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International Subway Safety -- 20 Tips for Women Travelers


Look for designated waiting areas. 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. While I don't use the New York subway at night, there is an 'Off-Hour Waiting Area' in the station which is marked in yellow and where passengers can always be seen by the attendant collecting tokens.


An experienced pickpocket can generally pick a tourist out in a crowd. Wear your purse over one shoulder with the opening flap against your stomach so that it’s harder to get into. If you’re carrying a day pack, wear it in front, kangaroo style. Always carry your most important papers in a money belt next to your skin. Always give up your purse immediately if a thief demands it because you'll have little of importance in it.


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.


Want to look like a local on the subway? Leave your backpack at the hotel. Instead carry your camera, maps, etc. in a shopping bag from a local grocer.


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 by women for women, go to the 'What Should I Wear, Where' section at


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.


In 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.


Finally, trust your woman's intuition and never ever take chances, no matter what anybody else tells you.



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