While the woman traveller needs to think through all of the travel health issues that also apply to the male traveller, there are some specific issues that 'women only' need to explore.
Safety and Security
While sexual equality has meant that women in the UK have the same rights as the male in the West and are treated with eh same respect, sadly this is not the same in all the countries of the world. When travelling to Eastern cultures, carry out some research before you go as you may find sex discrimination is rife. If this is something that will make you feel uncomfortable and leave you feeling vulnerable, it may be best to postpone your trip a while or even look into going elsewhere that hold similar views as those in the West.
In some cultures, women are expected to dress and behave in a particular way. Some countries do not allow women to be seen touching or kissing a man in public, whereas others do not agree with women showing “too much” flesh. Alcohol is also strictly prohibited in some countries, and is particularly frowned upon if a woman consumes alcohol. Some countries can also enforce the law for some of the above offences, so do some homework on your destination and make sure you are fully aware of what is expected of you.
For the woman travelling alone, try to avoid eye contact with strangers, particularly on public transport. A pair of dark sunglasses may be useful. Never behave in a way that will attract unwanted attention from the opposite sex; wear appropriate clothing, do not over indulge in alcohol and do not accept drinks from strangers. Always keep your drink with you at all times, and if possible, opt for a drink in a bottle so you can keep your finger over the top to avoid the risk of having your drink spiked. This applies whether the drink is alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Do not take any illegal drugs, and be careful not to mix medication with alcohol as this could make you woozy.
When travelling alone, always leave a schedule with someone at home and check in at arranged times. It is also advisable to leave any expensive items of clothing or jewellery, or designer bags and shoes, at home as these may draw attention to yourself.
Personal Health Issues
Remember that travelling can disrupt a normal menstrual cycle. The stress of preparation, tiredness, and upheaval can all result in your periods being late or non-existent. If there is a chance you could be pregnant, take a test straight away. If you are not pregnant, it is probably a side effect of travel and you should try not to worry, particularly as anxiety can delay your periods further.
However, many women prefer to suppress their periods while they are away as it can be a nuisance. You can do this by either continuing with your contraceptive pill without taking a break, or by obtaining tablets from your GP. These are normally Norethisterone, which will need to be taken 3 times per day.
If this is something you do not feel comfortable with, we would advise you to take your normal supplies with you, so you do not get caught short while on holiday or have to use a brand you are not familiar with.
Urine infections and thrush are common among women travelling, especially when taking certain kinds medication, particularly anti biotics. It is worth taking a tube of Canesten with you, or the new Canesten Duo, as these are helpful to soothe the irritation of thrush when it appears. If you develop a urine infection while away, try to drink plenty of fluids such as water or cranberry juice, and avoid alcohol!
It only take one time unprotected to contract an STI. Don’t take the risk! Make sure you have a supply of condoms with you, whether or not you intend to use them. They should be bought at home, before travelling, as in many countries local condoms can be destroyed by heat and are often of a poorer quality. Go for the Extra Safe variety just in case. The Pill can protect against pregnancy, but will offer no protection against STI’s whatsoever. Remember that traveller's diarrhoea can interrupt the absorption of the pill, thus leaving you with an inadequate level of protection.
If once you return home you have any unusual rash, discharge or soreness, you should stop having sex immediately and see your Doctor or local Genital Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic, where they can conduct a series of tests for you and offer advice, free contraception and treatment. All this is confidential.