book in advance. But I suppose I have a lot more mobility since I own a chopper and that's how I travel unless I go to BKK - where I do book in advnace because I arrive at between 5 and 6 in the morning.

    #10 Posted: 19/8/2010 - 11:04

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    BTW have a great trip. I've lived here just over three years now and it's a great place.

    #11 Posted: 19/8/2010 - 11:10

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    If I have never been to a country before, I book the first night or two in advance. Gives you time to look and unless you have done some research, you never know what's going on. For example the Candle festival in Ubon. Unless you book in advance, you will end up sleeping under the lights of 7-11. Room rates are also double for those 2 days. I'm also older and prefer a mattress to sidewalks. :) Have a great trip.

    #12 Posted: 20/8/2010 - 07:23

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    Thanks everyone! I think I'm going to play it by ear and book on arrival or a day or two before the next place.... should be a real adventure for a firsttimer!

    #13 Posted: 24/8/2010 - 13:38

  • renrendiaz

    Joined Travelfish
    28th August, 2010
    Posts: 18

    I've seen a lot female travelers but it is not a problem.You can find a lot travel guide about where to go or not in a places that you don't know.

    #14 Posted: 28/8/2010 - 21:16

  • AllyBrighton

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2010
    Posts: 9

    Hi,

    I am going to be travelling along too, and whilst I do have some reservations I am not going to let it deter me from doing something I have wanted to do for years :)

    You don't mention when you are going? let me know, maybe we could meet up along the way

    I am a 38 year old female (forever young at heart) and had originally planned the trip with my partner but things haven't worked out

    #15 Posted: 29/8/2010 - 16:23

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    By the way Twiggy, keep us informed as to your travels, and if you do have a problem, there are lots of people here to help. Though we may not always agree, it is what makes Travelfish special and in my opinion puts it above the rest. Have a good trip.

    #16 Posted: 30/8/2010 - 19:50

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 726
    Total reviews: 4
    Places visited:
    At least 67

    some stuff from my reply to a similar query on another forum:

    theft - never leave valuables unattended anywhere incl rooms (neverassume that you're the only one who has the key/access to your room),leave it at home if you can't afford to lose it. i don't keep all of mycash in one place, & take out only what i think i'll use for theday to put in a little purse - if that gets snatched i won't loseeverything (plus it's secured to my bag with a lanyard = no worriesabout dropping it esp on boats). & don't assume that criminals comefrom only the local population - there can be black sheep among fellowtourists as well.

    if you trust your sixth sense, listen to it. if i just don't feel goodabout a place i don't mind paying a bit more to stay somewhere elsewhere i feel safer/more at ease. family-run places can be good costhey're more likely to notice your comings & goings & if youhaven't returned. & some families can be really nice &protective. in some places twin rooms can be better than doubles cosdoubles are more likely to be used by 'very short term guests'. & itry not to arrive in an unfamiliar town after dark.

    when in doubt just do as local women do & stick to them e.g. sitnext to other women on public transport. though for safety reasons iwouldn't recommend their practice of sitting side saddle when ridingpillion on motorbikes. instead i place my bag in between myself &the driver (also harder for the bag to be snatched). [this part is referring to motorbike taxis]

    other stuff to add:
    be sure of who you go out drinking with - do you trust them to look out for you? (plus, are you sure that they won't get drunk too?)

    scan the details page of your passport & email the images to yourself. just in case it gets lost, might help in convincing officialdom of who you are (for places like Japan, some Asians could be automatically treated as illegal immigrants unless proved otherwise, purely based on their looks...sad but true). could do likewise for passport photos, easier to make new prints (for visa application forms, etc).

    might want to consider a moneybelt for times like when you fall asleep on long bus journeys.

    #17 Posted: 31/8/2010 - 01:43

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    What wanderingcat says about sixth sense is on the money.

