With more money at our disposal and higher workplace responsibility, it comes as no surprise that women are travelling more than ever today. Be it for leisure or business, women represent the fastest growing segment in the travel market. In 2013, Global Hotel Network stated that women make up 50% of the number of business travellers and the percentage continues to grow.
Along with the increased number of women travelling comes the question of safety. Unfortunately, no matter how on par we may be with the opposite sex, women still face a whole different set of problems when on the move.
In conjunction with International Women’s Day earlier this month, Maiden Voyage organised a free webinar on female travel safety to help women prepare for solo international travels. The webinar also provided tips on what to look out for when in a foreign city.
Zafigo joined the webinar, and these are our most important takeaways:
1. Research The Destination
Pre-planning your trips not only help you to be more organised but also allow you to prepare for unfortunate incidents or limitations. There are numerous websites that offer safety tips and guides for first-time visitors to the city but sometimes, the information is very generic. So dig a little deeper and read up on local news. Do your own research on the country or city’s social and economic situations, crime rate and weather conditions. Know if your trip clashes with any important dates, including rallies or protests, that could put a damper on your schedule. It’s also important to find out what type of diseases the country or city has been prone to in the past so that you can prepare accordingly – get vaccinated before you leave, or pack suitable medication along.
2. Make Hard Copies Of Important Information
Having your mobile phone die on you while in a foreign country is probably the worst nightmare of every modern traveller. All your important numbers and information (and travel pictures!) are temporarily or worse, permanently lost. Sure, you can back them up in cloud storage but what if you don’t have data or Internet access? Carolyn Pearson, CEO and Founder of Maiden Voyage, recommends having hard copies of all these important information at hand – and prepare more than one set. Keep one in your hand carry and another in your check-in luggage. Always carry one other form of identification with photo other than your passport. As an extra precaution, consider bringing along a backup mobile phone with all the important numbers (medical/travel insurance, embassy, host/local office, etc.) readily saved.
3. Say No To Expensive Luggage
Brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel design gorgeous travel pieces and it would be a crime not to put your set to use. But flaunting those expensive bags does grab attention and increases your risks of becoming a crime target. If you’re only travelling for business, opt for the safe and boring black bag. And while we’re on the subject of bags, it’s wise not to display your company’s logo and address on them. Instead, use something else like a coloured ribbon to set your luggage apart. Consider carrying your laptop in a normal-looking bag; skip the sling laptop bags and use handbags that strap across your body.
4. Consider The Cultural Differences
If you’re travelling to a city where you know the culture is different from that of your home city, pack clothing to suit local customs. Bring cover-up accessories such as pashminas and scarves. Also, research on greeting and communication practices. Is it okay to shake hands with the men? If it’s a no, how do you greet each other? A little preparation helps you avoid uncomfortable situations.
Pro-tip: Bookmark Zafigo City Guides. Zafigo City Guides are specifically written to help women navigate culturally-sensitive countries. Get the Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Delhi city guide and look out for upcoming countries here.
5. Pack Flat Shoes
A majority of women still prefer to wear heeled shoes when attending business meetings and presentations because, duh, we look great in them! But if you’ve got more than one meeting in a day at two separate locations, being stuck in your heels is pure torture. Carolyn’s tip is to bring along a pair of flats that you can slip into when you’re done with Meeting Number 1 and let your feet rest comfortably while commuting to Meeting Number 2. Just before going in for Meeting Number 2, slip those heels back on.
6. Bring Your Own Feminine Hygiene Products
Brands that you use at home may not be readily available in the country you are visiting. It may even be hard to find feminine hygiene products in some countries. So to be safe, bring your own feminine wash or wipes. Consider the length of your stay and make sure to bring enough to last the length of it. You may need to pack more than one pack or bottle.
7. Prep A Grab-Bag
Prepare a grab-bag (or bug-out bag) with all your essential items packed, such as passport, insurance, hard copy of contacts, a set of clothing and phone charger, and keep it by your bed. This is so in the case of an emergency where you need to immediately evacuate your hotel room, you don’t have to fuss around looking for all these items.
8. Check Medication Legality
This is another case of what-is-available-in-one-place-may-not-be-in-another. Before leaving, do check with the local embassy for a list of allowed/banned drugs in the travel advice sections. If you are bringing medication with you, be sure to keep them in their original packaging and know the actual names (not trade names) of the drug. If you’re staying for an extended period, bring enough for your stay or get your doctor to write a prescription. Always keep your medication in your hand carry, in case your check-in goes missing or arrives late.
Tip: Whether you’re headed for a two-month long trip or a three-day getaway, travellers should always take precautionary measures. Here’s a Health Kit Checklist of things you should get before and pack for your trip.
9. Agree On A Password
If you’ve hired a driver to pick you up from the airport, Carolyn recommends using a password for safety. When making bookings online, agree on a safe word with your booking agent and get them to inform your driver about it. Only go with him if he correctly names the password. Have a backup plan if for some reason, your hired driver does not appear. Save the numbers of reliable local drivers and legal taxi companies that you could hire on short notice.
10. Tipping Etiquette
Look up on the tipping etiquette of the country you’re visiting. Find the Best has a reliable Etiquette By Country Guide that covers everything from attire and tipping, to dining and gifts.
11. Make Them Come To You
Organise meetings at the hotel you’re staying at or a member’s club; getting your local business contacts come to you instead of you having to navigate an unfamiliar city by yourself is one way to play it safe. The locals, if understanding enough, would accommodate your requests and may even offer to show you around the city afterwards.
Bonus Tip: Social Media No-No
75% of burglars admitted to stalking their victims on social media before committing the crime. Avoid real-time sharing of your whereabouts or checking-in on social platforms. If you really ‘need’ to check-in, consider doing so just before or after leaving a place. Do remember though that if you report a burglary and are found to have shared your location on social media, your insurance becomes void.
To view Maiden Voyage’s full webinar, watch the video below:
Picture credits: Business Destinations, Business Woman Media, Homewood Suites, Independence Matters, XploreTPI
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