Morning backpackers, adventurers, nomads and explorers! I am proud to present, a good blogging buddy of mine, Crystal from Castaway with Crystal. Crystal has been a broke backpacker for years and is originally from the East Coast of Australia and is now on the road, travelling solo and on the cheap! Backpacking solo as a woman is a bit different to hitting the road as lad, mainly because of a few safety issues. In this article, Crystal is going to run us through some of these and share her tips and tricks aimed at the chicks to keep your costs down while remaining safe and confident on the road.
Crystal on Budget Travel:
I’ve got HEAPS of advice for women travelling on a budget. Here are a few of my favourite tips:
Stay in temples. All over Southeast Asia and India there are temples and other places of worship that you can stay in for free or for a small donation. These places are pretty safe and a really unique experience. Imagine waking up to monks chanting in the morning and you’re only paying $3 a night to live and eat with them?! Heck, it’s pretty much the script for your next ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ – not that I endorse this movie, I don’t.
Couchsurfing – Girls, use it to your advantage! You’re a chick and it’s no secret; guy prefer to host chicks. In India a girlfriend and I got our own ENTIRE apartment near the beach in Goa from a cool Indian guy who worked and lived at a fancy Hotel nearby. However, for safety do not stay with anyone with less than 30 positive reviews and avoid anyone who has bad reviews. In some countries, such as India, couchsurfing is only really a good idea if you have a travel buddy as well.
Don’t fly, don’t take a taxi and don’t take the tourist bus – travel like a local. I admit it; being in transit is probably the scariest time to be a woman travelling solo. You don’t know where you are, if where you’re going is the right way and if anything is going to go wrong. But the locals know this too and will usually help a girl out; people want to protect you. In Japan I had a lovely old man walk me around the train station until I found my window, in India a doctor sitting near me asked the train staff multiple questions for me when the train was running late, and in Cuba people would give up their seat on overly crowded buses when they saw my heavy backpack. Just think safe and you’ll be fine; don’t travel at night, travel with other people if you can and know as much about the trip as possible; your stop, how much you should be paying, etc.
Know the right prices, and make sure that ‘they’ know you know. When people try to rip me off, I simply tell them that I know what the price is and that’s all I’m going to pay. Sometimes I don’t even ask: “how much is…” I literally just hand them the money and they usually accept it. No problem.
Crystal on Work and Travel:
There are loads of blogs posting about types of jobs you can do on the road to stretch your money further so you can stay travelling longer. I’ve done a lot of work while travelling mainly using my DSLR camera and editing skills. The coolest jobs so far have been making a documentary for a Sun Bear Sanctuary in Borneo, putting together a promotional video for a Magician in Cambodia and taking photos for a Museum Hotel in Mexico. The most useful tactic for finding a job is to be there, see what the place is lacking and offer to give them what they need. Maybe that bar needs someone to get the party started, maybe this restaurants’ menu needs updating, that hostel has no good photos on their website or this dive shop needs people to wash the equipment at the end of the day. If you create the job then the opportunities for short and long-term work are endless.
Here are a couple of ideas for jobs you can do on the road:
Drawing or designing menus or posters for restaurants & hostels. Are you a bit artsy or know how to use InDesign? Offer to whip up a menu or poster in exchange for free food or accommodation. In Colombia my friend and I got a bunch of free meals after spending a couple of hours hand-drawing a flyer for the hostel.
Promo girls. What’s a good night out for you when travelling? I bet you’re going to dress up in your best clothes, drink a lot and talk to random people. Well imagine if you could do all that and NOT have to pay for any drinks (and maybe even make money!) Most promo girls just hang out near the bar they’re working at, drink for free, chat to random people and hand out a few fliers. Other promo jobs include serving drinks at events, bars and bottle shops.
Got a nice camera and know how to use it? Hostels are always looking for new ways to promote their place. Just offer, show them a couple of your pics and see if you can’t get a few nights accommodation for free!
Find volunteer work online. There is honestly so much work for food and accommodation jobs out there it’s ridiculous. Sign up to Workaway for a small fee and you’ll have more opportunities than you can even deal with.
Yacht or ship crew. Got way more time than money? There are free websites such as Find A Crew where you can find work on ships doing a bit of night watch and cooking in exchange for your ride (or float?). Since I’ve been signed up I’ve had loads of offers for ships. Otherwise, you could just head down to the local port and check out what’s going.
Installing better booking systems for hostels/hotels. I was surprised when I travelled around Southeast Asia and Mexico that loads of hostels didn’t have proper booking systems. They were still using paper! There are free database booking systems available to download. Teach yourself how to use them and you have an invaluable skill needed by hotels everywhere.
Believe in yourself! I have people emailing me all the time worried that they don’t have enough money to last and they won’t find any work on the road. Seriously, just be your friendly, excitable self and talk to people and endless opportunities will present themselves.
Crystal on Safety:
Travelling on a budget as a female is a bit more intense than for our male counterparts. We constantly have to weigh up whether we should compromise our safety in exchange for a cheap/free ride or room. Usually, it’s a game of intuition, but I have some other ideas on how women can stay safe on the road:
My all-time favorite thing to do whenever I feel unsafe was to attach myself to other women, families or other travellers. Don’t ever be too scared to ask someone who looks safe “can I tag along with you?” This has made me countless friends and helped my travels to be that much less scary.
Always take the business card of the hostel out with you when you leave. Having the address and phone number of the hostel is super handy and has saved my ass on several occasions.
If you’re touched or treated inappropriately don’t be scared to speak up. I really don’t know if that guy who grabbed me at a bottle shop felt regret after I screamed “what’s wrong with you? Would you do that to your sister?” Or if the other guy who lifted my skirt and slapped my bum was scared that I actually would call the police if he ever touched me again…But I like to think that my saying something shocked them into realising the error of their ways. At the end of the day these people are doing it because they think they can get away with it – use your powerful personality and give them some ramifications.
If you’re a woman staying with a male Couchsurfing host there could be that feeling of pressure that you might have to “do something.” The thought is always in the back of my head; “is he going to try and sleep with me?” I always nab that feeling of pressure right in the butt as soon as we get to talking by saying straight up what my views on Couchsurfing hookups are (which is that I’m very against it, mainly because I don’t want Couchsurfing to get any sort of a reputation because it’s AWESOME! And also it’s not a dating site).
Don’t be scared. Be informed. As women we have enough to worry about already, and with your friends and family plus the media pumping into you that travelling solo is unsafe you’re probably a little bit bloody nervous. Quell those nerves by knowing as much as you can about where you are. Have local offline maps downloaded on your smartphone, know about the dangers, know the right prices, talk to trusty-looking people and use that information to your advantage.
About Castaway with Crystal: Crystal is a poor traveller from way back. Often found doing headstands on the edges of cliffs, taking photos of goats and abandoned buildings or sleeping on deserted islands with dangerous criminals. Crystal has two passions in life: travel and telling awesome stories. She is now harnessing these passions to build her website; Castaway with Crystal. Follow her along on this crazy, addictive adventure and learn some sweet tips along the way.