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8 Updated Tips-Solo Travelers in the Middle East
Having traveled to four Middle East and North African nations (“MENA nations”), I was intrigued by the opportunity to add Qatar to the list. It was a short visit while connecting to Sri Lanka. I spent two days relaxing en route after the long flight from Washington, DC. How did I find myself there? I had just discovered Qatar Air’s well-priced options to 150 destinations. Their service and hospitality even in economy felt more like Business Class. (The latter actually had couples or family-style “suites”.) Their prices were very good at that time.
In Qatar, I found more great service and a glittering skyline of sleek high rise buildings. I stayed in the five star Shangri-La at a price of about $154/night. I found multiple well-priced lodging via our Booking.com search engine as well as using our free search tool, the Solo Travel Pricing Tracker.
Here are 8 tips to smooth your way if you are new to Mideast travel.
8 Updated Tips-Solo Travelers in the Middle East: Touring Alone:
Tip One: Select a guide recommended by your lodging or other reliable contacts. Meet at your hotel to avoid mistaken identity. Once I found myself riding into the desert to watch the sunset at the pyramids only to discover I had ridden off by mistake with the wrong person!
Start with Lodging Security for Traveling Solo in the Middle East:
Tip Two: As a woman solo traveler, I always stay in a hotel with good security and an in-house restaurant for dinner. While I have taken a taxi (using a company recommended) to international restaurants, strolling around after dark as a woman alone at a minimum can be awkward since local restaurants tend to be families, men or women eating with other friends. (I once stayed in a hotel that had previously been bombed during a wedding celebration. Although that was disturbing, enhanced security was everywhere making it likely more secure than other alternatives. Just being admitted to the lobby even with a guest key meant going through a metal detector like those in airports.)
8 Updated Tips-Solo Travelers in the Middle East: Dressing Appropriately:
Tip Three: Remember that modest clothing can include not just high necks but long sleeves and pants. Avoid tight, form-fitting clothes that cling and are also less comfortable for sightseeing.
Tip Four: Be aware that besides the intense heat, that dust and sandstorms can make for poor visibly at times. Use sunglasses and take bottles of dry eyes drops.
8 Updated Tips-Solo Travelers in the Middle East: Travel During Ramadan:
Tip Five: While traveling during the month of fasting known as Ramadan, visitors not observing the fast should not eat, drink or smoke in public. My 5-star hotel in Qatar had a notice that local law prohibited such actions. Visitors can do so in private which includes in their hotel or other lodging. I found that most of the coffee shops and restaurants in the mall were closed until after sundown. However, a large grocery store was doing lots of business apparently for shoppers making purchases for the evening’s iftar dinners breaking the fast. For those of us travelers staying in local hotels, that would be an economical way to create a picnic in your room. Room service, of course, would be an option, albeit one a pricier one.
In addition, during Ramadan, my hotel cautioned against women wearing short-sleeved shirts and men or women wearing shorts. (Note: During even the hottest months in the Mideast, men do not walk around cities in shorts.)
8 Updated Tips-Solo Travelers in the Middle East: Avoiding Problems:
Tip Six: Many travelers for business or leisure are unaware that 300+ drugs are prohibited to be imported by visitors. They include over-the-counter drugs like Robitussin and prescriptions legal at home. There are very specific processes in each country to get permission before you arrive. Be aware that Dubai previously included within the definition of possession certain drugs taken abroad but still detectable via testing. Violations can result in imprisonment.
Tip Seven: Carry your passport with you at all times in an out-of-sight money belt. I discovered this while touring solo with a driver by the Dead Sea. I was pulled over at a military checkpoint on the Jordanian side. I was briefly questioned and then fairly quickly sent on my way. It was somewhat unnerving. However, I had read ahead that passports might be needed there. (Sensitive border crossings are not a keen spot to practice your foreign language skills as you may create more notice than you were hoping for.)
Tip Eight: For women solo travelers in the Amman, Jordan airport, you will be directed to a private screening for women. Unfortunately, your luggage will languish alone going through security. If this happens, take your passport and wallet in your hands. I held mine out for the woman security officer to check. There was no problem. If you have valuables left behind, plan ahead to stuff them into a really scruffy tote bag. Better yet: Wrap them inside that tote tucked in with unwashed gym socks. This will stop all but the most ardent thieves!
Use our eight tips and add this complex and fascinating crossroads to your bucket list now!
Read more on personal safety as a single traveler: