creepy note in Dubai

Scary situations I’ve encountered as a solo woman traveller

On my blog, I focus on the good things about travel because I love travelling and I wish that more people will travel.

One of the excuses people give for not travelling is that they do not have anyone to go with.

Rubbish. If you travel alone, you can travel anytime you want.

While I love solo travelling, there are times that I wish I was travelling with someone else. These occasions are times when I did not feel safe.

I always take care to be back in my room before sundown. I feel like Cinderella with her midnight curfew, only my curfew was well earlier.

But despite all the precautions, sometimes scary situations still happen. Today, I want to share two of such tales. Thank goodness the situations were not majorly disastrous situations so you don’t have to feel too uncomfortable reading them.

Failed stalker in Istanbul

Istanbul otogar
Istanbul otogar

After I dropped off my mom at the Istanbul airport, I was back to being a solo traveller. This meant that there is no one to ask me if we’re walking in the right direction and that I can go wherever I want without any reason.

So I got off at the Coach Station stop on the metro. I remember seeing IKEA not far away from it. I really like visiting IKEAs of the world so I thought it was a good chance to add to my Local Things in IKEA list.

The Coach Station metro stop was a mess. It seemed like there were 50 bus companies around and each had a shop facing the metro exit.

I walked around to see where IKEA was. It looked quite far away but I decided that I should go nearer and find a path.

While I was walking, I heard someone talking really loudly. Thankfully, I have mastered the art of ignoring anyone that wasn’t talking directly to my face. Often, I see people over-react to voices on the streets and I don’t think that is very street savvy.

As I was walking to IKEA, I saw a short slim man in a blue polo shirt walking about 5 steps away from me. I thought he was heading to the same direction as I was.

I slowed down to let him walk ahead. Then, I realized that he kept looking back, as if to see where I was going.

By then, I decided that IKEA was too far and I wanted to head back. So I turned around.

Then I saw that the man turned around too. I walked faster, hoping to reach the metro station ahead of him.

While I was walking, some other person walked to me and asked me where I wanted to go.

At times like these, “nowhere” is not a good answer even if it is honest. I said “nowhere” and mimed taking photos.

The direction-giver pointed to the metro entrance and said “Metro. Metro.” I thanked him for his kindness.

I did not check if the blue-shirt follower was still with me but I suspect that seeing me talk to the direction-giver probably scared him off.

Thank you, good man.

The creepy note and persistent delivery man in Dubai

Creepy note
Creepy note

I didn’t mention receiving a note under my door on my first night on in my blog posts because it felt too scary to write about it at that time.

My plane arrived in Dubai quite late at about 10:30pm so I checked into my AirBnb close to midnight. The area from the metro station to the house didn’t seem like the best place since there were many men loitering.

My studio apartment entrance was in a dark lane. I had to take a lift to the house as it was above some shops.

After checking me in, my AirBnb host (a guy) left my studio apartment at past midnight. I took a shower and when I got out, I saw the note under the door.

I thought it might be from the laundry person who came by to drop off my sheets and pillow cases. However, he did not leave a company name so it was unlikely.

I  sent the AirBnb host an e-mail to ask if he knows the person. The host didn’t know and said he would take care of it.

I didn’t know how he took care of it but the incident left a mark on me.

Some nights after… There was a knock on my door. I thought it might be the host but I still asked, “Who is it?”

A man whose voice I didn’t recognized said he was delivering groceries. I tensed up and went behind the door.

After the note incident, I had tied up my door knob to something sturdy with laundry string. No amount of pushing will open the door.

I stood behind the door as my heart raced. I shouted back at the “delivery man” that I DID NOT ORDER ANYTHING.

The man was persistent. He asked if my friend had ordered any. I thought it would be bad to tell him that I was alone so I said that my friend was not in.

The delivery person was silent. I was still behind the door. Then he banged the door again, saying that he was delivering cigarettes.

I was angry. I spat out, “I DO NOT SMOKE! NO ONE ORDERED ANYTHING.”

I could still hear the person behind the door. He made a call on speakerphone but no one picked up. I wondered if he was pretending to check if the phone who called for the delivery would ring in my room.

It wasn’t after a long while when he finally left. I was still in shock and e-mailed the host.

The host didn’t get back until days later since he was out of the country. He said that it was his friend who made the delivery call and said the wrong floor.

