I’m sure at some point most of us have been on both sides of this. When traveling to a new country with a completely different culture to your own it can be tricky to know the ‘cultural norms’. I find as a solo female traveler you have to be even more aware of these things than people traveling in groups or couples. I wanted to put this post together to help other solo travelers be more aware. So, here are some tips on how to be culturally respectful when traveling solo.
Now before I start I feel the need to preface this post with the fact I am a feminist. I think that’s important for you to know. There is a big difference between being respectful and allowing sexism. I also believe that women should do whatever the hell they want with their bodies and not be dictated to. But just because I like to wear my tightfitting denim hotpants in one place, doesn’t mean I’m going to wear them in another. I mean I totally could, but quite frankly, for me, I’m just not comfortable with the unwanted attention you get in many places.
Leave the judgment at home
First and foremost, I have always been taught that when you are an observer of someone else’s culture it is important to view and gain understanding, but not to judge. I believe that as visitors, it is not our place to pass judgment. But to learn, be respectful, and try as much as we can to blend in and adhere to their social norms. I have seen some pretty shocking displays of tourists (both men and women) not doing this and it makes me cringe.
Do your research
Before you go, read up about the country you are visiting. Google is or should be, every traveler’s best friend. Try “How to dress in ______”. It won’t take you long to get a feel for appropriate clothing. For example, if you are heading out to Thailand you need to cover up when visiting the temples. Elephant pants are like £2 and super cool in the heat make sure you have a top that covers your shoulders, simple.
You might get away with walking around Phuket in a bikini. But if you head out to one of the small, mostly Muslim islands, be respectful of their faith and add some shorts and a t-shirt when zipping around on your scooter. In Colombia, I had no problems wearing shorts in the coastal towns but every time I did in Medellí I would come home super pissed because of all of the cat-calls. Sometimes I would be too hot to care, other times I’d put on some lightweight pants instead.
Be respectful at places of worship
Honestly, I can’t believe I even have to write this. But I have seen pictures of bikini-clad women doing yoga poses outside sacred places of worship. Again, do some research before you go, dress appropriately and if there are certain rules you need to follow they are normally printed outside.
Think before taking a Selfie
I know we all love a selfie. But there is a time and a place for an all smiles striking a pose with the peace sign selfie. Over the reflection pools at ground zero, isn’t it. Yes, you heard me I actually saw that.
Think, be conscious and be respectful.
Research and think before you act
The above isn’t so gender-specific but this one is. Ok so being a woman, especially a woman traveling alone, can be tricky due to some cultures having very strong views about socially acceptable behaviors for a woman. As a white woman born in the UK, it’s sometimes difficult for me to get my head around the fact that if I was born somewhere else my life could be very different. I may not be able to vote, or drive, or leave the house without a male family member and it may not be appropriate for me to make any physical contact with a man in public.
These are very real situations around the world. As a visitor, regardless of whether we believe it to be right or fair, it is not our culture and we should be as respectful of it as we can. If you are in a country where women are expected to be modestly dressed take a light scarf with you and cover your head or shoulders if/ when appropriate.
As a woman breaking some of these rules could have some unpleasant consequences. This is the last thing you want when traveling! At best it could be a bit awkward, and at worst you could get arrested.
I’m sure we have all see stories on the news of westerners getting arrested kissing on a beach or taking their tops off at the top of a sacred mountain. Research and think before you act. Just because it is OK to do something in your country, if you are in a more conservative country it could get you into a lot of trouble.
Plan your trip in advance and make sure you pack suitable clothing based on your research. If you don’t feel comfortable dressing modestly or following other rules for women then give that country a miss. There are plenty of incredible places in the world you can visit, so go to one of them instead!
Have you ever got into trouble abroad because of any of the above? Or have you seen any tourists not being respectful? Maybe you have something else to add to this list? Let me know by commenting below or drop me an email. I always love hearing from people and I will always write back.
I never travel anywhere without Travel Insurance. If you are looking for insurance be sure to check World Nomads first.
This post was proofread by Grammarly
Book your trip now
Are you ready to book your trip? To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.
- Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with.
- Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
- Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
- Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
- Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there.
- Workpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Workpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership!
- 12Go – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then 12Go is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and air travel.
- RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
- Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
- World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review.
- SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here.
- Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration.
- Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.