While the thrills of travel are certainly undeniable, some care and forward planning is required if you wish to ensure that your trip is one that you look back on as relatively trouble-free. Those traveling alone are even more at risk from those who wish to pray on the newest arrivals to cities all around the world but with a little bit of thought and care, you can easily protect yourself from the dangers of international travel.
Here are my top ten tips for doing just that.
1. Arrive By Day
Whenever possible, arrive at your destination by day. Areas such as bus and train stations tend to attract a rather seedy element at all times but the situation is significantly worse during nighttime hours. Not only is arriving in a new city alone at night more dangerous than during the day time, but it also is not exactly enjoyable. On occasions when you find yourself with no other option than to arrive at night, choose whatever hostel or hotel is closest to your drop-off point. If you think the train station is bad, wait until you get lost looking for a poorly chosen hostel.
2. Females Sometimes Have To Cover Up
While many of us live in parts of the world where a woman can dress however the hell she wants to, such equal rights are by no means universal. There are some places throughout the world where what you wear will have a significant impact on how you are treated, therefore dress accordingly. If you are a female and are unsure about the customs at a particular destination regarding female clothing, a quick Google search could save you a lot of trouble.
3. Try To Blend In
While it is practically impossible not to look like a tourist when walking around with a backpack on your back, at other times, you should do your best to blend in. If you find yourself in a poorer country, don’t wear flashy clothes. Regardless of where you are wandering around with a camera around your neck is another big giveaway that you are new to a city. The unfortunate fact is that tourists are walking targets in many areas of the world and therefore you should do your best not to look like one.
4. Don’t Drink Too Much
While the sensible solo traveler need not completely abstain from alcohol to remain safe, drinking in moderation is incredibly important. Although friendships are often made quickly in hostels, friends that you have only known for a few hours should not be relied upon to keep you safe should you have too much to drink at a club. It is also worth noting that failure to drink in moderation greatly increases your chance of getting lost in a new city. Therefore it is vital to both know and respects your limits.
5. Money Belts Are Supposed To Be Hidden
Money belts are an incredibly popular and effective means of keeping your cash, credit cards, and passport safe from unsavory characters. Some travelers however have a habit of getting their money belt confused with a regular wallet. The security of money belts is in large part down to the fact that nobody knows that you are wearing one. Constantly opening your money belt to get your lighter out on the other hand just advertises that you are carrying something that you consider valuable enough to hide.
6. Safety In Numbers
While traveling alone will certainly lead to you being on your own quite a bit, provided you stay at hostels, such times can be kept to a minimum if you choose. And while independence is certainly one of the reasons that many travelers choose to go down the route of solo travel, there is often safety in numbers. Therefore wherever possible, try to take in the sights with other travelers, and never is this more true than at night.
7. Don’t Look Lost (Even If You Are!)
Just because you are completely lost does not mean that you necessarily have to act like it. While there are many situations in which asking a stranger for directions is a clever thing to do, there will be other times when you are in a rather dodgy area and the “help” of a stranger is the last thing that you want. If you want to avoid getting hassled, standing around with a confused look on your face could be considered the worst thing to do. Therefore when you find yourself in a dangerous area, always try to at least look like you know where you are going.
8. Buy A Padlock
Many people traveling alone choose to stay at hostels as they are incredibly easy places to meet other travelers. Due to the shared nature of said accommodation, however, it is necessary to take far more care of your valuables than you would at a hotel. Most hostels provide lockers for just this reason and yet you would be surprised by how many people don’t bother to use them. While your smelly clothes are safe under the bed, your laptop certainly isn’t! You may even be interested in purchasing a sturdy padlock before you set off.
9. Be Suspicious
While traveling would certainly be rather boring if you couldn’t make friends along the way, being the overly trusting type can make traveling significantly more dangerous. One worryingly common scam throughout the world involves strangers, typically of the opposite sex, inviting you out to a bar with them. This of course seems like a great idea until you get the bill and it turns out that each drink cost you more than you budgeted for that entire day. This scam together with a whole host of others can easily be avoided by always being suspicious of anybody that approaches you on the street.
10. Do Your Research
Finally, all destinations have specific dangers to be particularly on the lookout for. Pickpockets are rampant in Barcelona and more tourists have been kidnapped in Bolivia than anywhere else. Although such information should never be used as a reason not to visit somewhere that you want to visit, knowing what to look out for is just common sense. Therefore before you head off somewhere new, do your research on the specific location-dependent dangers that you should be aware of.