By Dave from The Longest Way Home
It niggled at me in Morocco. It snapped at me in Hungary. It tore chunks out of me in Iran, and by the time China came along, I’d given up on noticing how solo women travelers seem to get away with more than solo men. But, having spent so much time in the Philippines traveling solo, it reared its head again when I bumped into Jodi, another solo traveler in the Philippines.
3 Advantages of Being a Solo Female Traveler: A Guy’s Perspective
Easier social integration:
Solo women are not seen as threatening. They are welcomed into houses more often. They get invited to weddings and so on without hesitation. There is an incredible female bond even amongst two women that don’t share the same language nor culture. They simply get on.
Meanwhile, the solo male traveler is often looked upon more suspiciously. Local women will stay clear, oftentimes due to cultural necessity. Meanwhile, local men will often only engage in conversation if they think there’s profit to be made, or beer to be drunk.
It’s easier to complain:
I’ve seen the odd western girl shriek at the sight of a squat bathroom that’s not been doused in a liter of disinfectant for a day or five. It seems the male population has a problem with aiming in the right direction—shame on us. Moreover, shame that as a solo male, I get looked upon as “not being a man” enough if I complain about it. For the girls, if they complain, there’s often a nod of understanding, albeit only in hotels before action is taken. In public toilets, it seems whether you are male or female, it’s often holding your nose affair for everyone.
Getting hotel/hostel discounts:
I’ve seen the price drop – or full bookings disappear – for women who batter an eyelash at the male receptionist with a petite smile. Even when dealing with female receptionists, women can get a bargain because of female solidarity.
Some solo females may deny this has anything to do with the petite smile or female solidarity, but for a solo male, it’s harder to get that bargain. After all, that poor brave solo girl traveler needs a discount better than you. You’re a man; you should have a tougher wallet.
3 Disadvantages of Being a Solo Female Traveler: A Girl’s Perspective
By Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads
Throughout this trip, I have been asked countless times how it feels to travel alone. In Asian countries, these questions come predominately from locals and are often tinged with wonder and confusion. Why would I, a 5-foot tall woman, decide to embark on this trip all by myself? Aren’t I aware that the world is a very scary place? My answer is consistent and simple: traveling alone enables you to go where you want when you want – and meeting people is far easier than you think. The main downside for me is not having someone to watch my bag while I pee.
That said, I’ve noticed certain inherent disadvantages in solo travel as a woman.
It’s not as safe:
Safety is easily the primary and most relevant downside to solo female travel. While men have their own share of issues to worry about (random bar fights innocuously caused by coughing in the wrong direction, anyone? Seriously – I’ve seen it happen…), it is undeniable that it is safer to travel alone as a man than as a woman in this crazy world. As a woman by my lonesome, I tend to spend a bit more to stay in a central location or somewhere well lit and don’t drink much if I don’t know the crowd. It seems like common sense, but many guys I meet thinks far less of the consequences of a dark alley encounter than I do.
Travel in conservative, traditional societies is hard:
In cases where the society tends to be male-dominated from a cultural perspective, traveling alone as a woman has its detriments. To be fair, there are places in the world where this does not apply, but in many countries, it certainly does. Men will address men, and strong, independent women who assert themselves are not necessarily well regarded. Of course, as Dave pointed out, women are innately able to talk to other women with ease, usually worldwide. But those times when you need to get from A to B and you are being ignored because there’s no man asking the right questions? You tend to want to bang your head against the closest wall.
Peeing isn’t easy:
In most of the developing world, a toilet is an incredible luxury. Contrary to Dave’s assertion above, I have no problem with a squat toilet. But when you really really have to pee, and there is no toilet to be found, us women find ourselves at a significant disadvantage. Sure, there is the Freshette, but when I want to pee without standing out in a crowd, the Freshette doesn’t quite count as ‘subtle’. In places such as Mongolia and the Philippines, where men tend to pee out in the open, without compunction, being a woman is frustrating indeed. I’ve heard many guys tell the “yeah, the bus wouldn’t stop, so I just whipped it out and peed out of the window. I mean, wouldn’t you?” story. Uh, not exactly. My pee-envy knows no bounds.
What do you think? Do females traveling alone have it easier than their male counterparts? Or is it the other way around?