When travelling on your own, and especially when visiting places that have poor safety records, it’s utter madness to have the attitude of “I’ll be right”.
I mean, chances are that you will be, but there are some basic precautions you’d be well advised to adopt to help prevent you losing your luggage on the very first day, or getting into unnecessarily dangerous situations.
1. Before leaving:
- Pack lightly so you can move about freely. A backpack keeps your hands free, otherwise a 4-wheeled suitcase zips along nicely.
- Find out the general dress code for the country. If local women cover their shoulders, heads, or legs – so should you.
- Leave behind expensive jewelry and showy accessories that mark you as someone worth robbing.
- Take a short martial arts/self defense course
- The ideal handbag/day pack has lots of zippered inner compartments for extra security, and a sturdy shoulder strap that crosses over the body, and can’t easily by cut through.
- Use luggage tags that conceal your contact information from the inquiring eyes of con artists
- Arrive in new cities during the day.
- Choose accommodation near public transport and on a busy street, so there are always people around.
- Book accommodation for the first night (so you’re not stuck).
- When checking in, avoid titles such as Miss, Mrs. or Ms.
- Make sure your room has a working lock, and use it when you’re out and in the room. As a backup, use a rubber doorstop.
- Be vigilant when answering your door. Call the front desk to check their story.
- Leave valuables in your hotel safe.
- If going out, tell the receptionist where you are going, and when you’ll be back. Keep friends/family in the loop too.
4. Public transport:
- If a stranger asks if you’re travelling alone, say you’re meeting your partner
- When sleeping on a train, make sure your valuables are under your clothing, or sit/lie on them.
- Share a train compartment with a family
- Think twice before accepting food/drink from strangers sharing your carriage
- Only use legal taxis – never those that approach you outside train stations/airports.
5. In a bar:
- Never leave your drink unattended. If someone buys you a drink, don’t take your eyes off it once it leaves the barman’s hands. (Drink-spiking is rampant)
- Don’t tell strangers where you are staying
- When walking home, make sure the route is well lit. Avoid dark alleys.
- Minimize alcohol so you are always aware of your surroundings and your actions.
- Never accept drugs.
6. Avoiding unwanted male attention:
- Interactions between men and women differ enormously between cultures. Do your homework to avoid giving men the wrong message.
- Don’t wear low-cut, high-cut, or figure-hugging clothing. I know it’s your right to do so, but just be aware that it could be provocative to the wrong people.
- Wear a (fake) wedding ring.
- If you are getting harassed, remove yourself from the situation as calmly and quickly as possible.
- Avoid eye contact, or wear dark glasses
- Act confidently. Look like you know exactly where you are going.
7. Getting around:
- Wear shoes that you can run away from danger in.
- Don’t stand around with a map in your hands. If you need to check where you are, be discreet.
- If you think someone is following you, cross the street and do a quick turn in the opposite direction.
- Never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
- If using cash machines, do so during the day, on a busy street.
- Be careful whom you trust. Scam artists and criminals can be men or women (or children), working alone or in teams, well-dressed or scruffy. Ask yourself why they’ve approached you.
- Beware of pickpockets in crowds, and gypsy kids in train stations
- If mugged, give them your bag to resist assault, then run, and shout for help. Or carry a ‘fake’ wallet and hand it over
- If you’re alone with someone dodgy and in a vulnerable/isolated situation, remain calm and try talking your way out of it. Or leave.
- Don’t hesitate to make a serious hullabaloo if you feel threatened
- Carry pepper spray, and a safety whistle, in case of assault
- Listen to your gut instinct
- Don’t ever be afraid to say “NO!”
Bambi Smyth is the author of the new book, Men on the Menu (The Five Mile Press, $32.95), which follows her on 75 blind dates around the world. The book is now available at all good book stores, for more information visit http://www.fivemile.com.au/catalog/new-releases/men-menu
What are your safety tips when travelling solo?
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