Women Traveling Solo

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#1
627 Posts
Joined Aug 2012
I want to ask the women traveling solo if they ever have trouble going through customs .... anywhere, in any direction.

My cruise to Cuba was great until I was at the customs desk in Miami getting off the ship and the guy questioned me for several minutes about me being alone. No husband? Me: No. No BFF? Me: No. A Sister, Brother, anyone with you? Me: Nnnnooooo ????

Two years ago I was with a tour group for a London/Paris tour. I did my own flight arriving before and leaving after the tour group. I used my miles for my flight and my flight landed in and left out of Heathrow. So in Paris, after EVERYONE got on the bus to go the airport in Paris, I got in a taxi with my luggage and got on the train to London. Arriving at the station I had to go through customs to go BACK INTO London. They had me there for about 15 minutes. The woman asked me 6 ways to Sunday why I was traveling alone. I told her about the tour group, I pulled out ALL my papers, I explained my flight was the next day out of Heathrow. I showed her when I arrived and when I was sched. to leave .... I opened both my cases and she went through EVERYTHING and finally let me through. OMG ... I am a short, round woman in my mid-50s ... am I REALLY the drug mule type they are looking for? Sheesh.
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#3
North West NJ
4,825 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Although I certainly understand your frustration....I truly believe they are only doing their job. There are many terrorists in all shapes, sizes and ages. Even CHILDREN....and many of them act alone. Please don't take it personally. The world has changed and we need to adapt. Very sad.
#4
20,529 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
I have traveled overseas (and back) as a solo woman to many places, both on business and for pleasure -- including most of the European capitals, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, etc.

Never had that happen. I think you were just unlucky...
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#5
Boston area
19,156 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
Originally posted by CruiseGal999
I want to ask the women traveling solo if they ever have trouble going through customs .... anywhere, in any direction.

My cruise to Cuba was great until I was at the customs desk in Miami getting off the ship and the guy questioned me for several minutes about me being alone. No husband? Me: No. No BFF? Me: No. A Sister, Brother, anyone with you? Me: Nnnnooooo ????

Two years ago I was with a tour group for a London/Paris tour. I did my own flight arriving before and leaving after the tour group. I used my miles for my flight and my flight landed in and left out of Heathrow. So in Paris, after EVERYONE got on the bus to go the airport in Paris, I got in a taxi with my luggage and got on the train to London. Arriving at the station I had to go through customs to go BACK INTO London. They had me there for about 15 minutes. The woman asked me 6 ways to Sunday why I was traveling alone. I told her about the tour group, I pulled out ALL my papers, I explained my flight was the next day out of Heathrow. I showed her when I arrived and when I was sched. to leave .... I opened both my cases and she went through EVERYTHING and finally let me through. OMG ... I am a short, round woman in my mid-50s ... am I REALLY the drug mule type they are looking for? Sheesh.
Sorry to hear about your experiences. I also travel solo and have been lucky enough to not have had your experiences in either the US or Europe. However, I have been asked if I am traveling alone and my answer is usually that I am either meeting friends to cruise or I was cruising with friends, both of which are true statements.

I really think you just went through two highly sensitive security points - a return from Cuba and the Chunnel train. When I took the Chunnel, I was actually with others cruisers whom I had just met at the Gare du Nord. Maybe that helped me escape the "solo scrutiny". At the time I thought they had a particularly intense security procedure.
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#6
Virginia
22,209 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
I have been traveling by myself since 1987 and have never had any problems (never even had my luggage opened). I believe part of the reason is because I look like a school teacher (which I was). I have even had a couple of customs people ask, "Are you a teacher?"

Since the Cuba-US relationship is so new and still evolving, I am not that surprised about your experience. The problem in London, however, is surprising to me.

You definitely have had your quota of customs issues!
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#7
Exactly where I want to be
7,044 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
I am sorry that you were targeted for special treatment. You did not mention anything here that would have tripped a "check her' treatment.

