Authored by Chan Komagan
It is better to be safer than sorry. I know this is an overused cliché, though safety is something which should be taken seriously when traveling. The world isn’t actually dangerous or unsafe, though when exploring a new and foreign place, you still need to take certain precautions to minimize the risk of being hurt or losing your things. Finding yourself in an unsafe situation overseas may jeopardize your entire travel experience. Solo travel safety tips
After traveling solo for almost 8 months now, I’ve managed to pick up a safety tip or two. Staying safe abroad largely comes down to common sense and being aware of your surroundings, though of course individual destinations will have country specific tips, so when researching for your next trip, be sure to also look into destination specific recommendations for safety too.
Though in general, apply the following rules and you’ll be fine. This is a guide to help fellow solo travelers; my top safety tips for travel which is trouble free.
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Keep Life Simple
I try to keep my life as simple as possible when it comes to international travel. I carry with me only the cash which is required for the day, a public transportation card, copy of my passport, my phone, and perhaps a map. Though there are many offline apps now which offer city maps on your phone, so you can possibly combine the last two. Safety tips for solo travel
And keep everything on your person, as simply as possible. Never wear anything which draws attention to you as a traveler like a bulky money belt. This is a single point of failure. Is solo travel safe
If you happen to lose your wallet, purse or belt, you’ve just lost everything including your cash, credit cards, phone, passport and cash. Bulky money bags and belts are like a bulls eye for potential muggers. If you are going to wear one, at least wear it under your clothes. Stay safe solo travel
Pro Tip: A common area that pickpockets frequent are the signs which cities have put up to warn tourists about being mindful of theft. When you read a sign like this, it’s quite common to subliminally reach for the part of your body where your valuables or wallet is being held just to make sure it’s still on you. This let’s thieves know exactly where they need to target. So be aware.
Never Leave Anything Valuable in Your Back Pocket
When you’re at home, you’re probably used to carrying your wallet in the back pocket of your pants. Though this is a sure way to lose your money/credit card or phone, and I’ve seen a few too many travelers do this. Pick-pockets specifically target tourists, and this is the easiest grab.
A French traveler I met in Belgrade had a troubling story. He had worked hard throughout the summer and saved 500 Euros for travel across Europe. He went to an ATM in a busy Belgrade street to withdraw cash, and put the money he took out in his backpocket. It only took two minutes and this cash was gone. He lost 500 Euros that day and had to return back to Paris the next.
Though if you enjoy having your back pocket felt up by a stray hand, by all means! How to stay safe when traveling solo Is solo travel safe
Avoid Wearing Backpacks on Your Back in a Crowd
The same goes for wearing backpacks on your back when navigating busy or crowded spaces. Don’t do it. You’re making yourself a target for theft. Instead, hold your bag in front of you. Keep your passport and valuables deep inside the bag, or better yet, in your front pockets. Safe solo travel
A friend of mine was traveling to Paris. In his backpack was a company laptop, his passport, credit cards and cash. As he was leaving the crowded metro station, his bag was cut from his back, and he lost everything that day. It’s quite common for thieves to cut packs from a tourist’s back and sprint away.
Plan Inter City Travel Through Developing Countries For During the Day
For inter city travel in developing countries, plan your trip during the day. The advantages of this are reducing the risk of being stopped and mugged by gangs who are more common at night, and there are better sight seeing opportunities during the day. You have less chance of becoming lost when you’re able to read street signs and use maps in proper light, and you wont draw suspicion to yourself from the local police. Best travel safety tips
If you do have to drive at night, make sure all of your car doors are locked, and do not pull over unless it is an official stop. Make sure you only get into official taxi’s, especially at night. Is overseas travel safe?
Download a City Map in Advance
There are a huge range of helpful apps these days which make our day to day travel easier, and many city maps can be downloaded in advance.
Almost every hostel, hotel and property with Airbnb now offers wifi, though sometimes this is not always for free, so it is a good idea to download the map in advance. Use maps.me or Google Maps to download the navigation directions so you can keep track of your travel path in case if you get lost.
Keep a Safety Profile of Your Destination
I usually keep a safety profile for countries I am visiting based on my own research and what I hear from other people. Government websites tend to be on the conservative side when issuing safety notices, so your best bet for the most practical advice is to consult the locals, as well as travelers who are currently on the ground or who have just been though. Do this especially if you’re planning on hitchhiking.
If your hotel has a concierge, this is a great person to consult first. They have a wealth of local knowledge and deal with travelers every day. Also, it’s literally their job to make sure you have a wonderful and safe stay.
Use a Lock For Your Valuables
I can’t stress this enough. When staying in a hostel or in a shared space, use the provided safety lockers and make sure your personal valuables are secure.
In the extreme case if the place you’re at doesn’t have a locker, hide it under the bed sheet or in your backpack. Use travelers locks to keep your backpack closed. How to stay safe when traveling overseas
Utilize Secret Pockets in Clothing
Look into versatile clothing with hidden pockets – fashionable travel clothes which come with secret pockets to stash your cash are everywhere right now.
Try Your Best to Blend In
One again, thieves primarily target tourists. So research your destination and try to blend in. In places like Medellin, Colombia, for instance, locals don’t wear shorts or hats. So why wear shorts and make yourself as a “gringo” target. You may as well wear a sign in Spanish saying “mug me please”. Yes, the city gets hot during the day. But you can wear thin long cotton pants and still avoid being an obvious target. Will I be safe if I travel alone
Most importantly, if you are traveling in a Muslim country the dress code becomes even more conservative for both guys and gals.
It is better not to wear any kind of flashy jewelry that draws attention to yourself or which you cannot afford to lose. Feel free to leave your most expensive camera at the hostel/Airbnb and take iPhone/smart phone instead. The reality is you’re not going to come across the kind of scenery which requires photography with a DSLR every day.
Learn Some Basics of the Local Language
Learn some basics of the local language. This will help you to communicate with the locals and also know how to ask for help in case if you come across any bad situations. Safety tips for traveling alone
Don’t Leave Anything Unattended in Public
Ask someone to watch it for you. If you are one of those who don’t carry a selfie stick and want to take a picture of yourself, ask someone you can trust (like a couple or older person). Is it safe to travel alone?
Enjoying a casual lunch with your bag at your feet? If it’s loose, it’s a target for theft. Secure your bag by looping a strap around either your arm, leg or chair leg. Will I be safe if I travel by myself internationally abroad
If you’re sleeping in public, on a train or at an airport, be sure to do the same. Loop an arm through one of your bag straps while you sleep. Fasten your bag to the seat, luggage rack, or yourself. I will always have at least one part of my body connected to my bag if I’m enjoying a public nap.
Remember, even a minor obstacle or inconvenience can be an effective deterrent for thieves. It’s not necessarily about making your bag impenetrable, but just less appealing than the next guys!
Purchase International Insurance
Your domestic insurance isn’t going to cover your travel overseas. So it’s safer to purchase insurance before you leave.
A basic plan can cost you as little as $200 for 4-6 months. If you want to add adventure sports it will likely cost you a little more, as these types of activities are normally listed as exclusions. Make sure you read the fine print and know what is included so that you can choose an insurance plan which is right for you. Ways to ensure maximum safety overseas am I safe traveling alone
Register Your Travel Plans With Your Government
Register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a state of emergency or a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest.
Many governments will send out warning notices about any type of potential protest/risk zones that you may want to avoid while traveling, and doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event. Should I go overseas by myself or with a group?
The emergency contact details you register are generally the only way your country can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.
What do you do to stay safe? Feel free to share safety tips from your own travel experiences.
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