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I took my first solo trip when I was 19 years old. Since, I’ve traveled solo in Europe, South and Central America, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East. I’ve even traveled solo and met people through social media. I’ve learned a few techniques about safe travel.
For the most part, it’s individuals, not places that make an experience unsafe. Crime sees no borders. However, these tips might better position in an effort to prevent wrong doings.
1. Keep the address of your accommodation:
In both English and the native language of the region. Write the address of your accommodation in both your phone’s notes and in a little notebook (in case you lose your phone or it dies). Make sure that everyone in your group does this (in case you split up).
2. Get travel insurance and register with S.T.E.P.
I know heaps of people (usually British for some reason) who get injured overseas and have to head home or pay medical costs up front. If you are American, register with S.T.E.P. (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) if your insurance doesn’t already cover you overseas. Try World Nomads.
3. If you’re walking alone at night:
Walk slightly behind a couple or a group. It sounds a little creepy, but you don’t want to stand out as walking alone, especially if you are a girl. Obviously, don’t follow them home, but stay on the same side of the street as them.
4. Avoid dark and non-tourist areas at night.
If you do feel uncomfortable, switch train cars or walk into very busy areas or businesses.
Stop to ask security or go into a public place for help. You can walk into a hotel that’s not yours to ask for help. Whatever you do, don’t walk to where you’re staying.
6. Keep money in more than one location.
This way if you have the misfortune of getting robbed, at least you won’t be depleted of all your resources.
7. Get a sturdy bag. Wear your backpack facing front.
Avoid bags with thin straps that can be broken, a clutch that can be grabbed, and putting your wallet in a front or back pocket. My friend literally caught a woman’s hand in his pocket in a metro in Barcelona. Another friend had the back pocket of his backpack unzipped in Italy. If you look like a tourist (which you do), you’re a target for professionals!
8. Don’t bring attention to yourself as being a tourist.
Especially, if alone or in a small group. Avoid yelling and bringing negative attention to yourself.
9. If you’re taking public transport to a night club or to meet up with friends for a social outing:
You might be somewhere where the culture dresses more conservatively. Observe your surroundings to assess what you can get away with wearing without bringing too much attention to yourself. You are free to wear what you want, but if you aren’t culturally sensitive, it may encourage unsolicited attention.
10. Don’t get too drunk.
It seems obvious: you are in a foreign country, and you’re a target for all types of crimes just by being a tourist. Being drunk multiplies that risk by like a 1,000 (not an actual statistic) and is breaking every rule of safe travel.
11. Lock Up!
Lock your windows and doors, hide valuables, and lock up your belongings.
12. Ask questions regarding public transport.
Maybe the train or bus will take you to Point B, but once at Point B, there won’t be any cabs for the rest of your night’s journey. Maybe something is available throughout the entire night, but only in increments of every couple hours. Make sure you always have a safe way home before going out to adventure. I know you want to be spontaneous, but transit in the middle of the night (and even throughout the day) changes.
13. If you anticipate feeling really unsafe, pay the $20 – $40 to get an international sim card.
You can pop this into your iPhone and have internet everywhere. Google Maps will generally show you where a cab is taking you and Google Translate can help you ask locals questions.
14. Don’t wear jewelry.
Unless you’re staying in a luxury hotel and have private cars driving you and picking you up, leave your jewelry locked up at your accommodation of choice.
16. If you’re traveling alone or in a small group, try to meet people during the day to hang out with at night.
Not that new friends couldn’t be creepers too, but odds are your judgment is better in daylight and sober.
17. Book up on boozin’.
The alcohol content in some foreign beers are almost twice as much as American beers. A single vodka soda in Sydney is actually legally calculated, so a vodka soda in Europe could be three to four times stronger.
18. Don’t leave your drink unattended.
Anywhere. Smart abroad as well as at home.
19. Keep your friends and family posted on where you are.
Mostly, just to keep them sane.
20. You can join a tour group or meet up with friends of friends.
To still get that independence (not committing 24/7 to a travel buddy), but having someone around when you want them.
21. Trust your gut.
Seriously, it’s probably right.
I’m a relatively small female, so I get that traveling alone for me might be different than for a 6’5″ basketball player. However, safe travel is important for everyone regardless of gender and size. As cliché as it is, it is better to be safe than sorry.