I've traveled solo for decades for both business and leisure. I have fortunately not been the recipient of any bad treatment (other than from our US TSA smurfs).
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#8
Ontario, CA (The one WITH the Palm Trees!)
22,814 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
My issues aren't with Customs but with security lines. Any special treatment I seem to attract. I've been swabbed more times than I can count, had my hand luggage searched at both the counter and at the gate, special pat downs. Gotta love travel.
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#9
20,529 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
I'm wondering now, having read the later posts, if the OP really meant 'customs' or was talking about passport control/immigration. Lots of people don't really distinguish between the two....

At passport control, they will often ask questions about your trip (how long? purpose?) just to get a handle on whether your statements agree with your travel record and if you seem unusually nervous ... or belligerent. I have some interesting stamps in my passport so I often get a few more questions from them -- however, I don't think it has anything to do with my being solo or a woman.
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#10
Connecticut
12,346 Posts
Joined Sep 2005
Originally posted by cruisemom42
I'm wondering now, having read the later posts, if the OP really meant 'customs' or was talking about passport control/immigration. Lots of people don't really distinguish between the two....

At passport control, they will often ask questions about your trip (how long? purpose?) just to get a handle on whether your statements agree with your travel record and if you seem unusually nervous ... or belligerent. I have some interesting stamps in my passport so I often get a few more questions from them -- however, I don't think it has anything to do with my being solo or a woman.
c

Good catch - of course that sort of questioning takes place at passport control/immigration, not customs -- which in many instances just involves walking through where it says "nothing to declare".

In 2004 I made a number of trips to London - seeing a very ill sister, then attending two weddings. On the later occasions I was questioned in exhaustive detail about my "unusual" number of visits to the UK. Again, on returning to the US on my last trip, I was called aside into a separate room to discuss my "unusual" travels - with two agents. Perhaps I was being profiled because of a possibly Irish-sounding surname ☘.
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#11
Cork
1,015 Posts
Joined Jul 2013
I fly solo often coming in to the US I nearly always get asked are you travelling alone. Etc. I think this a normal question asked by US passport control. Never had any trouble anywhere else. I have had my cases swabbed and checked many times , not every time, by security. But I don't think it was because I was travelling solo.


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#12
82,785 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
Originally posted by kerryincork
I fly solo often coming in to the US I nearly always get asked are you travelling alone. Etc. I think this a normal question asked by US passport control. Never had any trouble anywhere else. I have had my cases swabbed and checked many times , not every time, by security. But I don't think it was because I was travelling solo.

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#13
Canada
208 Posts
Joined Aug 2013
At customs/immigration I frequently get asked this question - it's never been a big issue. My most difficult experience occurred when I told the officer I wasn't staying in the locale, I was a taking a cruise the following day (this was in New York last October). I didn't have my cruise information with me - it was in my checked bag and the officer gave me a lecture about carrying my full itinerary with me at all times. Lesson learned.

As for the airport screening, I almost always get selected for extra checks. So much so that I actually expect it. Like OP I'm in my 50's, short and round. Perhaps as another comment suggests, we're selected so it appears the checks are truly random and not profiled.
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#14
Canada
18,884 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
One thing I have learned over the years, and it seems kind of silly, is do not smile. A big, over the top smile seems to put border agents and security people on alert, for some reason. Just remain neutral in your expression and demeanor.

One border agent said to me once, "What's so funny?" when I giggled about the line of questioning as she asked what we were bringing back into the country. It was mostly junk food and I happened to laugh. Yeah, no... do not do that.
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#15
627 Posts
Joined Aug 2012
Ok ... good ... so THAT was what I did wrong. In the train station I DID smile. I happen to have a big smile .... you can pretty much see all of my teeth. Not joking. My dentist asked if I would ever consider having veneers on my teeth. I said NO ... it would cost a fortune. Then I smiled and he agreed. Was sad, but agreed.

Ok .... I used 'customs' because I didn't know the difference and in the same way that people use Xerox and Jacuzzi. I'm sure you are correct about that. I was in NO WAY argumentative or belligerent. I offered to open both my cases. Both cases totaled ALL of my luggage for the trip. I only carry on, I never check bags.

