Don’t Be Intimidated By International Airports

July 31, 2017

Travelling alone is not complicated for single females

Some people are intimidated by large international airports. However, I find them to be fascinating as they resemble a mini city, multicultural platter of intrigue with all the hustle and bustle. They also provide excellent services for travellers and make it easy for women who travel alone.

For a single female (and in my case now classified as a single ‘senior’ female) I travel regularly on my own and it is not an issue. I feel comfortable, albeit unsure at times when I land at a new airport, however my motto is “seek and you shall find”.

On my recent trip to the UK I landed at two of the largest airports in the world, Dubai and Heathrow. Although I have visited them numerous times these are two examples to demonstrate how accommodating they are with excellent information provided for travellers.

Dubai international airport

Third busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic and the busiest airport for Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 movements and with only two runways. It is huge, energetic and organised. You will arrive in one terminal and highly likely will need to locate to a different departure terminal that could take you at least 20 minutes or so to change terminals, but airports are there to help.

When you land in Dubai from Australia you will walk quite a distance that includes a number of escalators. Also, be prepared to allocate time to stand and stare at the huge LED display screens in search of your next departure point and you need to be patient.

When the English version of departure information and airline icons flash up, they also disappear in an instant. It could take a good five minutes to find what you are looking for. One icon is quickly replaced by another and as soon as you identify your destination name, the next thing it is superseded by another icon before you even get to see your terminal and gate number!

Eventually you find what you are looking for and begin the trek to your next departure area. It is common at many airports, such as Dubai, to connect via an internal train line. No need to leave the building as everything is inside the terminal. Directional signage is there for the uninitiated international traveller.

It is not complicated but will be unfamiliar. Use your common sense and logically follow the signs in line with the instructions on your itinerary, which can have almost hidden clues in small print such as a terminal number!

If ever in doubt simply find an Information desk by looking for the “i” symbol. If you feel comfortable you could ask someone close by for help but be prepared for rejection as English may not be their first language and some cultures react differently to strangers.

At Dubai, I allow approximately four hours between connecting flights in order to have a break, stretch the legs and walk around. Particularly after 14 hours long haul from Australia knowing you have at least another 6 – 8 hour flight to follow. Needless to say, I always seek out the numerous interesting shops at Dubai as they cater for my needs.

If you want to ‘chill out’ from the crowd, Dubai also offers a number of secluded lounge areas tucked away in the massive building. I recommend online research before you depart and you can pre-book. On previous flights with Emirates I have utilised one of these lounges available for economy class travellers and found it to be a nice escape. Be prepared to pay for the extra comfort but it can be worth it, if only to stretch out on the long bed lounges.

By the time I jump back onto the plane I feel reasonably refreshed than I would normally if I had
chosen an immediate connection. It is a matter of personal preference.

Heathrow international airport

The busiest airport in the UK, ranks number one for the highest annual amount of international passengers, but I find it the easiest to get around. The wonderful thing, if it’s your final destination it offers public transport connection options located internally at the airport.

In Australia, I find Sydney airport is the only Australian airport that offers a similar service on a smaller scale with its train system.

On a previous trip to London I caught a London cab to my hotel and there was a large taxi rank located nearby. However, for this trip I pre-booked a two hour bus trip to my destination, Bristol. National Express offer an expedient well organised online service and mine was all booked and paid for before I left Australia.

When you book online you wonder if it will all work at the other end and guess what it does. On arrival at Heathrow after baggage collection I thought, ‘where to from here?’. I suggest to keep your head up and look for signs as they are all around. All options are all there with yellow arrows pointing in a number of directions. To begin with I wasn’t sure if I was looking for a National Express sign or a generic sign that pointed to a bus station. I could see the Underground train sign, self- explanatory.

On quick inspection of my hard copy bus ticket, noted in small print was explicit information to go to the Central Bus Station. Ah ha it matched the airport signage and I continued my pursuit. I suggest two priorities when you travel, comfortable walking shoes and a four-wheeled suitcase. My underground two lane tunnelled pathway had another yellow sign, “keep to the left”. I felt like a long distance athlete as the walking track weaved and curved itself down and around internal construction works for at least 10 minutes.

I followed the masses until I hit what seemed to be a dead-end near the Underground entrance. On closer inspection, along with a few other seemingly lost passengers we noticed another above head height yellow sign that directed us to the lift to the Central Bus Station. On exit from the lift only a short distance from me was the main entrance to the bus station located just outside the building. More flashing LCD screens confirmed I had reached the correct bus departure point and it was only a matter of time for my bus to arrive.

Travelling alone is not complicated for single women and you can see I practice what I preach with
success. This includes other large airports around the world. Don’t be intimidated, no excuses girls.

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