Just now my mom is talking with one of her friends on the phone. She just told her that I will be going back to China in a couple of month. “Alone?” is all her friend asked, “that’s brave!”. I tend to get these reactions a lot. Many don’t get why somebody would travel alone and even more think that it is really risky to do so.
I often get asked if I am not scared? Is it even safe for a woman to travel alone? Is travelling in general safe? I usually answer :Well, is crossing the street safe?
I have been travelling since 7 years now. Alone, with friends and with my family and I learned some valuable lessons about how to keep safe while traveling, from my own experience and from other travellers I met on the road.
But first let’s get some points straight, travelling solo as a FEMALE or MALE does not make much of a difference in safety. The dangers might vary slightly. As a man it is more likely to get stabbed or beaten up in a worst case scenario as a woman the risk is higher to be raped.
Yes there are dangers ! But let’s be honest, statistically speaking most crimes are committed by people close to the victim. Just a small percentage is committed by strangers.
Taking this a bit further, yes there are some countries more dangerous than others, but are you really safer in your home country?
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful when you travel. Just let me quote Professor Moody from Harry Potter: “Constant vigilance!”
Feel free to tell me now that I am paranoid and always being careful is too exhausting blablabla. But certain things will just become a habit at some point and we are talking about your health and life here, so you might want to put a bit effort in staying safe.
There are always those lucky ones that travel for years and never ever get into any trouble. But most of us will get into one or two tricky situations, if not on the road, maybe when you are at home.
There are some things that will help you to reduce the risks a bit. You never have this 100% safety, but if you follow some simple steps, you are less likely to become a victim.
This is why I give you a list of my personal safety tips and tricks, these worked for me since 7 years. Some habits I had to learn the hard way, others are thanks to my mother. Mom you taught me well, thanks =).
1.Beware of the dark : This one is so simple,but still some people just don’t take it serious at all. Don’t go through dark, unlit areas alone, even if it is the shortest way.
Not saying somebody will sit there for hours waiting for you to pass through, to mug you, but these areas present an opportunity. Chances are that things will get much worse in a dark park, as on the lit up street, simply because it is less likely to be noticed. There is a reason people are scared of the dark.
Leave out potential dangerous areas. Means, in a big city don’t wander off alone in a park, don’t take dark allies and in certain cities when travelling you maybe shouldn’t head straight for the local areas (if you know how things work in the country, because you lived there yourself, this doesn’t count for you) especially not if you are a sheltered princess/prince first time away from home, chances are that you are going to react wrong or won’t be able to read the mood properly.
Giving you an example, in Chicago I sticked to the tourist areas, instead of checking out were the real life did take place. Was I missing out? Probably. Do I regret it? No. I didn’t want to stand out as the stupid tourist, not knowing how things roll, so I stayed were I had a better idea about the proper behaviour. I was alone, if I would have stayed longer or lived there a while, things would have been different. I prefer getting a feeling for a place first before I dive straight in.
2. Hangover Nightmares: The second one is also really simple. Don’t get wasted and always keep and eye on your drink. Yeah buhuuu boring me, spoiling the whole fun.
But chances of you getting robbed are becoming potentially higher. There are horror stories from people waking up in dark alleys with nothing more than their underpants on, not even gonna start with missing organs. These happened to guys and girls.
When you are drunk you are the easiest victim ever. When you are out with your friends, usually you take care of each other. So if you met some people while travelling and you feel really save with them. (Still keep in mind you don’t know anything about them yet) go on and have a fun party.
Trust your instincts, but don’t get lulled in, the guy buying you one drink after the other, could be just a really nice person, but also could have some other plans. (Whether it is taking your money or something else, you never know)
3. Dress properly: This is mostly one for the girls. For some reasons people don’t consider dress codes in other countries. When, for example, travelling in a muslim country, you should take some longer clothes with you, at least some that cover the knees and shoulders, maybe even the ankles.
Dressing the same way as you would on the beach in Spain, is not just considered disrespectful but also can get you into not so fun situations.
Starring being the most harmless. Getting openly asked if you would sleep with them, because the short clothes make them think you are an easy girl, already is slightly more scary. When they start touching you it’s time to run away, immediately. Don’t think the police will always help you, worst case scenario they tell you it was your own fault or they put you into jail (Dubai *cough*)
Now before you get all puffed and ohh but this is my personal freedom, I can wear whatever I want, nobody can tell me what to wear blablabla.
You should keep in mind that it is you, that is going to another country, with another culture. Things work differently in some places. Do a bit of research and adept. Don’t stand out as the clueless tourist and get yourself into trouble.
You are going there, respect the rules and follow them. If you don’t want to, maybe you should stay at home. It’s all a thing about respecting the other cultures, whether you agree with them or not is not important.
