After pretty much 6 years on the road in some shape or form, I’d love to tell you I was a pro traveller, savvy as they come and 100% never put myself in danger. But that would be a lie. The truth is I actually think, the more you travel, the more comfortable you become. You become so confident in what you’re doing that you let your guard down. Maybe that’s what happened to me last year. You see, I managed to somehow get robbed, have my identity stolen, get bitten by a spider, gave myself water poisoning… actually the list goes on.
All of the above were easily dealt with this time, but it really got me thinking, ‘Are we really that safe on the road?’ So here’s some safety tips for women travellers I came up with (as much for myself, as for sharing with you).
1. Research where you’re going
Ok first up, research your destination. Might seem like common sense, right? But when I say research, I don’t just mean make an itinerary. What I really mean is check vital information. Firstly, check the hostel is legitimate. The internet is great place to do this, check reviews on sites such as Hostelworld and Tripadvisor. Your fellow travellers are one of the greatest sources of up-to-date travel advice there is. A good recommendation from someone who has physically stayed there is priceless.
2. Secondly, how are you getting from the airport to your accommodation?
Especially relevant if you’re arriving at night. Lots of airports now have pre-paid taxi services but make sure you know the address of where you’re going. It’s helpful to drop an email to the hostel you’re staying at and ask them for advice, the best way to get there and how much to expect to pay.
I also learnt last year that checking security measures at the hostel is probably a good idea. You need to know there’s somewhere to store your valuables, like a locker. And on that note, it’s 100% a better idea to carry as few valuables with you as possible. Leave your fancy gadgets at home.
3. Keep your belongings safe
Following on from the locker situation. There is nothing more valuable to you on the road than a really secure, heavy weight padlock. This is not only vital for locking up your rucksack when actually travelling but also something you cannot do without when securing a locker. I wouldn’t think about trusting hostel provided locks ever again.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way in Iceland last year. Ironically, one of the safest countries in the world and the only one I’ve ever been robbed in. I came back to my dorm room one day after being on a walking tour only to find my padlock had been broken and my valuables stolen. Needless to say, I was heartbroken, but these things happen, and we have to learn lessons!
Money wallets that tie around your waist are also a god send. I actually used one pretty much all through my travels in India. A great place to stash cash and your passport. But I guess the ultimate lesson, is to not carry any more cash than you really need.
The more you can blend in the safer you and your belongings will be. Unfortunately, it’s very true that tourists are often targeted for petty crime all over the world. A few general tips include, not walking around with tourists maps and learning a small amount of the local lingo. You’ll appear like a local in no time.
4. Don’t overshare personal information
I know what it’s like to meet people travelling. The connections and unbreakable bonds. And, trust me, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy that. I’m not saying don’t make lifelong friendships. What I am saying is don’t overshare personal information.
This was a lesson I learnt last year. I’m pretty sure the person who robbed my locker knew what they were looking for. I had travelled to Iceland from Canada but had just been in the Caribbean working for a month. Something that never occurred to me I shouldn’t share with fellow travellers. But I’m pretty sure this snippet of information is what made someone suspect I must be travelling with money and valuables. Not fair!
5. Make sure someone always knows where you are
What with social media, email and WhatsApp these days, there’s actually very few places where you’ll be totally off the radar. It’s probably fair to say friends and family far away usually know your vague whereabouts. Sometimes, if you’re really in the middle of nowhere, local SIM cards can ensure you have some level of contact, should you need it.
Some rules are made to be broken. But, if your hostel advises you against walking around at night, or even sets a curfew for travellers, it’s usually for a good reason. Rules like this are best listened too.
6. Eat and drink clean
Goes without saying really. But seriously, being horrendously sick and away from home is difficult (and scary). Making sure the foods you eat are properly cooked and the water you drink is adequately filtered is an absolute must when it comes to your health and well-being. Following a particularly bad experience with bottled water in India, I have since purchased a life straw water bottle, my new best friend! And I’ve also been using aqua tabs to purify larger quantities of water. Touch wood, I’ve not been poisoned since.
Safety tips for women travellers on the road is a widely covered topic. There’s so much safety advice out there on what you should and shouldn’t do. The main thing is to be vigilant while travelling. Be aware of your surroundings, and of course, remember, there are no ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ countries. So, do your research, be prepared and don’t let the fear scare you out of exploring the whole world.
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