So many women backpack around the world these days and its a great way to travel.However, there are always things to consider to make sure you have an enjoyable and safe journey.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
1. Stay in public
Remember the old adage; there’s safety in numbers. While you’re in public, you are relatively safe but as soon as you leave the public sphere with new acquaintances, you are putting yourself at risk.
2. Don’t arrive in a new location after dark
A new city always looks more scary in the dark than in daylight – especially if you are a jittery first-time solo traveller. Arrange to arrive early in the day at a new location so that you can make sure that you are happy with your accommodation and its location. If you’re not, then you’ll have plenty of daylight hours in which to tackle the situation.
3. Pack light
Lugging around a large, heavy suitcase or a number of different bags is a recipe for disaster. Think of yourself as a wild animal – you need to be light on your feet and responsive to threats. And you can’t do that when you’re laden up like a mule. You’ll look more like an experienced traveller and less like a newby tourist, so pack light if you can. It’ll also be more enjoyable for you as you trudge around from place to place.
For my day pack I use the Pacsafe anti-theft backpack and I just love it. I have used it on multiple trips and it still looks close to brand new. I also just came across a cheaper version for those on a budget and you can check out my review here.
4. Take your time
Don’t rush headlong into exploring a new location but take the time to ease yourself in slowly. Perhaps spend a morning at a café watching the world go by and soaking up details about your new surroundings. This will make you more aware and safer as a result.
5. Get travel insurance
This is the simplest issue to deal with. Just buy some before you leave home. Travel insurance can cover cancellations, delayed departures, personal belongings, stolen money, medical emergencies, accidents and more. Research your policy carefully to check what’s covered and what isn’t. If you’re doing a particular higher risk activity, such as skiing, then be sure that your insurance covers you for that. There are often strange limits of heights of mountains and so on in some policies. I’d recommend going with a company that offer a 24-hour contact helpline. Keep more than one copy of your policy details and contact numbers in different bags and also save an electronic version somewhere in case those go missing.
6. Take a good credit card
While you should be able to get by with a debit card from your main bank, you never know when you might need a credit card. Take Visa or MasterCard as they are generally accepted everywhere. Unfortunately, they are expensive to use, especially for cash advances, but keep it in case of emergencies and you will be thankful.
Another tip if you are going to Europe make sure you have arranged to have a PIN on your credit card. We hadn’t done this beforehand as we generally just sign, but they don’t do this in Europe. You need a PIN.
7. Hand your trust out rarely
Be careful about who you trust. When on holiday, you should be a little more suspect and wary of people you meet. Sadly, it’s always the most friendly people that turn out to be the con artists. Regularly remind yourself that you can’t truly rely on anyone but yourself during your travels. It’s a sad state of affairs but it is better to be careful than sorry.
8. Stay in touch
Carry a mobile phone and make sure it works at your destination. Sim cards can be picked up in duty free and at airports when you arrive. Program your phone with emergency contact numbers, clearly-marked next of kin information and the local emergency numbers. Also carry a piece of paper with information on where you’re staying written in the language of the country you’re in.
9. Be aware which places are less safe
In general, the following places and situations may cause some concern about your personal safety:
- Train stations
- Remote rural areas
- Seedy parts of town
- Private spaces such as strangers’ houses and cars
10. Learn the currency and coins
Fumbling around with notes and coins isn’t a good look. As geeky as it might sound, spend a while in your hotel room getting to grips with each of the different notes and coins. Find a way of arranging them in your purse so you can get to the right amount quickly and easily without waving your wallet around for all to see. Leave large amounts of money in the hotel safe and only take enough for your days expenses.
11. If push comes to shove
You might be well off – at least more confident – if you know a few self-defence techniques if any situation gets out of hand. A couple of hints to begin: If you’re close enough to the person threatening you, use your elbow as it’s the strongest part of your body. If you do kick, keep your foot low and strike at the shin or knee to knock your opponent off-balance and inflict a stinging blow without striking your own balance.
12. Blend in as much as possible
In some places, there’s not much you can do to conceal your ‘otherness’. In other areas, you’ll only be revealed as a tourist when you open you mouth to speak. Blending in will reduce your risk of being the target of crime. Watch how the local women behave and try to emulate their behaviour. Walk with confidence and your head held high – as if you know exactly where you are going, even if you don’t have a clue. Dress appropriately for the area and keep your tourist items (cameras, map, water bottle) hidden as much as possible.
13. Think smart
Have a few strategies in mind for what you would do if you were attacked. How would you react? Good tips include throwing your purse if it’s demanded from you – at least then you’ll have time to run in the other direction while they fetch it. In all circumstances, it’s better just to hand over your items than to try and defend them. You never know whether your attacker is armed or unstable.
14. Use modern technology
Store copies of your documents on a flash drive or by emailing information to yourself. Download a GPS app to your phone and also a language and vocab program. If it makes you feel more comfortable, pack a personal alarm in your handbag – these things can certainly make a noise and disorient potential attackers!
15. Trust your intuition
One thing you must learn more than anything as an independent traveller is to trust your own instincts. It may sound a bit corny, but if something doesn’t feel right, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is, think twice before you make a decision. Sometimes we can absorb things subconsciously that influence our opinion. Listen to your inner voice.