01 Mar How to stay safe when travelling solo
When I announce that I’m travelling to a new country, the first thing my Mum usually says is “be careful” or “are you sure it’s safe?” She’ll then proceed to reference a piece of news she saw on the TV, usually a riot, a murder, a bomb or some sort of other morbid tale.
While it’s important to stay informed on current affairs, the danger of watching too much news is that the world can start to seem like a scary place. When really, you’re probably just as likely to have something happen to you in your home city as you are abroad. There are lots of places, for example Rio de Janeiro, where I heard horror stories, but actually I made friends, enjoyed myself and never felt unsafe during my trip.
Of course, there are still precautions you should always take when travelling solo, which I’ve listed here:
Read risk reports
I always check the UK government website for travel alerts and advisories so that I’m aware of what places are safe to travel to. You can also read websites like the UK FCO and the US Department, which provide useful information for free, but sometimes the information can be a bit overwhelming.
Intelligent Protection International Limited have their own intelligence cell and give access to free risk reports and travel advice for all countries in the world. Country briefs are regularly updated as soon as an event occurs (natural disasters, terrorist attacks, epidemy), to reflect the present local situation.
All reports contain current threat level, security information, the political situation in the country, considerations to keep in mind to respect rules of conduct, as well as elements that need to be arranged before going away (visa, vaccination…). Conveniently, all of them feature an interactive map, pointing out the locations of local hospitals, police stations, embassies and emergency contact details, as well as a live security and terror-related news feed from trusted news channels.
Tell friends and family where you’re going
I usually try to tell someone my travel plans, jotting down any flight numbers, dates, and addresses of where I’ll be staying. If I’m going to visit some friends, then I’ll write down their full names and telephone numbers too. If anything happens to me while I’m abroad, then at least my family or friends have someone to contact.
Don’t walk around with expensive items on show
It’s common sense really, but if you’re travelling in certain areas where you know that pickpocketing is a problem, it’s best to keep your DSLR camera and iPhone hidden away in your bag. Or if you can, leave it at the hotel in a security safe. I always take a cross body bag with me, so it’s securely across my body at all times.
Trust your instincts
I love to meet locals while travelling and to make friends wherever possible. At the same time, it’s important to trust your instincts. So if something doesn’t feel right, then trust your gut and walk away. Sometimes you don’t want to be rude but if someone is acting a little strangely or you don’t trust them, don’t feel obliged to spend time with them.
In the age of the Internet there are so many ways to stay connected. WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook messenger. Keep in touch with your friends and tell them of your plans, this way it’s easier for them to keep track of where you are. Of course, while it’s fun to post pictures to Instagram and Twitter in real time, some travellers prefer to post with a bit of a time delay, so that potential predators aren’t able to follow your footsteps.
Most of all though, remember that travel should be a fun experience. I LOVE travelling solo and it gives me a buzz just visiting a new place without having to think of anyone but myself!