    Just don't do things you wouldn't do at home. I live in Japan and two British women who have been murdered by locals over the last decade behaved in a way that put themselves at risk. One talked about how a guy was "stalking" her and then agreed to meet him and teach him English. Why? If you think someone is weird: they are. Don't think "perhaps it's the local way" or about cultural differences.
    You wouldn't open your front door to someone in the middle of the night at home, so you don't open your hotel door to someone knocking late at night.

    Don't become paranoid, just be sensible.

    There are a few pretty unpleasant expat men lurking in Asia so follow usual behaviour with foreigners as well.

    Dress modestly. Having said that, I got more hassle than I have had in all trips combined in Sumatra and I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, trousers, hair up. A monk tried to kiss me in North Thailand, but that was about it!

    I find that the locals are more willing to help you if you are a woman alone: I quite often get taken places when asking where something is. Of course, I would only advise heading off with a woman.

    If someone asks you "Is this your first time here?" Watch out for the scam/ripoff that will follow. Best to casually reply "I was here six months ago".

    #18 Posted: 1/9/2010 - 20:45

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    What wanderingcat says about sixth sense is on the money.

    Just don't do things you wouldn't do at home. I live in Japan and two British women who have been murdered by locals over the last decade behaved in a way that put themselves at risk. One talked about how a guy was "stalking" her and then agreed to meet him and teach him English. Why? If you think someone is weird: they are. Don't think "perhaps it's the local way" or about cultural differences.
    You wouldn't open your front door to someone in the middle of the night at home, so you don't open your hotel door to someone knocking late at night.

    Don't become paranoid, just be sensible.

    There are a few pretty unpleasant expat men lurking in Asia so follow usual behaviour with foreigners as well.

    Dress modestly. Having said that, I got more hassle than I have had in all trips combined in Sumatra and I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, trousers, hair up. A monk tried to kiss me in North Thailand, but that was about it!

    I find that the locals are more willing to help you if you are a woman alone: I quite often get taken places when asking where something is. Of course, I would only advise heading off with a woman.

    If someone asks you "Is this your first time here?" Watch out for the scam/ripoff that will follow. Best to casually reply "I was here six months ago".

    #19 Posted: 1/9/2010 - 20:50

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    What wanderingcat says about sixth sense is on the money.

    Just don't do things you wouldn't do at home. I live in Japan and two British women who have been murdered by locals over the last decade behaved in a way that put themselves at risk. One talked about how a guy was "stalking" her and then agreed to meet him and teach him English. Why? If you think someone is weird: they are. Don't think "perhaps it's the local way" or about cultural differences.
    You wouldn't open your front door to someone in the middle of the night at home, so you don't open your hotel door to someone knocking late at night.

    Don't become paranoid, just be sensible.

    There are a few pretty unpleasant expat men lurking in Asia so follow usual behaviour with foreigners as well.

    Dress modestly. Having said that, I got more hassle than I have had in all trips combined in Sumatra and I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, trousers, hair up. A monk tried to kiss me in North Thailand, but that was about it!

    I find that the locals are more willing to help you if you are a woman alone: I quite often get taken places when asking where something is. Of course, I would only advise heading off with a woman.

    If someone asks you "Is this your first time here?" Watch out for the scam/ripoff that will follow. Best to casually reply "I was here six months ago".

    #20 Posted: 1/9/2010 - 20:50

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    This is really great stuff. I'm just so impressed with the support everyone gives on the message boards here - I was really nervous about this trip, and somehow over the past few weeks all that anxiety has disappeared so BIG THANKS!

    I may have become a little over excessive in my planning though - am going to be putting locks on my luggage and leaving anything valuable or brandname back in Australia. Planning to dress conservative, leave the dresses & skirts behind - this trip isn't about "dressing up" anyways!!

    This is probably a silly one, but I was thinking of wearing a fake wedding ring on my left hand, and telling anyone who asks that I'm not here alone, i'm meeting my "husband" in the next town where I am currently headed. Thought it might be safer if people thought there was someone actually expecting me to show up!!

