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She's So Very Subway Savvy
...staying smart, staying safe

 

Your subway awaits you, Madame...

Whether you're travelling by plane or train, the fastest, cheapest, most convenient way to get to and from your travel terminus will generally be the subway.

Make sure you travel light (so you can negotiate any stairs) and plan, whenever possible, to avoid peak traffic periods. Negotiating early morning and late afternoon rush hours is never, ever fun!

  • In Tokyo, crowds are so dense during rush hours that special employees wearing white gloves have been hired to help squeeze as many people as possible on to the trains and to help shut the doors after them.
  • In London and Toronto, late morning travellers are offered an incentive to postpone their day's start. You can buy a money saving 'One Day Pass' providing you begin your journey after 9:30 AM. crook

    Special Traveller's Tip: Jetlagged and travelling in from the airport after an all-night flight? Even during off-hours, when crowds have thinned out considerably, never take your eyes off your baggage. Experienced thieves wait for these kinds of opportunities and can be out the subway door, your suitcase in hand, in minutes.


When is the subway not an option?

A recent Canadian transportation survey revealed that it was those women who hadn't used the subway on a regular basis that were the most afraid to use it. Chances are a great deal of their fears were unfounded and could have been softened with just a little bit of extra knowledge.

So, once you arrive at your destination, familiarize yourself with the subway system. Chat with the local women. Inquire about the area you want to subway to. Is the neighbourhood safe to walk in or is it smarter to take a taxi? Is it wise to use the subway at night? Many hotels now have a female concierge at their front desk. Ask what their subway experiences have been. Find out if there are any safety measures in place -- especially for the women traveller. This can give you the added confidence you might need to use the underground and it could save you a bundle of transportation money.

  • In New York, there is an 'Off-Hour Waiting Area' in the subway station which is marked in yellow and where passengers can always be seen by the attendant collecting tokens.
  • During rush hours, in St. Petersburg, Russia, there is sometimes a separate subway entrance assigned for female passengers.
  • In Toronto, every subway stop has a well-lit designated waiting area (DWA) where females can wait for the train. This DWA is monitored from the ticket collector's booth by closed circuit TV and a voice intercom system. The guard's car on each train stops right at the DWA so that female passengers can always have a Toronto Transit Commission employee riding with them and keeping an eye on things.
  • In India as well as in Egypt, women can take advantage of the female-only sections in the subways. Seize the moment. This can be the perfect opportunity to communicate with local women and their children or find out more about the country's culture.

    Special Traveller's Tip: man in the moonWhen in doubt-- I taxi! Especially at night, trust your intuition and never take chances, no matter what anybody else tells you. There are some cities where I have had no problem riding the subway solo in the evening (London, England and Toronto, Canada) and there are some where it was an absolute no-no for me (Chicago and New York).


The more you know, the easier and safer it is...

In countries where poverty is excessive and crime rates are high, or in cultures where a woman alone is considered fair game, it's a definite plus to be subway savvy. As you travel around the world, it's wise to keep the following cautions in mind:

  • Always have your fare ready when entering the subway. This way potential thieves never see where you keep your wallet.
  • Keep safe. When waiting on the platform, stand far back from the subway tracks.
  • An experienced pickpocket can usually pick a tourist out in a crowd. Wear your purse over one shoulder with the opening flap against your stomach so that it's impossible to get into. If you're carrying a day pack, wear it in front, kangaroo style.
  • Don't tempt thieves by carrying credit cards or money in a fanny pack. In a crowded car, these pouches can easily be sliced open with a razor blade and you will be none the wiser until it's too late.
  • Avoid remaining in an empty car. If you find yourself alone, simply exit one car and enter another at the first available stop. Remember that it's generally the center cars on the train that get the heaviest traffic and there's greater safety in numbers.
  • Avoid constantly referring to your subway map on the train. This only serves to advertise that you're not sure where you're going. Instead, situate yourself so that you can study the route map posted in the car. Or better still, pick a woman in close proximity and ask for help in getting off at the proper stop. Generally she'll become a mother hen and get you exactly where you want to go.
  • Don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself by what you wear. Be culturally correct and dress appropriately. Try saving that mini skirt for parties back home. Muted colors and conservative clothing always helps you to fade into the crowd and stay out of trouble. For further information on culturally correct clothing, click here.
  • Unfortunately, crowded subway cars can be perfect breeding grounds for antisocial behaviour. Some men will use this opportunity to touch or pinch the female passengers close to them. If this happens to you, make a fuss in any language you choose. Point at the offender and chastise him in a loud voice. He'll probably just slink away.
  • However, don't become so offended that you stop paying attention to your belongings. It's a fact that women are often groped on packed subways simply to divert their attention while their purse or backpack is being pilfered. Be ever watchful, ladies. Both pinched bottoms and stolen wallets are not fun!
  • Special Traveller's Tip: When using the subway in developing countries and male-dominated societies, make every effort to behave modestly. Wear a fake wedding ring to deter unwanted advances and sport sunglasses to hide your eyes. In some cultures, simply meeting a man's gaze means that you welcome both his attention and his company.


Her subway story will make you smile...

It was a cold winter's night in Montreal as I found myself on the subway travelling back to my B&B in an outlying neighbourhood. I was feeling a bit uneasy -- It was later than I usually stayed out when I travelled solo. There were plenty of people on the train when we left the downtown core but as we moved further out, the car emptied quickly. To soon, I found myself alone except for one other passenger -- a middle-aged, slightly inebriated leering lout who realized the potential of the situation. He began by calling out to me and trying to establish eye contact. I didn7 44t bite. He tried again and again, each time just a little louder. I retaliated by pulling my woollen cap down so that my eyes were almost covered. mutter, mutter... I hunched my shoulders, took a bag of chips from my backpack and began stuffing my mouth and chewing loudly. Crumbs spewed on to my coat and into my lap as I began to mutter to myself in French. He stopped calling out and stared in amazement at my gross behaviour. I continued muttering. I swear that he looked relieved when he got off at his station.

(Source: Anonymous, Journeywoman files)

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