Travelling the world can be an extremely daunting notion for women, especially if you’re doing it solo. Our guide to keeping safe when travelling should help prepare you for your adventure and hopefully silence some of those concerned and niggling voices in your head!
General Tips & Etiquette
First and foremost, you should always research your destination before you get there. Knowing the local customs and laws will prevent you from getting into trouble during your trip, as some things that are legal in the UK may not be legal there! It’s also wise to learn a few handy phrases, locals always appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language and you’ll find that simple phrases such as ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘how much?’, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ will go a long way to earning the respect of the locals.
Clothing is another important factor to consider when travelling, especially when visiting religious temples and Muslim countries. Modesty is key here, strutting around in a bikini or the shortest skirt known to man will do you no favours and is highly likely to attract unwanted attention, as well as more than a few disapproving looks.
Certain gestures that you are used to using at home may be considered rude in another country, for example, sticking your thumb up to someone in Egypt would be seen as offensive, or winking at someone in India would without a doubt get you some unwanted attention! As previously mentioned, a little research into the countries customs should help prevent any unfortunate mishaps or misunderstandings during your trip.
Always try and be polite, even when you’re being hassled to buy something you don’t want, a polite “no, thank you” and a smile should do the trick – if not then just try and keep your cool until they get the message!
It can be extremely dangerous in certain countries, especially for women who are travelling alone, finding yourself a travel buddy is a great way to make you feel more secure and will hopefully help deter attacks and theft. Safety in numbers is definitely the way to go.
If you’re staying in hostels during your trip, you will no doubt meet some new friends in the common areas or dorms, so you should never be short of other people to go off exploring with.
Venturing out on your own in the day is usually not a problem or a safety issue, but it’s advised to travel with others after dark and keep to well lit areas. Visiting local bars and sights after dark is definitely wiser in groups, as you can look out for each other and will be less of a target for thieves. Not only is the buddy system a safer way to travel but it can also result in some great new friendships!
If you do choose to go out alone on an evening, ensure you tell your friends where you’re going and when you expect to be back. You could also take a small personal alarm with you, which will let off a loud and piercing noise once activated, alerting passers by if you’re in danger and require help.
Don’t Flash the Cash
It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at just how many travellers fall victim to theft or worse during their gap year, all because they didn’t follow a few simple steps to keep both themselves and their gear safe.
The first general rule here would be not to take expensive gadgets or clothing with you, this will instantly catch the eye of opportunist thieves and you may soon find yourself without your favourite new gadget or fashion accessory. If you simply must take your state of the art phone or tablet travelling, then leave it in a safe or locker back at the hostel or keep it out of sight when you’re out and about.
A great way to store small gadgets and cash, would be a money belt. Many money belts can be worn underneath clothing and come in waist and neck styles to suit your own personal preference. You should always try and store cash in a few different places – in your wallet, money belt, in a safe or locker and even in a plastic bag taped to the seams of your backpack! That way if you’re unfortunate enough to be mugged during your trip, the thief won’t make off with your entire backpacking budget.
Keep Your Gear Safe
Travellers can often get hurt trying to fight off thieves, if someone becomes violent and wants to take your bag – let them, nothing is worth your life! However, you can make your gear more secure and less of a target for thieves.
Securing your backpack and or daypack with a good quality lock when travelling is wise, as sneaky thieves won’t be able to slyly unzip your pack when you’re not looking.
However, go overboard with the locks and pack security and they’ll begin to realise that there is something in your bag worth stealing, which could result in you being targeted.
Travel as lightly as possible when you’re out and try to leave anything you couldn’t stand to lose locked away in your hostel locker or travel safe back at your accommodation.
Keeping your stuff safe back at the hostel can be achieved by renting a locker, which is possible at most hostels around the world. If you’re leaving your backpack in the dorm room while you’re out, ensure all zips are locked and secure it to the bed frame or another fixed object using a cable lock. This will stop anyone taking your bag when you’re not around.
Partying & Socialising
It’s natural to want to let your hair down during your gap year, but you will still need to exercise some caution when you do. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to get carried away when you’re travelling the world and having the time of your life, as well as sampling one too many of the local tipple of choice!
Firstly, never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger – you wouldn’t do it back home, so why should it be any different when travelling? You should also know your limits and don’t drink so much that you’re too drunk to know where you are or have your wits about you. Ensuring that you and other people in your group look out for one another will help keep you safe and ward off people who try to take advantage of travellers who have had one too many.
Is your Destination safe?
With so many political issues and protests causing unrest and safety issues in many countries around the world at the moment, it would be wise to read up on your desired destination and check that it is safe to travel there before planning your trip. The Foreign Commonwealth Office provides regular updates on safety concerns and issues around the world, with advice for anyone visiting that country.