Many solo female travelers shy away from traveling solo to the Middle East due to the numerous intimidating stories about the region flooding the internet. Daily, there is news about the restrictions imposed on women by Islamic regimes in Arab countries, conflicting reports, and terrifying accounts of travelers pursued by street vendors. But all these issues form only a tiny part of the bigger picture. Let’s explore some tips for women traveling solo to the Middle East.
There isn’t anything inherently risky about traveling alone in the Middle East or Arab countries, even if you are a woman. All that means is that you have to be a bit mindful of the rules and practices of the place. People in the Middle East have strict dress codes and rules regarding their religious places. Let’s explore crucial tips for women traveling solo to Arab countries so they can confidently travel.
It is important to note that the Middle East and Arab countries do not have the same meaning but have a lot of overlap. For this article, we may use the terminology interchangeably.
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Is it safe for women to travel in the Middle East?
It is safe for women to travel in the middle east, even as solo travelers. It is important to know that the culture and history have molded countries in this region differently than you may be used to. This doesn’t make it wrong inherently, so you must explore the Middle East with an open mind. If you can open your mind and respect the local customs of the Middle East, it can be pretty safe to travel and explore the beautiful countries and rich histories of these countries.
Which countries are the most safe to travel?
Perhaps it may not be surprising, but the countries with the most wealth from the oil trade are the safest to visit for solo female travel to the Middle East. This includes UAE, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, and Morocco. Take more caution for travel to Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan.
How women can travel solo safely in the Middle East
People of the Middle East are frequently referred to as “male societies.” Every country has laws that must be followed, and you must adhere to some basic laws as a woman vacationing solo. You should be able to safely enjoy your vacation if you stick to these fundamental laws.
Wear appropriate attire
Although you may occasionally encounter young Westerners wearing short dresses or shorts, particularly in cities and big towns, you should always dress appropriately. Women’s knees, shoulders, stomach, and décolletage must always be covered. You should also consider wearing a headscarf, especially when traveling solo.
Most religious sites require you to dress modestly and wear a head scarf often. The Mosques are amazing to see and safe to visit, but you must obey the expectations to enter. Come prepared, and consider wearing modest clothing in public areas. Most folk will not impose their beliefs on foreign travelers, but some will feel disrespected by what they consider inappropriate attire. Wearing a head scarf or a burka to fit in may be a good option not to attract attention.
Contact with men
While traveling solo, avoid looking straight into an Arab man’s eyes, as this is frequently taken as an invitation. Avoid laughing aloud and touching males, as these are also considered invitations. Many males may try to attract your attention, especially when they see you alone. The ideal strategy is always claiming to be married or inventing a reason for your travel solo. Stay in public sight as well.
Women traveling solo should avoid smoking or laughing aloud in public. Always smoke in a private area where nobody will notice you. The same holds for using alcoholic beverages in public settings. Except when lodging in a hotel, it is preferable to refrain from drinking alcohol the entire time you travel.
Dinners and night travels
Try to avoid going out at night alone. It is better to stay indoors as it gets dark. You should also avoid bars and discos, especially when traveling solo. Many Arabs consider women who go to discos alone unrespectable. You should also try to avoid being all alone with a man.
Using public transportation
Always sit in the back seat while taking a cab so the driver won’t misinterpret your intentions. Always take the seat a man offers you on a bus or train. Sit close to a lady always—some areas, like the Dubai Metro, feature “women-only” coaches.
It is also worth noting Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive, and some parts may be hesitant. Ensure you call ahead to reserve a car, explain your situation, and ensure no hiccups in that country if you want to rent a car. Also, some countries require you as a foreigner to apply for a driving permit.
You should be careful about where you stay, especially when traveling solo. Always search for a reputable hotel or a place to stay that is both clean and safe. You should also, if possible, research the area on the internet before placing the booking.
Depending on the place you are traveling to, some locations will have a fantastic hostel culture with inexpensive single rooms and bunk beds. Naturally, all these dorms will be reserved for women only. However, several Arab countries offer pricey hotels with luxurious facilities.
Be prepared for the workers at the hostel to attempt to pitch tours, private guides, and other services to you. Do not anticipate that these excursions will differ from the typical hustler version. However, the trips are typically inexpensive, so if you lack confidence or do not hate being led through every tiny handicraft shop, take a chance.
Even in a hostel that appears “international,” be aware that some cultural norms still hold. Also, try to book accommodation in advance. Making bookings in advance will prevent you from perambulating the streets and looking vulnerable while hunting for a place to stay.
It is advisable to avoid religious and political-based conversations. Interfering or offering your opinion is considered impolite, considering you are a traveler and a stranger to their sociopolitical situations. The Arabs are pretty reluctant to hear outside criticism, even when they are the ones who broach the topic. Most people will stand up for their country if it is criticized. So, it is crucial to tread carefully whenever such a situation arises, especially when traveling solo.
Further, don’t be loud with your opinions of how society is there or how your own may be better. Your point of view is not theirs, and this will undoubtedly make good people turn away from you, and you’ll be more likely to attract unwanted attention. Keep your mind open, be curious, ask questions about who people are how their lives have been growing up there, and listen. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn and how we, are people, are not as different as it may seem.
Always keep the emergency numbers of the country you are traveling to in your pocket. This will be helpful when you are facing an extreme situation. Also, do not shy away from seeking the help of the police if you are being harassed.
Countries in the Middle East are some of the most beautiful and culturally rich countries that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The fear of traveling solo should never hold you back from this rich experience. You are all set to go if you dress appropriately, respect their religion, and follow simple rules.
We at Travel-Wise sincerely hope you’ve found our article informative! Engage with our community to ask for experiences and more for solo travel. Also, check out our other travel guides and specific up-to-date country guides. Consider keeping a live trip journal while you travel, too, to indicate where you were, when, and with whom so that it is available to others for updates and to let them know you are safe.
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