10 Tips to Stay Safe Abroad
Especially as a solo travelling girl, I often get asked if I get scared or worried about my safety. And the answer is always the same - Not really (besides the moments where I face my fears like hang-gliding or jumping off cliffs). Over the years I have developed a certain set of rules I adhere to no matter where I go. The theory is to blend in with the locals as much as possible. As a little white girl I can obviously not look like a local everywhere, but following some of these rules definitely avoids drawing attention to myself.
1. Don't bring the expensive jewellery
I personally don't wear any jewellery, but basically this means be aware of the general standard of living where you're going and leave the flashy things at home. I tend to stay away from resorts and tourist spots, so I would stand out wearing a fancy watch at my destinations. I have even found myself in places where taking out my expensive camera equipment doesn't feel right and so I simply won't.
2. Keep copies of your passport
This might sound a little obsessive compulsive, but keep several copies of your passport (in color) in a couple of different places, just in case. Especially if you are travelling far or for a long time, it will always be easier to get a replacement should anything happen, if you have a color copy.
3. Get Insurance
I'm an oaf and I don't trust myself with nice things. So especially for travelling, I have insurance on all of the expensive equipment I take. It gives me peace of mind and I can enjoy the trip without worrying about anything. This isn't an absolute must, but I know it takes a lot of pressure off for me. And that's the point of getting away right - to not worry about anything.
4. Trust your gut
As mentioned above, a lot of staying safe abroad has to do with evaluating your environment and using common sense. If walking down a dark alley late at night gives you a funny gut feeling, don't do it. I'm not saying to constantly assume the worst, but just stay aware of your surroundings. You can feel when something's off.
5. Don't get drunk
That brings me to the next point - don't get hammered. You make yourself an easy target if you are visibly drunk out in public. I know you want to unwind and have a good time when travelling, and you absolutely should, but just don't do it in excess. Stumbling around makes you an easy target.
6. Leave the cash
It's another one of those preventative things, but don't carry your passport or loads of cash around with you. You wouldn't do it at home, so I don't recommend doing it anywhere else. I usually have my cash distributed in various places, much like the passport copies, and will only take what I think I will need for the day/evening with me.
7. Blend in
I know I've mentioned it before, but blending in is the best thing you can do. Basically don't stand out. Don't be flashy, don't be loud, don't draw any unnecessary attention to yourself. While you will never completely blend in, not being a sore thumb is the next best thing you can do.
8. Share your itinerary
It can be quite an unnerving thing to be in a foreign country without anyone knowing your whereabouts or of your well being. I always make sure to share my itinerary with someone - OK, my mom makes me share it with her...BUT this gives a lot of peace of mind and there are some great apps out there to easily do so (I personally use tripit).
9. Be polite but firm
This has a couple of meanings. First, for the solo travellers and especially solo girls out there, you are never travelling alone! If anyone asks, your friends are back at the hotel and just didn't want to come out with you. Even if that's not true, you've just taken a lot of your vulnerability out of the picture. And secondly, when you are being approached by locals trying to sell things, be firm. You will have a much better time and get hassled much less, if you are firm with your no's. I don't mean be rude but simply, say 'no thank you' and carry on doing what you were doing. It will help to not feel like you are being taken advantage of.
10. Know your prices
This ties into the previous tip. I like to have an idea of everything from taxi rides to food to activities. That way I have much more bargaining power when I am there and know if I am being taken advantage of. Most of the time locals are fair on pricing and I haven't been in a position where I felt robbed, but it has certainly saved me from expensive taxi rides at the airport where you're very likely to find extortionate pricing.
I hope some of these tips have helped ease your mind about travel and feeling safe when wandering off the beaten path. If you have any questions, please comment and I would be glad to help! Happy and safe travels!