I felt really really pissed off that the person did not even bothered to give the right door number and caused me such anxiety. Still, there was nothing I could do.

I would still travel solo

Not everybody is pleased that I travel alone.

Someone once threatened me that “A girl travelling alone is not alone. She is with the Goddess of Death.” [I am sure that line was totally made up.]

Another person made a face and said, “What sort of parents let their daughter travel alone?”

Funnily, it is men who say such things to my face.

No woman has ever told me that we womanfolk should stay at home and knit. Usually, women tell me that they do not dare travel alone but they do not make threats. I give some encouragement in the form of, “Just try it.”

Despite everything, I would not give up travelling solo. It gives me peace and less anxiety when I am able to follow my own itinerary that is made up as every minute passes.

What was the scariest situation when you were travelling alone?

More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

10 Comments

    1. Great post! My scariest situations travelling alone involve dogs, not people. Walking across a public park in Saigon to the water puppet theatre, this stray dog came towards me. It was very scary as I cannot tell if a dog means me harm or not. I had to take a detour, thank goodness it didn’t follow me. Same happened in Vientiane, only this time the dog was running and barking and huge. I had cold sweat. Yet, I would not give up solo travel because of these scary situations.

      1. Dogs can be as scary as humans, especially if they are rabid. Ick.

    1. Morocco, a 5 min walk turned into a 1.5 min run when I stepped out of an internet café to head to my hotel alone. I only went alone as it was a bit of an emergency.

      As soon as I stepped outside it was cat calls all over, I had already hid my hair in a bundle under my t-shirt, but hah, silly me, as if that would help. The only guys that behaved and told others to leave me alone were the guys in the restaurant I ate at everyday.

      The last few seconds I came across a drunk man (yes they can drink now, or could back then, 2004 or so), and he was talking in French, mumbling something I partly understood ”I will …… you” (glad not to have understood it all). He was too drunk and too slow, I came right at him and then dodged him really fast, he looked a bit confused.

      I got to the hotel safe, but the experience was shocking. Men behaving so badly, like animals in heat. I was really disappointed in a people that until then had thought were pretty amicable and respectful, but I guess that’s only if you have your own man, if you don’t, you are a piece of meat to be plucked. I am sure not all men there are like that, but as I say, most of the men, except the ones I mentioned were pretty nasty.

      1. I’m so sorry to hear that you have to go through that. Thank goodness you escaped from the drunk.
        I do wish that one day we can all travel safely without having to face such sexism.

        1. Thanks :-) Yes, I hope so too. But it pains me even more when of all societies, they consider themselves so superior to women, yet feel it is acceptable and the norm to behave this way.

    1. There were 2 different incidents that I think scariest. #1 – even though I was traveling with my sister. We reached Rome past midnight, lost, not able to find the hostel we booked, and nobody willing to assist when we asked for direction. We did met 2 Good Samaritan and found out way. I guess it was less scary as I have someone with me then.
      #2 – someone approached me for money in Chiangmai. I said no but he started to walked behind me. He slowed when I slowed down and sped up when I did. I walked to a temple and he walked on. This was at broad daylight, so it could’ve been worse :)

      P/s: lest you think I’m ‘stalking’you on cyberspace, I am but I found your blog when I was blog hopping and have been a silent reader for awhile. Kudos on your daily posts and round the world trip :)

      1. Thanks for supporting this blog. :D
        Not being able to find my hostel or being lost is one of my greatest fear when travelling. In your case, thank you good Samaritans! For the second situation, being stalked is very scary because you don’t know what the other person will do. Thank goodness the person gave up when you went to the temple.

    1. I always had safe experienced travelling alone. But I had a really terrible situation when I was coming back from a party one night from a neighbourhood I was unfamiliar with in Montreal. A fat ethnic man thought I was a prostitute while i was waiting at the bus stop and he kept coming up to me and shouting if we want to do something. I got so scared coz i had no place to run really and I freaked out. Luckily a police car drove up n the man just slinked away.

      1. He sounds like the guy I met on a bus in San Francisco. “You’re pretty.”
        Ick. I had to go sit in front with the driver and an aunty.

    1. This is bit late but I truly admire how brave you are to travel solo after such incident and really glad that you made it safe and sound! I either travel to a “safer” country or be really careful (never talk to strangers etc) which defile the purpose of travelling.

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