Exotic, exciting and culturally fascinating, Asia is on the hit list of most adventurous travellers. But for women travelling on their own (especially for first-timers), at times the unfamiliarity of the countries and cultures of Asia can be somewhat intimidating. However, with a little research and a good, healthy dose of common sense, travelling alone through Asia can actually be a wonderful experience for a woman. |
First Things First
One of the most important purchases a solo traveller to Asia can make is not her backpack or a pair of comfy shoes (although they are important) – it's the right travel insurance. Asia is not renowned as being unsafe for female travellers, but it certainly comes with its own set of problems, including (sometimes) primitive medical facilities and higher instances of theft. But if you get cover with the right comprehensive travel insurance, Asia can be a warm, funny, fascinating and utterly exhilarating place to visit alone.
Generally speaking, Central Asian countries don’t pose a particular risk to solo women travellers but, while you'll often receive a warm welcome, culturally women are considered inferior in many places – so you may experience some disrespect or disparaging treatment. Bear in mind, too, that in some places a female travelling alone can be seen as quite odd.
In Pakistan and India the local people are friendly and you'll have no problem finding strangers willing to pass the time in conversation or help you with enquiries. In Sri Lanka, where there is a high proportion of Buddhists, the locals are particularly gentle and accommodating. A Western woman is an object of interest in many Asian countries, though, so you'll have to prepare yourself for endless requests to be in your photos or have your skin stroked – but this is genuine curiosity and nothing untoward.
There's not really anywhere in Central Asia that would be considered unsafe for a solo female traveller, but of course all the usual cautions apply (don’t walk around alone after dark, for instance). For first timers, however, India may be a little overwhelming and, culturally, you may find the harassment from men (winking, staring, cat calling), which is considered everyday behaviour, a bit confronting. Be honest with yourself about what you'll feel comfortable with because you'll never change the culture! South-East Asia
South-East Asia is a very popular region for women to explore on their own due to its reputation as a safe, friendly and hospitable destination. With the prevalence of Buddhism, the culture is rooted in the values of respect and harmony between the sexes. Thailand is considered particularly welcoming to foreigners, although you may find the locals a little shy and reticent at first.
It's important to understand that it's not considered lewd or impolite in South-East Asian countries to stare, so (particularly in remote places) you may be subject to some pretty intense scrutiny. But in the vast majority of cases it is entirely non-threatening and merely arises from curiosity.
Overall, the locals' reaction to travellers is overwhelmingly positive in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. While as a woman travelling alone you may be the subject of a fair bit of interest, it's more likely to be due to your status as a foreigner rather than your gender. Places like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore are very touristy and English is widely spoken, so can be a great start to get your confidence up.
A Final Note
A final word of warning: make sure you do your research thoroughly, because, depending on the countries you want to visit, you may need to get worldwide travel insurance. Asia is not always a clearly defined destination so make sure that any countries you intend to visit come under the right policy.
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global single trip, family, annual, cruise travel and winter sports insurance. If you need travel insurance, Asia and any other business or leisure travel destination worldwide are covered by InsureMore's policies. Besides offering great deals on travel insurance, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.
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