Afternoon InquisitionFeminism

AI: Getting your International Summer Travel On

International travel has formulated some of my favorite life experiences, but there are certainly things you need to know before taking the plunge abroad. Some of our Skepchicks are about to partake in their first foreign affairs, so we began compiling a list of helpful travel tips. I have had the fortunate experience of traveling to six continents… alone with the help of Oahu scuba tours . As a female, this can be daunting. Learning a few tips, tricks, and expectations can go a long way.

If I am traveling somewhere new and don’t have the luxury of knowing any locals, I always buy a travel book. Lonely Planet and Frommers are great options. These books give you the low down on local customs, tipping, safety, expectations, restaurants, hotels, etc. I always want to know the cities I am visiting, particularly unsafe areas. Are these areas only unsafe after dark? What is the local attire? What are local scams? Should I take cabs at night? Should I have the bar call a taxi for me instead of get one off the street? How do they treat women? These books always have a section on this, so take a read. It is good to know what to expect. You know when to put your guard up or be more flexible depending on local customs.

No shower for three days, but who cares when you wake up and walk into Machu Picchu.

There are many questions you need to have answers too. I find that knowing this information ahead of time allows me to maximize my travel experience. Also, ask other people who have traveled to those countries. Certain places are more challenging than others. Generally, it is more difficult if you don’t speak the language. Learning a few common phrases can get you a long way. People in most countries are generally friendly and exerting just a little effort gets better results. That being said, sometimes it is good to keep your mouth shut and try to blend in with the locals. If your appearance is similar, this strategy can keep you safe. Again, doing your research will let you know when and where to employ these strategies.

Climbing a volcano in Pucon, Chile.

As a woman traveling alone, I have been fortunate enough to avoid any terrible situations. There were a few places where I had some sketchy experiences, specifically the Middle East and South America. As an American, I have had people lecture me about our politics, even if they weren’t my views. Some fairly inappropriate sexual advances have stemmed from a man’s belief American stereotypes. Usually a quick explanation eliminates any awkwardness about it.

Also, just because you start a trip alone doesn’t mean it will end that way. Over the course of my travels, I have met many companions. Many of these people I still keep in contact with. Bonus: then you have a new friend in a different place that can show you around on another trip!

Leaving a copy of your itinerary and passport with someone at home is a good idea. That way if your tweets or facebook updates stop on day three of your trip then someone knows where you are or should be . Also, be aware of when your access to computers, phones, etc. might disappear so they don’t worry unnecessarily. I also make copies of my passport and stick them in a few different places to travel with me. The more uncomfortable I am with the place I am traveling, the more precautions I take.

A shark feed in the Great Barrier Reef. 30 minutes of watching this.

Everyone has their favorite stories and all of mine result from talking to as many people as possible while traveling. Enjoy the experience just remember to be safe while doing it. When first traveling do what you are comfortable with and over time that will change. I always try something unique to that destination whether it is a food, a custom, or a drink. Do something new! The best experiences of my life have been abroad. Enjoy every second of it!

What are your favorite travel experiences? What are your craziest travel stories? Where are you going this summer? Where would you travel if money wasn’t an option? Do you have any tips for traveling alone? Do you have any trips for traveling as a female alone? Do you have any logistical tips? What is the weirdest food you have eaten abroad? Do you have any bad experiences that others should be aware of? Do you have any must see sites, must eat restaurants? 


Jacqueline, a true Floridian, wandered up to the tundra of Athens, Georgia to receive her PhD in computational quantum chemistry. Returning to her roots, she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Tampa in the field of computational biochemistry investigating the wonders of penicillin-like drugs. When she is not slaving over the computer, her varied interests include international travel, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, fancy food, (American) football, and Belgian quadrupels. She is also the founder of, a football blog with an exclusive female writing staff. Check out her sports ramblings there or follow her on Twitter @jhargis9.

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  1. Good tips! One handy tip I had was to have a photocopy of my passport to show “officials” around Kyrgyzstan. We showed our photocopies to some semi-formally dressed officials there, and they laughed and said “haha, you know us well!.” Then they wished us well with lots of smiling and laughing on both parts. It was quite amusing! I am going to Rio for the UN’s Rio +20– Skepchick should talk about Sustainable development (and the skepticism that the conference will have much effect on nations!)Would love to know if any other skeptics are going. It is my first time in South America, and really excited…wish I had at least 6 months there but I need to get back to my baby swabbing research! Any tips/must-see places for Brazil? (and did you do some Brazilian jiu jitsu there?)

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have many tips about Brazil. All I have heard is that Rio is pretty dangerous particularly if you don’t speak Portuguese.

      I have only been to Peru, Chile, and Argentina in South America. My Brazilian jiu jitsu training has been off and on for three-ish years in the states. I would love to go down there to train someday!

      1. Sign up on, you can from there check out the local group or search for guides to help you in Rio. They’ll help you discern how to have a good time and how to be safe while in Rio or anywhere else.

        1. Ah, thanks for the reminder. I made a couch surfing account a couple of years back, and have also heard good things about it. Cheers.

          1. Yeah it’s pretty great.

            Just watch out for the occasional creep dude in the group by checking the references.

            Staying with a female is generally a safe bet, and meeting the active local Couchsurfers can really help deepen your immersion into a place and heighten your safety within it.

      2. Sign up on, you can from there check out the local group or search for guides to help you in Rio. They’ll help you discern how to have a good time and how to be safe while in Rio or anywhere else.

  2. I’d also suggest this.

    Sign up for and make a profile there. This will allow you to connect with locals who are traveler friendly.

    There is a reference system on Couchsurfing that will allow you to screen people for any creepiness beforehand, and if you’re a woman, you can always connect or stay with women (provided you give enough notice).

    I’ve been part of couchsurfing for 5 years now and made some of the best friends of my life due to the fact that most people I’ve met there have been genuinely concerned about my well being and safety when I was in a strange land.

    Definitely try it.

  3. As a teenager, I went to visit the old country (South Korea) with my family. The first Gulf War was announced by Pres. Bush Sr. while I was there, which was interesting because of all of the armed forces personnel stationed in Seoul…there were a lot of helicopters and trucks going to and fro that day. It was a bit surreal.

  4. I used to live in Brazil, but not in Rio, so I’ve only been there a few times on vacation. I’ve never felt unsafe there except when doing dumb things, like driving alone at night without a map, or taking the favela tour. Yes, a Favela Tour is a thing they recommend in some guide books. Don’t do it.
    If you’re not staying long, I’d recommend visiting the coast towns near Rio, like Paraty and Buzios. If you’re staying longer, go to the Northeast. Salvador de Bahia is well worth the trip.

  5. When traveling abroad, consider keeping a live version of Linux on a jump drive so if you must use a public computer, you can do so without worrying about keyloggers and other nasties. Having your identity stolen while in a foreign country is no fun.

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