Before embarking on my next solo adventure, I take some time to do my research about the area and will do my best to ensure that the if an unfortunate circumstance arises, I have a plan in place. Understandably, we all can’t be overly cautious or we’d be the most paranoid of travellers! However, there are times that we forget the basics.
Tip 1: Make photocopies of your Passport and ID
This one seems like a no brainer, but it’s an easy one to forget. I also take copies of my credit cards and leave them with two people at home before I go on my trip. If anything happens to my originals or personal copy, someone at home can fax/scan to where I am. When you photocopy your ID, ensure you copy the back and front to avoid complications at the embassy/police station.
Tip 2: Know where your embassy is when you travel
You never know what can happen. We take copies of our documents or gain access to them from someone back home, but don’t know where to go. Find out where your embassy is located and e-mail it to yourself with a map attached. I know it sounds silly, but it may even give you peace of mind.
Tip 3: Leave your valuables at home and keep your bag on your lap
Pickpocketing is everywhere in the world, and some areas may be more rampant than others. Ask yourself, can you live with it? If you can’t, leave it at home. Understandably, cameras, phones, sunglasses, etc are important when you travel but keep them close in your carry-on bag. If it’s in your knapsack make sure it’s somewhere deep enough or in a compartment that if your bag gets opened/slashed they only get a hat or sweater. Keep your bag on your lap, looped around your body, arm, leg.. whatever. If someone tries to snatch it when you’re sleeping… consider it as an alarm clock.
Tip 4: Educate yourself about local laws and customs
I’m not saying become an expert, just know the basic rules for tourists so you don’t happen to bring a habit/act you consider normal to a place that forbids it. For example, Singapore is a stickler for littering and the fines can run you up a pretty penny if you are caught. Also, to the ladies, if you’re going somewhere conservative and the local custom is to cover up, just do it. Save the independent female argument for another time and if you find that the customs are too outlandish for you, find an alternative place to travel. Remember, you’re a guest so be respectful.
Tip 5: Ask your accommodation to highlight the unsafe areas on your map
Once you get your map, ask your hostel/hotel to highlight the areas they view as unsafe for tourists both day and night. If you’re still uncertain, meet and hang out with people at your hostel/hotel and suggest exploring the areas as a group. If you’re our partying, make sure you party safe and stay with your new friends. This isn’t home, so don’t put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
Tip 6: Always have contingency money
When you’re out and having a great time, sometimes we use up all our cash and stuck with not enough bus or cab fare to get back to your hostel/hotel. Tuck an equivalent of a US$20 in your shoe, sock, bra..wherever. That’s your emergency money that will get you back to your hostel/hotel. Also, you may want to leave a couple of bucks in your pockets. Apparently, if you do get robbed, you can pony that up and access your emergency money to get you home.
Tip 7: Trust your gut
As you travel, you will meet a number of different characters. Mostly friendly but you run into the odd one here and there. If your spidey sense is going off or a voice inside you saying “stranger danger”, believe it. There is no discount, party, guy or girl that is worth any risk to your personal safety. Remove yourself from the situation and move forward.
Call me paranoid but I believe that safety, especially when you’re solo, is important. You’re there to experience and enjoy yourself, so why not put a couple of preventative measures in place?