Travel Guide

Hints for Women Trekkers

Tibet trekking, trek in Tibet, hike, tibet trekking tours

Tibet is one of the safest destinations in Asia for female travelers. Sexual harassment is almost nonexistent, and the towns and cities are generally very safe---but it is always advisable to be accompanied if you walk after dark. Westerners are typically well accepted by Tibetans, and the culture has few taboos that might inadvertently be broken. However, there are some do’s and don’ts to consider.

Your clothes are one of the first things people will notice. Modesty should be prerequisite. Do not wear shorts or other revealing clothes; calf-length skirts or dresses, or long, loose trousers are best. Tibetan women usually wear an ankle-length dress, called a chupa, with a blouse and often some type of jacket.

A long skirt or dress can be convenient for a little privacy when urinating. Tibet has few toilets (most of them you would not want to use), and there seems to be a chronic shortage of handy rocks or bushes to duck behind. One solution is to squat behind an open umbrella! Tibetan women simply hike up their dresses with little concern for who may be nearby. If you’re wearing a long dress you can do the same, though wearing underwear makes it a bit more difficult. Trying to find somewhere private to change your clothes or having a proper wash can also be difficult once you’re away from the luxury of hotels. On a commercial trek you can bathe with a wash basin in the privacy of your tent. But having a complete wash near a stream is usually not appropriate. Tibetan women in rural areas usually don’t wash their bodies except during a yearly bathing festival, so there really isn’t a local example to follow. Try sponge bathing; it’s easier to be modest when you’re washing small areas of your body at a time. Packaged moist towelettes are useful for quick clean-ups. Bring plenty of facial lotion, moisturizer, and hand cream---the combination of cold water and dry winds can cause chapping and cracked skin.

In central Tibet women can enter most Buddhist temples, but occasionally a protector’s chapel (gonkhang) will be off limits. Kham and Amdo are most strict; women can rarely enter a gonkhang, and some monasteries won’t even allow women into the courtd from yard. Women having their period may be prevented from entering monasteries, and i know one woman who was asked to leave a home when the family learned she was menstruating. Sanitary napkins are now available in Tibet’s larger cities, but tampons are not; bring enough and then some. To dispose of feminine hygiene products while trekking, wrap in toilet paper, place in a plastic bag, and carry out for disposal when you reach a large city. Animals (and people) tend to dig up anything that’s buried, and burning is near impossible. Also note that it is not unusual for women to skip their period while on a trek.