Usually when I mention my journey to places off the beaten path, the first question is “Is it safe there?”
The answer is not only about the place but also about my conduct as a traveller as well.
Here are some of the things I do when solo travelling to stay safe. Some of these might apply to you and some might not but I’d be interested in finding out what concerns you when choosing a place to visit, do leave your comments below.
Research the Country/Place
A usual good point for me is Foreign Office Website or foreign affairs office websites in your countries like Canada or USA which provide the basics of relationship of my country with the visiting place including if I need a visa, what the security situation is like and most importantly if I need some travel vaccines.
Note: You have to take some of the information with a pinch of salt because these guides are written conservatively to cover most of the population including vulnerable population. I’d say skip the red marked areas and be cautious in yellow marked areas on country maps on Foreign Office Website.
Solo Travelling Blogs
Read a few solo travelling blogs, a lot of them provide on the ground information that you won’t be able to get on travel websites that try to produce generic content for a wider audience. A lot of bloggers focus on things which are dear to them like I always write about the racism and LGBT Safety factors when I travel to a place. It also gives you great ideas about things-to-do that aren’t mainstream only.
This is a lot more relevant if you are a female solo traveller, there’s plenty of solo female travellers and you can always reach out or read about their experiences.
Familiarise yourself with Emergency Contacts
A lot of countries have specific contacts for emergency and the last thing you want is to scramble to find these when in a difficult situation. I find Trip Whistle to be amazing because it tells me straight away which contact to use and other information related to emergencies.
The last thing you want on a holiday is to get sick because of a preventable disease. It is vital to get vaccinated before travelling based on the country and staying on top of the vaccine renewals. You can check the details of each country on the FitForTravel website.
Note: Some countries require vaccination certificates to prove you have been travelling as visa or entry requirement. You should always check this on the website of the country’s consulate.
Note: For UK residents, some of the vaccines are available for free on NHS, the rest you will need to get on your own.
I cannot stress how important it is to get travel insurance that covers you in a variety of ways. It not only helps in case of flights cancellation and delays but also for medical emergencies. It has been literally a life saver twice when I needed medical treatment and if I didn’t have insurance I’d be footing a hefty medical bill on my own.
Note: Make sure to check with your insurance provider if they cover any special conditions you have and you might need to buy extra cover for extreme sports like skiing.
Note: Make sure you have the international dialing number for your insurance provider in case you need them in an emergency.
Medical Conditions and Allergies
If you are allergic or have any serious allergies you should wear the tag that provides this information, it could be a life saver. Also make sure to take the prescription for your medication because you might not be allowed to enter a country if it is a type of medicine that’s restricted.
Choose Accommodation Widely
This is very important and while most people look for the cheapest place to save money you might want to rethink that strategy. I always choose a place in the city centre and it doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be comfortable and clean. The problem with living outside the centre in some places is transportation and getting back home alone. It is also great to read the reviews of hotel/hostel/Airbnb before booking it. Make sure to clear things with your host if you are not sure about something.
Choose a Confidant
I know there are thigs we don’t want to tell our parents but that doesn’t mean we cannot have a confidant that knows about the itinerary and your location at all times. I always share my itinerary to my sister and she is aware about how to get in touch with me. Another useful thing to do is to provide tracking permission on your phone to your confidant so they can see in real time where you are. Choose someone who’d take action on your behalf not someone you like or have a passing relationship with.
If you are getting in a car or a taxi send your route to your confidant or at least the details of car if they are not available digitally like Uber.
Keep your Cards Close to your Chest
Unless you know someone and trust them do not reveal your travel plans, your accommodation location and other information about you. If someone is especially taking interest in this information, move away not matter how nice they seem. A lot of time in less well-off places, there are elaborate scams. Also make sure not to keep your confidential documents like passports and sensitive papers like visas unless it is required by law.
I mean I don’t want to be preachy here but you do know why I am mentioning this. Whoever hasn’t done something stupid while being drunk can judge me!
Beware of Scams
A friend told me about the wallet scam in Ukraine where you’d find a wallet with some money, you’d look around for the owner and you will find them. On returning the wallet, the owner will actually reveal there was a lot more money in the wallet and you’d be blamed for taking it. You’d end up paying to the gentleman for a good deed.
Sounds horrible right? I am not asking you to be not nice but be careful and don’t get involved in things that are out of the way.
Valuables and Cash
Another obvious but make sure you leave your valuables behind when travelling and choose clothing that’s not very flashy because you could be targeted because of that. When it comes to luggage and valuables, I strictly believe in less is more.
It is also very important to divide your cash and keep a little stash somewhere out of sight as a backup. I used to keep it in the seam of my underwear but I will have to find a new place for it after writing about it now.
Whenever possible store your valuable in the safe provided or with your hostel/hostel reception.
Tip: I always keep a spare Bank Card as a back up with some money in it, in case I lose my wallet, I have options to withdraw money or pay for basics.
Follow local traditions/customs
It might be normal for you to kiss your partner (hetero or homosexual) but it is not common in a lot of places and you could be attacked for it. I am including this because we all have hearts and while things might be normal in your head, they could create issues for you. Have a look around or ask your partner/date if that’s the way to proceed and you will get a good answer. It is also good to follow dressing advice before travelling because a lot of countries will require you to dress conservatively.
This is a tricky one. I have met people during my travels that I felt absolutely comfortable with but they turned out to be dodgy with hidden motives. I like to meet locals at every chance I get to learn about the place but I am very cautious about it and don’t reveal everything unless I am comfortable. Same goes for bringing people to your accommodation. Always hide your valuables before bringing someone over.
Stay Cautious but Not Paranoid
I think this is the most important one. There is a fine line between cautious and paranoid. If you are not sure about something, always ask. (Remember in life if you don’t ask, you won’t get it.) If you are not comfortable raise a concern with relevant people and be confident when doing so, a lot depends on it. All of that done don’t be paranoid because at the end the purpose of travelling is to enjoy and explore. I can unreservedly say that I have met more nice and genuine people than a small proportion of assholes in all this time. Usually the poorer a country the sweeter and more generous its people are, treat them with kindness and you will get their respect.