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Southeast Asia forum

Advice for Solo Woman Traveler

Posted by Skrohn1 on 12/5/2012 at 11:29

Hi fellow travelers,

I am an active, well traveled, 58 year old woman embarking on my first solo trip to SE Asia. I am very excited that i will be traveling for 6 weeks and have had a wonderful time planning my trip. I have arranged hotels, home stays and day trips in a number of my destinations. I will be traveling with one piece of carry on luggage - a rolling duffel.

I would love any tips from you experienced travelers especially regarding safety: I will be spending 2 overnights on a train - sharing a compartment with 4 strangers. Also, due to the fact that credit card and ATM's can not be used in Myanmar, I need to carry cash (pristine American Greenbacks) for the last 2 weeks of my journey.

I would love your thoughts!

My itinerary follows:

Hanoi - Hanoi kids to highlights, hcm complex & museum of ethnology etc, cooking class, day trip to perfume pagoda,
Halong Bay overnight
Sapa (hiking and homestay) visit to market towns BaCa and Can Cau

Laos - Luang Prabang - pak ou caves, and kuang si falls
Cambodia - seim reap and angor wat, and kampong phhluk

HCMC city and tunnels
Mekong - villages and homestay

Myanmar (2 weeks)
Golden rock
Boat to Mandalay
Inle lake

#1 Skrohn1 has been a member since 8/3/2012. Posts: 1

Posted by SBE on 12/5/2012 at 13:31

Hi there.

It's pretty unlikely you'll have any problems so I wouldn't worry about personal safety too much!

Re the cash... well I wander off the beaten path rather a lot to places where there are no banks or ATMs too and I often stay in homestays and flimsy bamboo huts etc. I frequently have wads of cash on me but never had any problems. I haven't been to Vietnam mind you, so I don't know if theft is more of an issue there. I've seen occasional reports of bag snatching but it's never happened to me.

On public transport keep cash, credit cards and passport on your person, not in hand luggage on a rack and especially not in luggage that gets put in a hold where you can't see it. You could use a money belt, a bum bag, (fanny pack I think they call them in the US) or zipped up pockets in your clothes.... whatever...just make sure it's actually ON you, not lying about in a bag that someone could rummage through while you're asleep.

I will be traveling with one piece of carry on luggage - a rolling duffel.

Hmm. Backpacks are actually easier IMO, especially if you're going trekking with the thing. They take up less room on public transport and the wheels add extra weight that you may have to carry if the ground isn't suitable for wheels....sand, mud, potholes, steps, various urban obstructions like stupidly placed lamp posts, bill boards and stairwells, people cooking, eating and selling things on the pavements, pedestrian traffic jams etc. As long as your pack isn't too heavy, carrying is often less hassle than wheeling. I look for backpacks that have a lockable zip rather than a drawstring... not 100% secure but it discourages very quick and easy opportunist theft which is the main risk. Don't leave your bag right under an open window for the same reason . Put it on the other side of the room where it's out of reach and don't leave valuables lying about in full view. Just use basic common sense.

Sounds like you've already booked accommodation and day trips etc...hmm again. You might well find that very constraining and regret having done it. People's travel plans frequently change because you really like somewhere and want to stay a day or two longer or you don't like somewhere as much as you thought you would and want to move on. SE Asia is a very easy part of the world to be flexible so it's best not to set plans in concrete!

#2 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,052
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Posted by MADMAC on 13/5/2012 at 09:19

I concur with SBE here - especially regarding the pack and planning.

The itinerary struck me as a bit strange - jumping from place to place. Places with seemingly no connection to each other. But I assume you did your homework and have good reasons for going where you are going. It necessitates a lot of flying, but you must know that already.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by busylizzy on 13/5/2012 at 15:44

Good points above - and I see SBE has given you the same advice re: packs that I just did on another post. Packs that lock are a must.

Mac is right about the itinerary - it's not the most logical one but you may have reasons for that. By arriving twice in Vietnam you will pay for two visas (unless you're aware of a multi-entry visa?) and these will need to be arranged ahead of time - you can't get them on arrival. If you arrive by air in Vietnam, you can organise a pre-approval letter online ahead of time, then get the visa when you arrive, but that doesn't work for overland.

Logistically and probably cost-wise, it would make more sense to re-arrange your itinerary as follows:

Vietnam - Hanoi, etc - then fly down to Vietnam
Cambodia - overland from HCMC to Cambodia.
Laos - fly from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang (Laos Air)

With respect to safety, I've had no problems on my travels, but I am pretty sensible. Bag snatchings are known to be a problem in HCMC and Phnom Penh, and apparently more recently in Siem Reap. Just keep your bag close to you by wearing it across your chest (not dangling from your shoulder). Don't walk alone in dark alleys, etc late at night. Don't flash your money around, and leave the jewelry at home. Don't let your guard down and just assume other backpackers are trustworthy and leave them looking after your valuables. Just use common sense that you would at home and you'll be fine.

And... do have a good time!

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by busylizzy on 13/5/2012 at 15:46

PS -I haven't had the time to check it out yet, but I just saw this post made by altml that might be useful:

#5 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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