How many women have proved that is it possible for a woman to travel the world and stay safe?
Even if you steer clear of resorts. Even if you go to developing countries. Even if you don’t speak the local language. Even if you’re traveling alone.
I am not a superwoman and I like to take shower every day and sleep in a clean bed. However, I’ve survived to my first backpacking trips, my first non-resort trips and my first solo trips!
But, I am not as crazy as I look like with my backpack and one way fight ticket. My trips did so well in part because I prioritized the safety while traveling. What does that mean really?
Check it out below:
1. Research Your Destination Thoroughly Before Your Trip
For many travelers, planning and researching is almost as fun as actually traveling! In between scoping out the most beautiful beaches and coolest cities, take some time to look up safety information for where you are headed.
What are the best neighborhoods and the ones you should avoid? Are there only certain kinds of taxis you should take? Is there a medical center in the city, just in case?
When it comes to your lodging, how are its ratings for safety? What are former guests saying about their experiences? Are there any patterns emerging in the reviews you should be concerned about?
How are you going to get around? What is public transportation like in your destination? Do you need to rent a car? Does the situation change at night?
When it comes to activities, especially adventure sports, what are the risks? If you injure yourself, will you be covered by your travel insurance?
This is the stuff to find out in advance, well before your trip begins.
2. Keep Your Valuables On You While in Transit
Today people travel with an amount of technology that was unfathomable a decade ago. Most travelers bring a smartphone at the very least; many bring laptops, tablets, Kindles or other e-readers, DSLR cameras with pricey lenses, and more. When you consider the costs to replace any one of those items, they definitely count as valuables.
You should have a day bag into which you can fit all of your important items: your passport, your camera, your medication, your jewelry, your credit cards, your smartphone, and any other technology, photography or otherwise valuable equipment.
Never put these items into your general backpack. Never put these items into the luggage hold on a bus. Never put any of those items into your checked luggage on a plane. If you let them out of your sight, there’s a fair chance that they could be taken away from you forever.
3. Only Take What You Need and Leave the Rest Locked Up
There’s no need to go out for a walk in the city with all of your credit cards, your passport, and the equivalent of $500 in cash. Take what you need for the day: maybe around $50, tops, and a debit card, and keep the rest locked up in your accommodation.
4. Don’t Trust People Too Quickly
When you’re traveling in a new destination, and especially when you’re traveling on your own, it can be tempting to join up and find a tribe.
Sometimes, we want to be part of a group so badly that we start trusting people before we should. Instead, err on the side of caution. If you’re just getting to know someone, don’t trust him or her to guard your expensive electronics while you’re in the bathroom.
It’s not rude to be cautious. Take things slowly, and if someone earns your trust, that’s when you depend on them.
5. Watch Your Drinking
This is a tip that doesn’t get said often enough. It’s applicable whether you’re at home or on the road. When you drink alcohol, you dull your senses and slow your reaction time, which in turn makes you vulnerable to others.
Constantly ask yourself, “Do I want to be less in control than I am right now?” and stop if the answer is no.
6. Blend in as Much as You Can
Want to have the attention of every pickpocket in Paris? Show up in shorts and a t-shirt. For extra credit, wear Birkenstocks.
As normal as shorts and a t-shirt would be in North America, you would never see that style in most of Europe. Shorts are rare and Europeans in general dress much more neatly than North Americans, especially in France and Italy.
The more you stand out, the more you brand yourself as someone who is unfamiliar with the location, which makes you more vulnerable to criminals.
Instead, research your destination in advance, observe how people dress, and try to pass as a local – or, if that’s impossible try to pass as a longtime expat.
When you’re walking down the street, hold your head up and your shoulders back. Look straight ahead and walk with a purpose. Pretend that you have somewhere important to be, and if you fall prey to street harassment, ignore it and keep moving.
7. Spend Extra Money on Staying Safe
If you’re traveling long-term on a shoestring budget, it can be hard to justify spending extra cash when it could go toward so many more fun activities. But it’s a smart idea to financially invest in your own safety.
Build an extra financial cushion into your trip and use it for situations like these: ones where you could be a little bit safer if you spent a little more.
8. Prepare for the Worst with Documents and Secret Cash
In the event that the worst happens – your purse is stolen, your credit cards are suddenly maxed out, you get sick and need to go to the hospital – it’s good to have a backup plan.
For documents, keep front-and-back copies of your credit cards saved to cloud storage like Google Docs or Dropbox, as well as a copy of your passport. It’s a good idea to keep your bank and credit card phone numbers stored in a document as well.
In addition to the documents, keep a backup cash stash. Keep at least $50 in US dollars hidden in a secret spot deep inside your luggage, like inside a tampon or hidden in a sock. In a separate spot, keep a backup credit card. If your purse or day bag is stolen off your body and literally everything is taken away from you, this will provide you with a temporary financial cushion.
9. Get Travel Insurance
Do you really need travel insurance? Absolutely. It could save your life, and in this day and age, with so many online providers, there’s no reason not to get it.
Be sure to examine prospective travel insurance policies in depth, because they might not cover your personal situation. Many insurance plans won’t cover certain adventure sports or particular countries or regions. Most plans will only cover a fraction of the value of your electronics.
10. Check in Regularly
It’s a good idea for at least one designated friend or family member to have a copy of your itinerary in advance: your flight numbers, your accommodation, and a general schedule of where you’ll be on which dates, as well as information on your travel insurance, credit cards, and a bank account number.
Plan ahead of time how you’ll check in and how often, whether it’s through daily emails, texts, social media updates, or regular Skype chats. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep a consistent schedule.
Staying in touch is a way to assuage the fears of your loved ones, but if you find yourself in trouble, they would be able to locate you much more easily than if you had been vague about your whereabouts.