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Why being a solo woman traveller in Amsterdam is fun!

Last updated on: September 26, 2013 16:45 IST

Why being a solo woman traveller in Amsterdam is fun!

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Sweta M Nair

Mumbai girl Sweta M Nair recently travelled alone to the Dutch capital to bust some popular myths.

I am going to Amsterdam," said she. "You are going there alone? Are you crazy? That's a guy's place, not a girl's. Just keep quiet and go to Paris," said they. As a girl, (let me rephrase that) as an Indian girl, whether you like it or not you are subjected to fit a definite bill of travel destinations especially if you plan to do the voyage alone. From whatever little knowledge I had about Amsterdam, I knew it is a party destination with some great sights and activities, most of which are illegal in other parts of the world. So I just had to find out that if a place like Amsterdam is safe for a female traveller. Empowered with my visa in hand, tickets and two packs of cup noodles, I was ready to find out the truth and bust the myths that are associated with going solo.

Myth No 1: You need to carry your own luggage

Travelling light is important, but remember you are a solo female traveller, which means that a world of opportunities is going to unravel soon before your very own eyes. The minute you land in Amsterdam you are going to come across smiling faces that are willing to help you out at every step. This is where the scene from the movie Taken will creep into your head where the two girls get friendly with an unknown guy at the airport. Practice caution!

It is false that people do not extend a helping hand but you need to figure out if you really require their help. As a solo traveller you need to travel smart and of course light. There is no point in carrying five pairs of shoes. Three should be the maximum limit including a pair of chappals, running shoes and stilettos.


Image: A tourist boat passes under a bridge next to the Westerkerk church in Amsterdam
Photographs: Michael Kooren/Reuters

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Myth No 2: Hostels are unsafe for girls

Until you are referring to the movie Hostel, I do not think it is right to generalise. As a budget traveller you want to make the most of your trip and spend some moolah outside exploring the place. And trust me hostels are the perfect place to meet like-minded people from all over the globe (that's how I met Nachiket; he clicked all the photos you see in this post).

But prior to booking your stay, make sure you read the reviews and gauge the distance between the hostel and other scenic spots. Most hostels do not have private bathrooms, so be prepared to share that space. Some have separate bathing areas for men and women, and well, some are shared by both genders.

Also most of these hostels have free breakfast, which is awesome, though not anything fancy but it will keep your morning grumbling tummy happy. I stayed at the Shelter Christian Hostel and had a good experience. It was clean, quiet and had friendly staff members.

Also, it is nice to wake up in a room full of people! In case you cringe at that aforementioned thought probably you are not 'hostel material'.


Photographs: Nachiket

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Why being a single woman traveller in Amsterdam is fun!

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Myth No 3: You will end up spending a lot since you are going to be alone

Whoever told you that is not aware of the power of lip gloss. During my first night-out in Amsterdam I went to five bars where each one of them served me Jagerbomb (a bomb shot drink) all on the house. Remember, a world of opportunities; well this was only the beginning.

Next day, I got a discount of € 3 as I booked a seat on a canal cruise. After that it just kept getting better. Midst all these freebies, as a solo female traveller you need to verify the intentions behind these discounts. This will determine whether you actually want to jug down that mug of beer that was offered by the guy sitting across you in the bar or no.

There is no harm in refusing politely if you sense something is amiss.


Photographs: Nachiket

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Why being a single woman traveller in Amsterdam is fun!

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Myth No 4: You cannot be out all night

As much as I want to protest against this statement vehemently, I am not going to do that. Staying out till 3-4 am in Amsterdam is really not that big a deal but a lot depends on what you are doing and where.

The streets near Dam Square get crowded as daylight fades. You will find all sorts of people here. I frequented the areas near club Paradiso and Escape and found them to be female friendly.

Even areas near the red-light district are safe. However, I will suggest that as a solo female traveller you need to be responsible for yourself. If it makes you feel safe keep some friend or relative's number handy who lives nearby.


Photographs: Nachiket

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Why being a single woman traveller in Amsterdam is fun!

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Myth No 5: Women cannot read maps; you will get lost

Oh this myth has been put to rest and how! At every hostel or hotel in Amsterdam, you will be given a map of the city with symbols on it, which show tourist spots. You are expected to navigate your way through a maze of tram, train and bus lines to get there. I don't know about women, but I am geographically thick when it comes to just holding a map. This is when you fold that map and shove it in your bag; flash a broad smile and ask a passer-by which way is Barndesteeg.

But I must say after a few failed attempts at 'reading a map', you will get the knack of it. And trust me, there is nothing better than getting lost in an unknown land, it is fun!


Photographs: Nachiket

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Dos and don'ts

A solo female traveller is going to get a lot of attention so be prepared. Make sure you have secured your luggage and other belongings securely at all times; carry extra locks if required. Amsterdam is known for its drugs and prostitution, both of which are legal. Do not get carried by the sudden gush of freedom, use it responsibly. The city has a lot of scenic spots tucked away secretly; befriend a local (probably via Couch Surfing before you land in Amsterdam) and inquire about these places.

When in such an exotic location, I suggest you experiment a little. The best part about travelling alone is that there are no rigid itineraries that you need to stick to. Rent a bike, mark random places on a map, and just go biking along never-ending canals. Go for random strolls early in the morning; sit on a bench sipping tea as you take in the beauty of a sleeping Amsterdam.

To take off alone for an international vacation, you need to be accommodative and expect the unexpected.

Travelling alone may sound glamorous but all the sheen is lost when you land on your butt after playing tug of war with your bags. Do not pack extra clothes; you are not a celebrity so you could repeat clothes. It won't land you a spot on fashion police, I promise.

Since we are in 2013, you could stop with those ancient Traveller's Cheques. Get travel cards instead -- these prepaid cards can be topped with the amount of foreign currency you want and you can go swiping everywhere. Even if you lose one travel card, you will have another one which can be activated immediately.

Another tip that I have for female travellers gearing up for a maiden solo international trip would be to bring paranoia down by a couple of notches. Also, do not forget to carry a camera, notepad and pen and wayfarers -- they are so in right now!


Photographs: Nachiket

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