When in Rome,do as the Romans do and try to be open for some new things.
4.Don’t follow strangers: Never ever follow the nice guy, wanting to show you his city and offers you a guided tour and a stop at his favorite food place or club.
This one is especially important in China, but can be found all over Asia. There are certain people, speaking very good english, hanging out at the touristy places and waiting for foreigners.
They will be very nice and talk with you and at some point they want to show you a tea house or some other great place, where you will be able to learn about real chinese culture. DON’T FOLLOW THEM.
Usually the person will disappear or stay with you and order something really expensive and disappear then and you are left alone with a horrendous bill. If you don’t want to pay, at some point usually some gorillas come in, who will try to scare you a bit.
These situations can go wrong really quick and the police won’t be able to help you, because you bought something, so you have to pay for it.
So don’t get into that trap in the first place. If you want to test your guide, ask about if he/she wants to join you to go to another place you already know. Usually they will say that place is “no good” and will try their hardest to make you go with them to their place. That is when you know there is definitely something fishy going on.
5.Be aware of your surrounding: Be prepared. This is one of those things you learn when you are doing martial arts. Be aware of what is happening around you, pay attention to your instincts. If you feel something is off, go away from where you are or go to the next best crowed place. Maybe it is nothing, but maybe your gut feeling is trying to tell you something. Trust yourself, better a bit paranoid, then later sorry.
I once had a guy following me while wandering through the streets in Lankawi, Malaysia. At first I just felt watched and then I took random turns and noticed that a man just kept following me. I headed straight to a very lively area and disappeared in the crowds, when I checked I somehow got rid of my unwanted follower.
This one goes for men too, you are not safe of robbery either. A simple trick is going to heavily populated areas or into a museum and if it still isn’t working, just go to a nice looking group, family or couple and talk to them.
Just tell them that you think this person is following you and if it would be ok if you could stay with them for a while, till the person passes.
Usually nobody will tell you to go away. Especially if you are a woman. You might come off as a paranoid person, but it is really efficient to get rid of unwanted attention. A friend of mine used this trick a couple of times.
6. Hostel Room Safety: When you book a single room in a hotel/hostel ask for a room at least at the second/third floor, don’t take one at ground level.
Also a handy item to carry with you is a small doorstop. When travelling in asia, you sometimes will have rooms, were the lock and door is not stable at all. If you are in a hostel and everybody is partying, people do stupid stuff when they are drunk and you will maybe have some unwanted visitor, who forgot which room was theirs.
A simple trick is to take one of those plastic door stops with you (those supposed to keep the door open) and use it when the door is shut from the inside. Most doors open to the inside of the room and with this little tool it is much harder for
a stranger to open the door.
7. Self-Defense: Take a couple of self-defense or martial art classes. This one is so easy, but nobody those it. If you are self-confident and know how you should react you make it so much harder for the thief, gangster or what soever.
Statistically speaking most will already let you go, when you just start screaming loudly and are putting off a good fight. Because you are no easy victim anymore.
They haven’t scared the hell out of you and you are proving that you will
make them a lot of trouble. Not saying you have to knock them out, that’s not even necessary. A good self-defense class will show you how to get away from a dangerous situation as fast as possible.
That’s all that counts.
Also these classes are a great boost for your confidence and again it is proven, that if you are walking straight and confident you will be less likely to be attacked, because if let your shoulders hand you look like a person easy to scare.
8. Updates: Give your friends or family regular updates on where you are, let’s say a short message every day or at least once a week. If you miss it and are not answering they know something is off and can contact the authorities.
When you go for a hike in the mountains inform the Hostel/Hotel you are staying at and what time you plan to be back, so if you don’t turn up they do know something is wrong.
This is all that I can think of right now. Sure it is a long list and some things are maybe a bit over the top, but I live by the Motto: Better save, then sorry.
I don’t really trust my luck and none of these things really limit the way I travel, but I feel better and my family at home worries less about me.
The things up there, are not just for female solo travellers. They can happen to guys too.
Keep in mind when you travel alone, you are also alone responsible for your safety. There is nobody who can look after you.
Most likely nothing will happen, but you never know.
I follow most of these things not just when I am travelling, but also when I am at home and am going out alone. It’s just simple safety rules.
With a bit of common sense and a good instinct you will be just fine.
Ps. Same goes for hitchhiking, couchsurfing and other things were you meet up with complete stranger. Trust your instincts, if possible check reviews and profiles and if something seems off, just leave.
No need to feel bad. Remember it’s your life, you don’t have to justify your instincts, if something feels off.
Now stop being scared, get out there and have a safe journey, where ever your road leads you to and share some tips on how you keep safe while traveling with the rest of us. Did I forget anything you would like to mention? Feel free to share your opinion about my post. Am I going overboard or is it ok to be this careful?