It was a cold winter’s
night in London, England as I found myself on the subway travelling
back to my Bed and Breakfast 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 entertainment district 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 didn’t 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.
I hunched my shoulders, took a bag of potato 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.
an avid fan of subway travel. Taxis are generally far too
insular for me and they make too much of a dent in my pocketbook.
Riding the subway I'm quickly immersed in the city I'm visiting
and it provides me with the purest form of people watching.
I find a great sense of satisfaction in being able to get
from Point A to Point B without getting lost. At their best,
subways whisk you to your destination quickly, economically
and efficiently. At their worst, they are stifling hot, smelly
and potentially dangerous for a woman traveller. Here are
some of the strategies I've developed to differentiate between
the two and to help me ride the underground easily and safely.
Do your homework
well before you travel. Log on to female travel forums (Lonely
Planet's Thorn Tree is excellent) to see what others are saying,
contact Tourist Boards and transit commissions, refer to the
latest guidebooks and chat with local women who have travelled
before you. These sources offer reams of information designed
to familiarize the user with rates, routes, and specific safety
information. Download the online subway maps you'll need.
You’ll feel a lot more confident at your destination.
arrive at your destination, your best source of information
will be 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 or not use the underground in that city.
travel hours. Why be caught in a crush when you can travel
a bit later and a lot more leisurely? In London, England,
late morning travellers are offered an incentive to postpone
their day’s start. You can buy a money saving ‘Off
Peak Pass’ providing you begin your journey after 9:30
AM. 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.
after dark if you are not familiar with the areas where you
get on and off the subway. Deserted stations and long walks
to your hotel make no sense at all.
travelling by plane or train, the fastest, cheapest, most
convenient way to get to and from your travel terminus will
generally be the subway. Many cities like Paris, France have
excellent subway systems that transport passengers directly
to the airport at reasonable rates. In order to take advantage
of these savings, remember to pack lightly. Having more than
one suitcase makes it almost impossible to negotiate the stairs,
escalators and lifts that might be involved. Besides, if you
don't have at least one free hand to ward off pickpockets,
you are a perfect target.
and taking the subway after an all-night flight? 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.
In Brazil special subway cars have now been set aside for
women only. During weekday rush hours in Rio de Janeiro women
commuters are invited to ride in female-only, pink-striped
subway cars. This is an attempt to avert groping and other
unwanted sexual advances from men behaving in an antisocial
way. Rio joins Tokyo and Mexico City as major cities who already
have female-only train cars.
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.
When waiting on the platform, stand far back from the subway