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Before setting off on a solo adventure, it is common to have concern for your safety. Travelling alone is certainly a scary thing to do, but is also an extremely rewarding experience that I think everyone should try at least once.
To keep safe while travelling solo, there are some things that I always do.
Disclaimer: In saying all of the points below, I also want to point out that not everyone is out to get you, I have met some of my best friends while travelling and have had some of the warmest welcomes by locals. You can find genuine people on the road that form an amazing part of your experience and you need to be open to this, but I do recommend erring on the side of caution in certain situations. These are my tips for keeping safe as a solo traveller.
Always be aware of your surroundings
Pay attention to your situation and the people around you at all times. You don’t want to be paranoid but it is really important to assess your surroundings and be aware of what is happening – which leads to the next point.
Don’t get wasted
It’s okay to have a few drinks, but getting wasted is never a good idea. You always need to be completely alert and aware of your surroundings when travelling.
Dress like a local
Dressing like a local means you will fit in and avoid drawing attention to yourself, which means you are more likely to be left alone. Research a destination before you arrive so you are aware of the standard dress code.
Don’t tell people where you’re staying
No one needs to know the name of your hotel, and if you make plans to meet someone, meet at a public place.
Take a tour
If you are new to a destination and feel a little bit uncertain about jumping on a public bus and setting off on an adventure, take a tour or planned day trip. Day trips are safe and create a stress-free day because everything is organised for you.
Don’t flaunt your cash and valuables
Showing off cash and valuables can put a target on your back. Avoid walking around with a $2000 camera in your hand and separate cash. I generally leave most of my cash at home and take only what I would need for the day, avoiding waving around a pile of cash.
Respect other countries cultures
Be aware of the culture of the country you are entering and abide by the customs. It may be little things like avoiding eye contact and certain gestures, but by doing this you won’t draw unwanted attention or attitudes towards yourself.
Trust your instincts and learn to read situations
Again, be aware of your surroundings and if you feel even slightly uncomfortable in a situation, GET OUT. Don’t worry about appearing rude, your safety comes first and you must always trust your gut instinct.
Politeness is never more important than safety.
Avoid getting yourself into uncomfortable situations.
Where possible, avoid getting into situations that make you feel uncomfortable. If someone asks you for a drink in the local bar and you don’t want to go, don’t. Avoid going to anyone’s house if it doesn’t feel right and don’t get into cars with random people. I also personally like to avoid going far away from my accommodation at night, so I can avoid walking alone at night and taxis.
Be cautious with Taxis
Always leave your important things with you in the taxi, not in the back. This way you have more control. Also be aware of the charging system in that country. When I was travelling in Panama I found it essential to agree on a rate before getting into the taxi. You don’t want to have an argument with the taxi driver, so be clear before you get in.
Avoid late night travel on public transport where possible
Arrange to arrive at a new location in the light of day. You will feel more at ease and aware of your surroundings, and there will also be more people around, giving you a sense of safety.
Book a few things in advance
This doesn’t mean you need to have a detailed itinerary, but having your first few days in a new destination booked is recommended. This will give you time to settle in and get a better understanding of what is acceptable and how to get around before you start winging it.
Always tell your family at home where you plan on going and check in with them
Checking in with family at home regularly is essential, this way if you do disappear they will notice and they will know your last location (God forbid).
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