A lot of us want to roll our eyes when it comes to safety and give it the old "omg, okay mom" type of response. But it's the moment you land in that incredibly far away place all by yourself and realize "Oh sh*t, this is crazy." You immediately feel vulnerable and think maybe you should've done more to prepare. Here are some of my top safety tips while traveling internationally (especially while solo):
1) Spend Your First Night in a Hotel
To those of us on a budget, try spending your first night at a nice hotel if you can afford it. This gives you a concierge and front desk to direct all your questions towards. It makes you feel safe and secure while in an unknown place which is important when you first arrive and already feel slightly intimidated. Spend your first day venturing out for a couple hours, coming back to the hotel, and going back out in a completely different direction. This will give you a sense of the people and environment without making you feel too far from your home base.
2) Try to Walk Without Your Phone in Hand
We naturally think to carry our phones when we feel like we should be "on guard". But in a lot of places, this just makes you a target. If you aren't going far, look up where it is and remember how to get there. This will also force you to learn the area without relying on a map. If it's a little farther, write down the directions in a small notepad and carry that instead. Keep your phone safe in your purse or front pocket as much as possible.
3) Carry a Cross Body Bag
Leave your backpack where you're staying and just walk around with a cross body bag. Carrying a purse on your arm Elle Woods style could result in someone trying to snatch the bag. Major tourist spots in certain places around the world can be a real hot spot for thieves and pickpockets. Backpacks are only a problem in really crowded places such as Times Square or Eiffel Tower. You get distracted and don't even notice someone getting into your bag behind you. Bags that cross your torso with a long strap and zipper make it nearly impossible to pull off of you or steal what's inside.
4) Use Uber instead of a Cab
Resist the gut instinct that getting a cab on the street would be safer than Uber. In some places, cab drivers recognize you as American or as a young female (if you are one) and assume they can take advantage you. They sometimes lie and say the meter is broken and then give you an outrageous price when you get to your destination. That's the best of the bad things that can happen but you don't always know if they are actually a cab driver or they are who they say. Uber is an American company so you'd have more control with a bad experience and you know they have gone through background checks. Follow with the app to make sure you stay on course and don't veer in any weird direction. Uber is in most major cities around the world but check before you leave so you know what the safest plan will be when needing a ride.
5) Stay in at Night / Go With People
Nobody wants to hear that they shouldn't go out at night. There's so much to do and all the bars and nightclubs come alive in these incredible ways especially when you're abroad somewhere amazing. You want to experience it all which is understandable. But if you're traveling alone especially a female traveling alone, the reality is that you shouldn't be out at night by yourself. You don't know the area, the people, or what streets are considered safe. Watch the sunset, get a bottle of wine for home, and head to where you're staying for the night. If you have friends with you or know that you can trust a few locals that you've met, stay with them and make sure you get home safely.
A Few Extra Tips to Keep in Mind:
When at a bar...
I know we all have heard to cover our drinks, but it's even more important while traveling abroad. You don't know the bartender or the people around you. I have heard several stories of women dancing with drink in hand all the while a pill was slipped into the drink. It sounds scary but it can be avoided. Watch the bartender make your drink, carry it with you, and if you want to dance, cover the top of the bottle with your thumb.
Be lost like you know where you're going...
Even when you have no idea where you are, act like you do. Don't wander around aimlessly with a huge map asking everyone a ton of questions. This shows anyone looking for target, that you are prime candidate material. If you get lost, walk in a specific direction with your head up, and get to a credible looking business to ask for further directions.
Don't think that you do not have power...
You're the same person in another place. You still have a lot of power! Use it. When you are the local market or a tourist- oriented market, haggle! Never accept the price provided if there's any room for haggling. If you do get in a cab and they say the meter is broken, get out! Nobody is forcing you, and they need to know that travelers are smart too. If you get yourself into a risky situation, make your presence strong and confident.
The intention is not to scare or detour anyone from traveling and seeing the world. Several countries you visit will probably be safer than the one your coming from! But others won't be and you need to be aware of that. Anyone traveling has to stay smart and in control of their time abroad. The last thing you want is a situation that can hinder your trip and all the planning you've done to make it incredible! Stay safe and stay traveling, friends.
Carry This (put in checked bag)
Perfect Cross Body Bag
Put Your Money In Here
Get a Safety Book