How to avoid unwanted attention on your travels

One common problem many female travellers such as myself face on a regular basis is trying to brush off the advances from strange men! Depending on the country you are in, the way men treat women can be very different. Some may be very gentlemanly and well mannered, where in other countries you may experience a bit of wolf whistling or down right disrespect. A lot this has to do with the local culture, but it can also be to do with the stereotype of girls of a particular nationality and a misplaced pre-concieved idea of what girls with a certain hair colour or look me be.

The same goes for touts. You’ll find in tourist destinations you can be hounded by people trying to sell you stuff. In most cases it’s just for tacky tourist souvenirs, but it can also go as far as people trying to scam you for paying way more than the average price of a particular service, or for goods that never actually appear. In general, I tend to view the advances from all these types of people under the same blanket, and that is unwanted attention.

So how do you deal with it if you are put in a position where someone may be hassling you abroad as a female and/or solo traveller?

Blank them

It may seem rude but by enlarge the most successful way of getting a tout or hassling guy away from you in my personal experience has been to completely blank them. If I’m walking on my own along a road and someone who is clearly selling stuff comes up to me and says hello… I don’t respond. I don’t even give eye-contact. I just keep on walking. I know these people are just doing a job, but in my opinion if you know you are never going to buy whatever they’re selling you’re saving yourself time as well as theirs.

The occasions where I’ve responded with a “thanks but no thanks”response I’ve always had touts spend longer trying to pressure me into a sale. Equally, when I’ve turned to look at them when they say hello I’ve had the same thing. If you completely blank them they know they are going to get nothing from you and very quickly move on to the next person.

The same also goes for guys trying to hassle you. I do sometimes feel bad if the guy seems nice enough, but if I’m walking along the street doing my shopping for instance, I don’t see how that constitutes a sign to come up and hassle me. By hassle I mean if I say I’m not interested, then I should be left alone. I have no problem with someone who comes to chat me up, I say no, and they leave me alone. It’s the people who don’t initially take no as an answer. Generally speaking I find if you give them a conversation they’ll see that as an indication that you’re interested, even if you were just being polite. So I cut to the chase and don’t respond to the hello when out and about. This is especially so when in big cities.

It may seem rude, and I do wish I didn’t have to do this, but if you want to avoid unwanted attention, usually this is the quickest and easiest way to do it.

Make it loud and clear

If you’ve said no to someone, or walked away and they continue to follow you then it’s at this point you need to get loud, and make it clear. Tell them firmly NO. Tell them to fuck off if you have to. Generally when blanking someone I am never left with this scenario, but when on occasion you do have to tell someone where to go. If you get loud it brings attention to yourself and the situation. People around start to look. This scares the person off in most cases if they had any ideas about doing something dodgy because now lots of people are able to identify them, and have noticed something is going on.

If placed in this position I usually just “go all Glasgow” as they say in my family. People from the city of Glasgow have a reputation of being “hard” where I come from. An angry Glasgow accent is one of the scariest voices you’ll ever hear second only to an angry German voice in my opinion! I speak more with a soft Edinburgh accent, but with Glaswegians in  the family I can pull out the Glasgow in me when needed! It’s always entertaining to see a big guy shit himself! 😀

Get help if you need to

I’ve never had anything escalate to this point before on my travels, certainly not from a tout or guy on the street, but if you really feel in danger by someone who won’t leave you alone then never be afraid to call the police or call for help. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3 Responses to “How to avoid unwanted attention on your travels”

  1. Tom Bartel says:

    “Go all Glasgow.” I’m going to remember that one. I’ve been there, and I wouldn’t want it to happen to me.

  2. Monica says:

    Great advice and something that all female travellers need to be aware of. I think it’s really important to make a bit of noise and even cause a scene if you have to – you’d be amazed how quickly a guy will back off when there’s a crowd of angry spectators.

    I know it’s not always possible it it’s best to do everything you can to not attract attention in the first place.

  3. Lane says:

    Unfortunately, every female traveler has experienced these hassles. It is helpful to learn “no” in the native tongue also.

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