Travel throughout Southeast Asia is mostly safe for a woman on her own, especially in the tourist hotspots where locals are inundated with foreigners every day.
However, as a woman it’s always responsible to maintain a degree of caution and awareness in terms of dress, behavior, and etiquette; as sexual harassment and assault are still common.
Here are my tips to keep you safe, informed and travel with confidence throughout Southeast Asia.
As a woman traveler, you can sometimes attract unwanted attention, whether that be from men, other women or children. Attention from locals is mostly harmless curiosity, and sometimes involves staring, a request for a photograph or a quick chat. Most of the time these interactions are pleasant and brief, although they can take some getting used to.
There can be instances where men continually follow or request a photograph, and if standing your ground and saying ‘No!’ doesn't work, finding a cafe or restaurant to enter directly sends the message to leave you alone.
As a rule of thumb, always dress on the conservative side in Southeast Asia so you don't cause offense or draw attention, which means cover your shoulders and knees.
In the more modern major cities, dressing in shorts and dresses is the norm, but do still expect to receive some looks from locals.
When visiting a new country, it’s a good idea to dress on the conservative side and then gauge what's acceptable. Beach resort areas and major tourist hotspots are more accustomed to women in revealing clothing, however, a conservative outfit commands more respect.
Southeast Asia has a hot and humid climate, so you'll want to dress in lightweight clothes, however, all temples will require you to be covered. It’s a good idea to carry a sarong or scarf in your bag that you can use when you need to cover up for etiquette and religious reasons.
Etiquette varies throughout Asia, so don’t take offense if you aren’t occasionally acknowledged or are traveling with a male companion and he is addressed over you – women's independence isn’t yet fully embraced everywhere.
In terms of women's travel health, places that tourists frequent will have a larger supply and selection of sanitary products. If you are traveling to rural areas, consider stocking up – especially if you are particular on brands of pads or tampons. Try sustainable products that don't require you to dispose of sanitary items.
Southeast Asia has a thriving nightlife with a huge range of trendy bars, clubs, and restaurants. If you are traveling alone, or don’t feel comfortable tackling the nightlife by yourself, look for events run by hostels or tour operators; these aren't only pub-crawls for backpackers, but can also include food or cultural tours. Going on one of these means you have a planned route and a guide looking out for you, and it’s also a great way to meet people.
Whether you are on a tour or taking on the night by yourself, always be aware of your surroundings, and never leave your drink unattended as drink-spiking is still common.
If you are anywhere and it doesn’t feel right, leave!
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