10 sensible rules for women traveling alone

Written by admin on April 14, 2009 – 6:05 pm -

Why am I differentiating between men and women traveling solo?  It’s a bit of a mystery since I frequently hop on a plane and enjoy being my own boss.

I love the freedom. Waiting for others to make up their minds (or get dressed) can negate some of the pleasures of being able to be spontaneous.

Traveling alone can be lonely, but the new people you meet without a “friend” tagging along, are certainly different. It’s one of the ways a trip may be enriched by not having a companion (or more) joined at the hip.

However, some friends have reprimanded me for being so loose and fancy-free and advised me to take prudent precautions. In many countries (and unfortunately even here in the U.S.) women are seen to be the more vunerable sex. In order to make peace with friends who tell me I need to be more careful when on the road, here are 10 safety rules to follow for women traveling alone.

1. Let family, friends or co-workers know where you are going and where you will be staying.

2. Be alert to your surroundings. If something or someone doesn’t seem right, take action. If necessary, call 911 or its equivalent. If you’re in a foreign country, it’s up to you to ask for the help number.

3. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask to change rooms if the desk clerk blurts out your room number for all to hear. It’s no one’s business but yours and should stay that way.

4. Some people are nervous about hotels that use magnetic keys. That’s not one of my anxieties. But if I lose one, I ask for a new reprogrammed set.

5. Elevators that require you to insert your key to get to your floor are an extra safety precaution many women appreciate.

6. Does the hotel have a full-time security staff that has been trained and bonded?

7. When you’re in the room, insure all of the safety locks are securely bolted. Some security specialists suggest you travel with a personal door lock. That’s going a bit far – unless you’re staying someplace you shouldn’t be.

8. Some people leave the radio or television on after they’ve left the room. If it makes them feel better, so be it.

9. Prudence says you should use the safe in the room or if you’re traveling with real valuables, or the hotel safe. Don’t leave things out for the staff to see.

10. If someone knocks on the door, don’t feel you have to open it even if the person says he or she is an employee of the hotel. There’s nothing wrong with calling the front desk to ascertain whether or not it’s valid. You might miss a turndown chocolate but it won’t be the end of your life.

Now that I’ve thought these precautions through, they are not only advisable for women. Men could certainly stand for a bit of caution at times.

These are a few dos and don’ts for personal security. To be sure, I’m missing some of the most important ones. Please add them in the event I’ve been careless or forgetful.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Bangkok-bound? Uncertainty abounds

Written by admin on November 28, 2008 – 12:52 pm -

This time next week, I’ll scheduled to be jetting off to Asia. The first stop on this marathon is Seoul, South Korea. It’s not that I’ve had a deep and dirty yen to visit this country. But, since we’ll be flying from New York, Seoul is a good spot to acclimate to the time change. I’ll have time to take a quick look-see, explore the tiny streets and alleys in the city’s market that people report deserves exploring and 30 hours later, proceed to Bangkok on my way to Laos.

Or so we thought and still hope. As of today, the airport is closed, a battle is brewing and there’s general unrest. Tourists are unable to fly to the main international airport. Some planes are landing and taking off at an auxiliary airport. But the situation is a mess in so many ways.

When the news broke over the radio and TV, I could sense impending trouble. The first call I made was to Sivan, my travel agent at Imperial American Express Travel Services.

Within minutes, she had made additional reservations via Hanoi, Vietnam. At the same time, she advised us to wait and evaluate the travel situation until after the Thanksgiving holiday. This is when you’re grateful for a really competent travel consultant who doesn’t flinch after receiving high-stress emails or semi-hysterical phone calls.

Traveling between Paris and Washington, DC is one thing. But a trip across Asia with late-minute changes requires a pro, who has immediate access to all of the booking engines and can accomplish things with the click of a mouse.

OK   – I can (try to) be laid back but it’s not really my style. And if it were mine, it isn’t Vietnam’s. Visitors are required to have a visa to enter the country and it doesn’t come fast or cheap.

A passport expeditor, he said he’d get the visa within 24 hours. But we’d be required to supply proof of flights and confirmation of hotel rooms. Thank goodness for the Internet … but who needs the drama, trauma and the stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vietnam. But I’ve been there three times in the past three years and wanted to see Bangkok this go-around.

Thailand has already experienced a dramatic drop in tourism. This isn’t helping the situation to be sure. Then again, who wants to go to a country in the midst of civil disobedience?

I’ve contacted people I know living or working in Thailand. They have responded that it’s safe to come to Bangkok and I shouldn’t fear for my life. The media tends to loop video segments dramatizing the situation. However, landing at the airport may prove problematic, no matter what my friends have to say.

Yes, I will use my city smarts, be on the lookout for pickpockets and people up to no good. And if the flights are taking off and landing, I’ll request a hotel car meet us. There are times it’s worth the extra money to have an extra barrier of protection.

But unless the flights aren’t going, we’ll be there. Know you’ll hear more about the experience. And yes, we’ll definitely register with the Embassy.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis

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