3 Tips to Traveling Safer When In New Orleans
By Stephenie Rodriguez
Recently I attended a conference in New Orleans called Collision Conference, a haven for startups, tech companies and investors. The conference boasted 20,000 attendees and was smack dab in the middle of Jazz Festival just shouldering the weekend.
As a female traveler, I observed a few key takeaways from other conference attendees (female founders and Women In Tech) that I felt worth a share and advice on how to travel better and safer.
Women are typically more vulnerable when they travel and New Orleans, whilst a college town and frequented by jazz fans all year around, did not make everyone feel welcome, especially in parts where gentrification was underway and there were still destitute urban citizens living in newer areas.
When travelling in New Orleans as a female or solo traveller I recommend the following:
1. Use a car service, like Uber or Lyft
Using these services will give you some door to door assurances as they track where you are and where you went. It will also ensure that you do not walk one side street into someplace that you should not have. In the downtown area of New Orleans, it is a simple as taking the wrong street and feeling like you are on the wrong side of the tracks from where you should be alone or at night. UberX services are affordable and the application enables you to identify yourself with messages or calls to the driver in case you are in an area like Bourbon Street that is not accessible by car and need to coordinate a pick-up with the driver.
2. Pick a travel buddy, and stick together
One evening I walked into The Lucky Pirate at 11pm and witnessed a woman in a terrible state. She was being held upright but someone (security, friend, stranger — who knows) and she was clearly not in her faculties. It was pouring rain and I was meeting colleagues, but asked what had happened and did someone need to do something. She had plenty of attention on her and I was informed that an ambulance was being sent for her. The bar staff looked very distressed and the bar was nearly 90% occupied by men. I cannot say what happened before I arrived, but I can say that she would have been better with a social wing woman to ensure that either her drink did not get spiked or that she called it a night when she had enough. Women travelling in foreign cities are a prime target for human trafficking and incredibly vulnerable. Whilst most of the strangers you’ll encounter on business travel are good people, it’s important to have a backup plan, have each other’s back and travel as a team.
3. Before booking, ask a woman’s advice about where you are staying
Women travel differently than men. Women are likely to feel unsafe in areas where there might be areas poorly lit, less traffic, and also given unwanted attention (cat calls, propositions, etc). Whilst AirBnbs tend to be one of the biggest unknowns for intangible measurements like neighbourhoods and safety perceived by a woman, be mindful that what you read about on hotel booking engine websites has no transparency about who wrote the review, who they were with, or what they experienced.
A woman travelling with a man in a seedy area is less frightened than a woman travelling alone in the same space. A single man in a seedy area might find a seedy area interesting, entertaining or even thrilling. In New Orleans, some of the female fellow conference attendees felt so displaced after a male told them they were on a great street and they felt unsafe that they checked out of their AirBnb and went to a hotel because frankly, they were terrified to walk beyond the threshold of their terrace.
AirBnb’s reviews are as current as the last guest who stayed there and reviewed it, but can’t tell you what happened on that city block last night or since that review. It’s important to get as much information as you can before you travel, especially if you are a solo explorer and having transparency about the person and situation for which the review was written will frame a location in context. A girl getaway in a big house with a review about how great it was would be relevant to the fact that there were so many people there it was ‘safety in numbers’ but could be not necessarily safe for a small group or solo trip.
If you want to get a real-time review about a location, hotel or experience in New Orleans or any other city, be sure and check websites like http://www.jozuforwomen.com which are travel communities specific to helping women travel better and safer and can provide transparent reviews about travel to help you make a more informed decision about where to stay. Ask a member or the general community about your future destination so that you can get recommendations from a traveller similar to you and stay safe.