So Very Subway Savvy
...staying smart, staying safe
I'm an absolutely
avid subway fan. Being a travel writer, I've had
the opportunity to experience the underground systems
in cities around the world and I've loved it. For
me, taxis are not an option. They're far too insular
and they generally make too much of a dent in my
pocketbook. Besides, it's much more fun in the subway
where one can enjoy people watching at it's very
with all other "big city" experiences, women must
take extra care as they ride the rails. Both at
home and away, there are several simple ways to
reduce risks, save money and maximize fun while
using public transportation. Be a true Journeywoman.
Be subway savvy!
Do your homework
well before you travel. Check the internet, contact
the Tourist Boards and transit commissions, refer
to the latest guidebooks and chat with women who
have travelled before you. These sources offer reams
of information designed to familiarize the user
with rates, routes and specific information. Learn
a little before you travel and you'll feel a lot
more confident at your destination.
- In cyberspace
check out two very informative links -- Subway
Navigator and Subways
of the World, for everything you ever wanted
to know about any underground transportation system,
- Peruse the
shelves of your favorite travel bookshop. In particular,
the Rough Guide series, usually includes
colored subway maps at the end of each of their
- The Toronto
Transit Commission publishes a Free Ride
Guide as well as a pamphlet called "How
To Ride The TTC", available in 15 languages
and designed to inform and educate new immigrants
to their city. To request further info, click
- In London,
England, The London Regional Transport's Unit
For Disabled Passengers offers a booklet called
"Access to the Underground" which gives
info on lifts and ramps at individual Underground
stations. This publication is available free from
LRT ticket offices or from 55 Broadway, London,
SW1H 0BD, England. Tel: 0171 918 3312. The Unit
also provides Braille maps for the visually impaired.
Tip: Save money! Before purchasing
your subway tokens, find out about any special
deals being offered. In Paris, buying
a carnet of ten tickets is much more economical
than purchasing one single fare. San Francisco
has their Fast Pass, London offers an
economical Day Pass and if you're travelling
with your family, you'll love Toronto's
Sunday and Holiday Family Pass.
awaits you, Madame...
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
- 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.
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.
is the subway not an option?
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.
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.
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.
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).
more you know, the easier and safer it is...
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:
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.
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.
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!
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...
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 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
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
information in this article was researched independently
by Journeywoman and sponsored by the Toronto
Transit Commission. Together we hope
to inspire women to travel around the world
safely and well. To read about the many ways
in which the Toronto Transit Commission
strives to protect its female ridership in Toronto,
Canada, please click here.