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Flying Solo: Tips for Single Female Travellers, The Red Light District, Amsterdam
Are you a solo, independent female travelling to Amsterdam and thinking of exploring De Wallen, the red light district on your own? The area is in a historical part of the city, and is quite the unique travel experience. Read on for some tips for solo travellers to De Wallen, Amsterdam.
“If you want anything, don’t go in there, it’s filled with tourists. I know a place… if you want something good” said the dreadlocked Rastafarian, smiling companionably while gesturing at the hand painted façade of the Bulldog Café (photo #2). Something good, of course, refers to marijuana, a legal substance in that most laid-back and liberal of European cities – Amsterdam. This exchange occurred in De Wallen, the red light district, in the old part of the city, and it boasts a sex museum, a hemp museum, a few brown cafes, and when the red lights go on, the ubiquitous ladies in their windows.
There are groups of tourists, huddled together for safety, herded around the neighbourhood by flag bearing guides. There are the packs of roving men out on fun-fuelled stag nights. The red-light district does not feel dangerous – sleazy, yes – dangerous, no. However it is always advisable to apply common sense when travelling in a foreign country, and watch out for pickpockets or petty criminals seeking their next opportunity.
If you are a woman travelling alone, you might be tempted to skip De Wallen, but it really is a unique experience, and part of the Amsterdam encounter. Plus, you have to verify for yourself if all the stories are true (they are).
Five tips for venturing into De Wallen for solo female travellers:
1. Don’t take pictures of the ladies, unless you have explicitly asked for permission. A small fee is usually agreed on, as a matter of professional courtesy. The girls’ bouncers can and will take your camera from you and toss it into the canal.
2. Watch your wallet. It’s easy to get distracted here, but keep in mind that tourists absentmindedly posing for photographs and pointing at sights can be a target for thieves and beggars.
3. Seek safety in numbers. If you are followed or harassed continually, walk away and join a group of tourists, mingling with your impromptu protection posse until your follower or harasser leaves. The police do patrol this area regularly.
4. Join a walking tour. If truly hesitant to explore this area of Amsterdam alone, sign up for a two and a half hour walking tour at the Tourist Office or the Prostitution Information Centre, run by former industry workers.
5. Visit during the day. The area starts to wake up a few hours before sunset, when the ladies start setting up their windows. The red lights are switched on before it gets dark, and in the day the crowds afford some measure of reassurance.
2011 Moira G Gallaga©