    Ally - I like what you said about not letting anything deter you from something you've wanted to do for years. Good for you, doing something for yourself! I would have loved to go with a friend but none of my friends had the courage to take off work & leave their partners, or take time off work (or quit my job like I did) for a life-changing experience and it's their loss. I'm planning on spending 9 weeks between Singapore - Thailand - Laos - Vietnam and Cambodia, then spending the last 10 days in Ko Tao and Phuket. Looking at coming back to Australia middle to end of December to hit up the East Coast. Let me know what your plans are and what dates you're heading out! :):)

    #21 Posted: 2/9/2010 - 12:02

  • AllyBrighton

    Joined Travelfish
    28th April, 2010
    Posts: 9

    Hiya,

    My email is alison.newbold@gmail.com

    if you mail me we can compare dates :)

    #22 Posted: 2/9/2010 - 18:43

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    "This is probably a silly one, but I was thinking of wearing a fake wedding ring on my left hand, and telling anyone who asks that I'm not here alone, i'm meeting my "husband" in the next town where I am currently headed. Thought it might be safer if people thought there was someone actually expecting me to show up!!"

    It might be a decent ploy, but what if along the way, while using this story, you meet someone who you turn out to like... I can't tell you the number of times I've met women here who I would have been interested to get to know better but I'm married ( of course I really am married). Romance can happen anywhere and who knows, you might find a real mr charming from a village in Laos that you didn't expect to meet.

    #23 Posted: 3/9/2010 - 10:09

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2006
    Posts: 726
    Total reviews: 4
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    This is probably a silly one, but I was thinking of wearing a fakewedding ring on my left hand

    or just carry a photo of yourself together with some guy, take it out only when you feel the need to show it. avoids the situation in #23.

    and telling anyone who asks that I'm nothere alone, i'm meeting my "husband" in the next town where I amcurrently headed.

    not a bad idea. did that a few times in Laos. Lao guy friends say to tell persistent ones that your parents demanded kazillions of USD in cash + their combined weight in gold as 'kha-dong' (dowry) :P

    #24 Posted: 3/9/2010 - 10:27

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    In my experience the fake ring doesn't work. People who think you are fair game because you are alone also think you are fair game because you are travelling without your husband!

    I honestly don't think you will have problems in the countries you are going to. In Asia, I only had major problems in India and Sumatra.

    #25 Posted: 5/9/2010 - 14:37

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6256
    Total reviews: 10

    Tennouji
    I agree. Although during Songkran, all bets are off. I had a friend of mine here, she's young and very busty and during songkran Thai men kept touching her chest. She got quit irritated, but that didn't stop it.

    #26 Posted: 7/9/2010 - 16:32

  • cara_m

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2010
    Posts: 4

    I'm another girl who is leaving in October to travel in SE Asia for a few months alone. I have a few commonsense tips that I will try to follow, and a couple of questions:
    TIPS:
    - don't accept food/drinks from people you don't know, especially in bars and on transport when you have your bags with you (a friend was drugged in Thailand)
    - never leave your drink unattended (commonsense, a few friends have been drugged in the UK)
    - try not to book on trips where it will be just you with a male guide, especially not overnight or treks (after reading a Travelfish poster's experience in Sapa)
    - be careful if you are staying in a hostel room with just one guy you don't know (i had what could have been a very bad experience with this in LA, and it was something I hadn't even thought of as much of a risk before)
    - check for peepholes in your bathroom (discovered one into our shower in India, the hotel manager said that it wasn't a problem as nobody had complained before!)
    - don't be afraid to seem rude - if a guy (or indeed anyone) approaches you or tries to get your attention, you DON'T have to talk to them/take their advice/engage in any way
    - DEFINITELY trust your intuition and get out of any situation that seems off to you
    - sit in the back of taxis not near the driver, and check the inside locks on the doors if you can to make sure they haven't been tampered with or are just broken. Get out immediately if your driver picks up other men (and you aren't in a share taxi - you don't want to be in a situation where you are the lone woman trapped in a car with a group of guys you don't know), and don't let a driver ever bring friends along for the ride in your cab.

