As a young, single female who frequently travels alone, safety is a huge priority for me. While I don’t walk around paranoid thinking there’s going to be a bogeyman hiding behind every bush, I also don’t go walking down dark alleys by myself either. So far I haven’t had any problems with safety so far and I intend to keep it that way. Here are some things that I like to do to avoid trouble.
1. Let someone know what the itinerary is. After I book things like flights, hotels, etc. I like to share that information with my mom. For one, she’s like most mothers in that she likes to know what I’m up to. Secondly, if something does happen while I’m out on the road, she’ll have an idea of who she should contact first.
2. Research an area before going. I love looking up information about a place before going there since it’s a form of vicarious travel for me. But I’m also looking for anything specific about a place that might pose a safety hazard. Is the area prone to pickpocketers? Are the locals generally friendly or hostile towards visitors? What medical facilities are available?
3. Find a buddy. One reason why I like staying in hostels is that it’s very easy to find another person or two to go walk around the city with when I’m traveling alone. It creates safety in numbers and it’s fun to share the experience with other people. It’s also a good way to get to know people.
4. Provide updates while traveling. In the age of Twitter, I like to tweet what I’m doing and offer a 140-character summary at night about how my day went. Before Twitter, I would call or text friends and family to let them know how I was doing. That way people knew I was still alive and there was no need to go send a search party after me. Plus, it’s just fun to share the experience as I go along. The one thing I don’t do is twitter specific things like “I’m staying at XYZ hostel,” just in case there are creepy people out there wanting to stalk me.
5. Have travel/medical insurance. This is the one area I’ve had problems with. A few years ago, I had a week off between finishing college and starting my new job. What I didn’t realize then that I had a gap in my medical coverage between the end of college and the new job. And guess who managed to trigger a severe allegric reaction and end up in a cruise ship ER? Yep, yours truely. The visit cost several hundred dollars that wasn’t covered by insurance. Fortunately, I didn’t need anything like emergency transport back to land, which could have cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Now before taking a trip, I double-check to see what my insurance covers, including any risky activities (ie. skiing, horseback riding, skydiving, etc.) to make sure I’ll be okay in case of an incident.
6. Travel light. I try to take as little stuff as possible on a trip. For one reason, I tend to lose things so it’s a bit harder to lose a item if I don’t take it with me in the first place. Plus it’s easier to keep track of the stuff I do take. It’s also easier to be aware of my surroundings if I’m not fussing with trying to carry my stuff around. I love it when I can fit everything for a trip into my large backpack. It’s very easy to carry a backpack around and a backpack doesn’t scream “tourist” the way rolling luggage does. Finally, having less stuff will make me less of a target for theives.
7. Being aware of what’s going on. Whenever I’m out by myself, I try to be aware of who and what’s around me. I try to stay near crowds of other people and walk quickly. I try not to bury my head in a map or guidebook. I also try to be aware of my “sixth sense”. If I get a weird vibe about a place or a person, I’m outta there.
One safety website that I found has a lot of detailed information on how to prevent getting robbed, raped, shot, etc. and what kinds of danger to look out for in any situation. The site also looks into things like the odds of defending yourself with a gun or knife. Much of the advice presented at No Nonsense Self-Defense is useful anytime, whether you’re traveling or not.
Have fun and be safe!