Booking your first, solo trip away is such an exciting prospect, whether that’s a backpacking adventure, a gap year or just a well-deserved break.
It can also be a tad scary however, navigating your way around an unknown place, finding your feet in a different culture and being away from the comfort of your home. For me, staying safe was also something that heavily played on my mind the first time I traveled solo. Nowadays, there are so many ways you can remain safe thanks to technology and a great deal of nifty travel accessories. If you’re planning a trip away by yourself or even just thinking about it, here are my top tips to stay safe in a new, unfamiliar country.
Carry a (fully-charged) mobile phone
This is an obvious one but incredibly useful. Having a smart phone can be a massive reassurance when you are travelling. If you can get a local sim card and access data, this can be of huge benefit if you ever find yourself in a bit of a pickle or danger. If you’re anything like me and aren’t gifted with the best sense of direction then apps like Google Maps of City Mapper are a godsend! Be sure to download offsite areas so you can navigate your way around confidently even if you don’t have 3G or internet. These apps are also really useful on bus rides or taxi’s to track where you are going and to avoid you getting off at the wrong stop or getting ripped off.
USE THE GEOSURE GLOBAL APP
Talking of apps, I would definitely recommend downloading Geosure, which is a travel app that allows you to take your safety personally. You can download the app onto your mobile phone or smartwatch if you have one, and it allows you to discover your personal level of safety wherever you are in the world. GeoSure has an entire section dedicated to women travelers who would like to go solo – it fetches you the safety score for solo women travelers as well. You can find out a little more about it on their website. The app has recently been updated so you can now see LGBTQ Safety Scores too. This is such a smart app and is free to use – completely worth the few seconds it takes to download!
If you’re travelling alone, hostels are an amazing way of making friends and staying safe.
Be sure to bring a padlock so you can lock up your belongings when you’re out exploring a city/place or even when you are sleeping and want to make sure your stuff is secure.
It’s also good to let either someone at the hostel or a friend or acquaintance know where you are going, especially if you’re planning a hike.
If you then get into trouble or difficulty, somewhere will know where you are and can call for help if they are concerned about your whereabouts.
Choose your bag wisely and/or use a travel belt
There are some truly brilliant bags on the market at the moment which can help you stay safe when you travel. I especially love the Osprey backpacks which are so spacious, have all the pockets and different compartments you could ever want and are actually very comfortable to carry. There are of course some cheaper options and the main thing to note is to use a bag that you can zip up and store your valuables securely. You can also buy anti-theft bags, which prevent people from unzipping your bag from behind in a crowded place and have hidden pockets for extra security for your travel necessities and valuables.
Travel belts are also a great option. It has to be said that they’ve been known to be rather on the clunky side in the past- but you can now get belts that you can slip under your t-shirt and keep your passport, money and any other important documentations safe and out of sight.
DON’T HEAD OFF THE BEATEN TRACK BY YOURSELF
If you’re looking to go somewhere more remote then it’s best to go with some friends or a tour group just to be on the safe side. If you get into trouble there will then be people around you who can support and help you. I would be particularly weary about heading into unknown places at night – bring someone along with you if you have to go or wait until the morning.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
This is an obvious one, but knowing your limits is so important when it comes to drinking. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you are not in control and could potentially be taken advantage of. It’s not worth the risk so pace yourself and know when to say no or stop.
KNOW YOUR COUNTRIES EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBER
This is so worth doing in case you get into any difficulty and need to call emergency services. It’s also useful in case you come across someone in need and need to alert an ambulance, the police etc. A handy tip I learnt is that if you tap the lock button five times on an iPhone it connects you to the emergency services in whatever country you are in.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE BEFORE YOU GO
Do not be tempted to skip this step! It’s so important and could save you a lot of money and pain. Factor this into your travel planning budget – use sites like Compare the Market and make sure your insurance covers any high-risk activities you might be planning (I’m thinking bungee- jumping and sky diving in particular). In a similar vein, be sure to get any vaccinations or medications you need before you travel.
As with everything there is an element of risk with travelling but if you’re sensible staying safe really is relatively easy. It’s about reducing your vulnerability to minimalise the likelihood of unwanted situations occurring.
Do you have any more suggestions you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!