    QUESTIONS
    - I'm bringing a door wedge with me in case the rooms aren't very secure. Is an alarmed one overkill? Have you heard many stories of unwanted intruders trying to get into rooms after dark? What about the devices that secure a door handle, are those worth a try?
    - Does anyone have any tips for additional safety when travelling alone with a driver in a moto/tuktuk or taxi? Obviously I will try to share where possible, but this is my main worry when travelling alone in towns I don't know, especially at night.

    #27 Posted: 7/9/2010 - 21:49

  • twiggy84

    Joined Travelfish
    18th August, 2010
    Posts: 13

    Great advice, guys! So much for the ring idea - I guess I'm just kind of nervous about the fact that No one will know where I am, in case something does happen. I'll keep in touch here and there, but it's not like i'll have my blackberry with me to update on the go everyday. (And I say nervous, just because I knew of a Canadian girl from back home that went missing in Hong Kong and they still haven't found her 2 years later).

    That being said, not overly concerned and still not planning on booking anything in advance :)

    Cara_M: Sounds like you have a lot of the same questions i've had, being female and going at it alone (go us!!) Would be cool to swap details about some of the ideas/thoughts you'd had.... when were you planning to head out there????

    #28 Posted: 9/9/2010 - 11:21

  • cara_m

    Joined Travelfish
    16th July, 2010
    Posts: 4

    I'm flying into BKK on the 18th of October and heading to Ko Samet/KoChang for some beach time, then up to the North of Thailand, then on to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia then back into Thailand to visit a few of the islands down South. My flight home is at the end of February, but I made sure to book one that I can change :) I may head on to Malaysia or the Phillipines if funds permit. I only booked my flight a few weeks ago, and just resigned from my job, handed in notice on my flat etc a week ago - it's all happening so fast now, but I can't wait!

    #29 Posted: 9/9/2010 - 15:38

  • sonja_21

    Joined Travelfish
    15th September, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Hi.
    I am leaving in 2 weeks flying into Bangkok. I'm a 21 female who has never backpacked before. I'm pretty sensible so not tooooo worried about getting myself into sticky situations I'm just so so so nervous about the first night and finding somewhere to stay. I've read a tonne of threads and travelguides but can anyone give me a personal recommendation of good place to stay? I'm on a budget but I don't mind spending that little bit extra on my first night to make me feel a bit safer but I also wan't to meet some people! Once the first night is over I'll be happy.

    Also, it's going to be monsoon season for the time I'm traveling, is this usually a big problem? What does everyone do when the rain starts to pour?

    Thanks for any help in advance (everyone seems so helpful on here!)

    #30 Posted: 15/9/2010 - 05:37

  • goonistik

    Joined Travelfish
    7th January, 2010
    Location Philippines
    Posts: 535
    Places visited:
    At least 9

    Hi Sonja_21

    My friends and I like lubd. Clean and safe. I am an old traveller so the youngsters weren't too keen to talk to me. So you might have better luck, I stayed at Silom. There is a special promo going on. So that will help your budget.



    If you want somewhere closer to the airport there is Refill now. I didn't stay there but people recommend it.



    Here are their websites:

    www.lubd.com
    http://www.refillnow.co.th/

    There is this list from 2009
    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/137

    #31 Posted: 15/9/2010 - 20:45

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    Twiggy - "And I say nervous, just because I knew of a Canadian girl from back home that went missing in Hong Kong and they still haven't found her 2 years later."

    Try to keep that type of thing in perspective. How many people go missing from their home country every year? In the UK it's between 250,000 and 400,00 every year.

    #32 Posted: 15/9/2010 - 21:42

  • Tennouji

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd September, 2007
    Location Japan
    Posts: 110
    Total reviews: 20

    Twiggy - "And I say nervous, just because I knew of a Canadian girl from back home that went missing in Hong Kong and they still haven't found her 2 years later."

    Try to keep that type of thing in perspective. How many people go missing from their home country every year? In the UK it's between 250,000 and 400,00 every year.

    #33 Posted: 15/9/2010 - 21:42

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