FYI ... flying out of Salt Lake City on 5/28th for the 5/29th sailing to Cuba .... I put my shoes, my nook (didn't bring computer) and baggie of shampoo, etc. in the plastic case. It put everything through the xray conveyer. I walked into the surround Xray. The woman asked what was under my shirt. DAMN ... I forgot my 'pouch'. I wear a pouch with my money, credit cards, passport, etc. under my shirt. So I told her what it was and that I had forgot it. She said I had to take it off, which I did and she handed it to woman behind her. Then she said I had to be frisked. Really? Ok ... she asked if I wanted to go private .... I said no ... it's a few seconds and I wanted to be done with it. She frisked me and was satisfied that I was not a risk. I again didn't say anything before or during. Nothing ... kept my mouth shut. It done and over and I was at my gate in a few minutes.
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#16
Arizona
10,919 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Never had an issues recently with customs asking me any questions and I travel with a money belt and have never been asked to removed it or asked what it was going through the x-ray machines.

My luggage was searched on every one of my flights for about two years after 9/11. I chalked it up to the fact that I had been to Africa a number of times, Egypt, etc.
#17
845 Posts
Joined May 2016
Originally posted by CruiseGal999
...
Ok .... I used 'customs' because I didn't know the difference and in the same way that people use Xerox and Jacuzzi. I'm sure you are correct about that. I was in NO WAY argumentative or belligerent. I offered to open both my cases. Both cases totaled ALL of my luggage for the trip. I only carry on, I never check bags.

FYI ... flying out of Salt Lake City on 5/28th for the 5/29th sailing to Cuba .... I put my shoes, my nook (didn't bring computer) and baggie of shampoo, etc. in the plastic case. It put everything through the xray conveyer. I walked into the surround Xray. The woman asked what was under my shirt. DAMN ... I forgot my 'pouch'. I wear a pouch with my money, credit cards, passport, etc. under my shirt. So I told her what it was and that I had forgot it. She said I had to take it off, which I did and she handed it to woman behind her. Then she said I had to be frisked. Really? Ok ... she asked if I wanted to go private .... I said no ... it's a few seconds and I wanted to be done with it. She frisked me and was satisfied that I was not a risk. I again didn't say anything before or during. Nothing ... kept my mouth shut. It done and over and I was at my gate in a few minutes.
I get hassled going through Security because travel makes me anxious. Those people are trained to read body language. They can tell I am ANXIOUS. I've had more pat-downs, x-rays, and extended interviews than you would believe (unless you are my husband, who has gotten to witness some of them....) I don't talk back, I do my best to follow directions, but still.... at least 50% of the time I get the full treatment. Sometimes when I am solo, sometimes when I have DH with me.


I have only had one instance of hassle at Customs, returning to the country, solo. Canadian government forms are bilingual and my agent didn't want to read the English side -- which I had completed.....
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#18
New Brunswick, Canada
9,632 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
A lot of the time customs and immigration officers will ask seemingly pointless questions but they are more interested in how you answer them than your actual answer. They are trying to pick up on who seems nervous or who stumbles over simple unexpected questions. I have had officers near the line-up just start to get chatty with people standing in line about how their vacation went etc. It's all part of the process and they are just doing their jobs.
Be cooperative and civil and there is nothing to worry about----that is, of course, assuming you have nothing to hide.
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#19
Fredericksburg, va. USA
84,249 Posts
Joined May 2001
It's the "way of the world" nowadays...women's rights are going backwards, or so it seems....at least, everywhere but AMERICA!
#20
845 Posts
Joined May 2016
Originally posted by sapper1
A lot of the time customs and immigration officers will ask seemingly pointless questions but they are more interested in how you answer them than your actual answer. They are trying to pick up on who seems nervous or who stumbles over simple unexpected questions. I have had officers near the line-up just start to get chatty with people standing in line about how their vacation went etc. It's all part of the process and they are just doing their jobs.
Be cooperative and civil and there is nothing to worry about----that is, of course, assuming you have nothing to hide.
That'd be me ... nervous and verbal stumbling. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to going through any kind of official checkpoint when traveling. I know it. I'm noticed as anxious or overwrought or pale&sweating.... and it goes down hill from there.