With the sad news of another British female solo backpacker’s body being found and so many friends still solo traveling, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my top tips to staying safe.
Firstly, I would like to send my condolences to Amelia’s Banbridge’s family, a 21-year-old backpacker whose life sadly came to a tragic end while visiting the island of Koh Rong, Cambodia. Also, my thoughts are still with Grace Millanes family, a 22-year-old backpacker who sadly lost her life while staying in Auckland, New Zealand, this really hit home for me as it was back in December 2018 I was 5 months into my first solo adventure and a few weeks until I flew into Auckland to start a 6-week road trip across both islands.
However, we cannot let these tragic events stop us from traveling solo, I’m sure both of these young girls were living out there forever dreams and traveling as safely and as aware as they felt they needed to be.
- Stay in contact with family and friends
You maybe be living your best life with not a care in the world but no doubt your family and friends are living with the constant worry of you being safe.
I must admit I found face timing and phone calls difficult due to time differences and catching my family when they had finished work, but I constantly kept them updated via our WhatsApp group. If you’re going to and island that has no signal and you’re not contactable for a few days just pre-warn your family, let’s not give them sleepless nights.
2. Trust your gut feeling
Trust your intuition, if a situation or person doesn’t feel right, analyse the situation and get out the situation, say no, move on to your next location. There is no shame in this do what makes you feel comfortable.
When traveling Cambodia, I came across a few situations where trusting my gut and going back to the hostel early or moving on from a place after 24 hours because I just didn’t feel safe, the little voice in my head was saying trust your gut and I feel this took me in the right direction.
3. Get advice from the locals or an expat
The locals and expats know a lot more about the country you’re in than you as a new traveller. Ask Staff at hostels and hotels what scams to look out for. Getting to know the locals and asking advice from them can allow you to find hidden spots with fewer tourists and some of the best small restaurants that are cheap as chips.
Many hostels have a daily walking tour ran by a local guide this is your best chance to get to know your surroundings and ask as many questions as possible. No one knows a place and how to be safe more than someone that has lived there for multiple years.
4. Party Sensibly
The backpacking world of new places and new friends is all very exciting, Pre-drinking in the hostel bars then bar crawling your way through a new place is so fun but remember you’re a solo backpacker you haven’t known these people for long so you’re not their responsibility, staying safe when out partying should be a priority.
Too much alcohol can put you in the most vulnerable place, when working in Vietnam there were so many backpackers that came and said their passport or bank card had been stolen when they were out partying or walking back to the hostel alone, the common thing in this situation was they were all too drunk to remember it. So, party hard but party smart.
5. Take a good lock
When staying in hostels you will get a locker in your room however these do not come with locks and when you go out you will be leaving the majority of your belongings in the room. I would recommend coded locks rather than a key as keys are easily lost when exploring or out in the evening.
I would also recommend a small lock for your day bag, when traveling on night buses you will want to sleep without the worry of someone sneaking in your bag so lock this too. I remember a girl’s laptop was stolen from her bag while sleeping on a night bus so just be aware and cuddle it haha.
6. Travel insurance
I know you may be thinking ‘durr everyone obviously gets travel insurance’ you’d be shocked how many people had travelled longer than expected and not renewed their insurance. Whether you’re going on a weekend trip or a year-long adventure, get travel insurance that covers you for medical, loss of luggage, etc.
If you’re from the UK like me were super lucky atm that the NHS is free, remember other places aren’t so lucky and you don’t want to rack up a medical bill to send home to your parents. For my long trip I used World Nomads insurance, they cover for everything and for a long period of time, so I highly recommend it. Website; https://www.worldnomads.co.uk/travel-insurance.
7. Make copies of important documents
Whatever you do please make copies of your passport before leaving your home town!! Personally, I would make copies of all your insurance documents, flight documentation, visas, and passport. Keep a copy on you and leave a copy at home with family and then have a digital copy you can access on your phone. Also, what a lot of people don’t know before traveling Asia some countries want a passport-sized photo of you when getting visas on arrival so make sure you have a few of these in the backpack.
8. Know the country you’re going to
Do your research before visiting a country! Every country has different customs, make sure you know what you can and can’t take into a country. Make sure you know the visa process, landing in a country and not being allowed to enter due to visa issues is terrifying so make sure you have the correct information. Finally, do some travel research, you don’t want to come out of the airport and pay for an overpriced taxi, there will be buses into the city for a much cheaper price J
9. Make note of emergency contacts
Fingers crossed this is never needed but better to be safe than sorry.
Make note of any country you visit emergency phone numbers! Keep these in your phone and also on a bit of paper in case you lose your phone. Make a note of a point of contact from home in a notepad and keep in your bag, in case anything happens the hostel or new friends will be able to contact home for you. Write down numbers of the hostel your traveling to next in case you’re turning up in the middle of the night and get lost you can ring ahead and they’ll be able to help. I would also keep a note of any of your home country embassies, if I lost my passport I would need to attend the nearest British embassy so make sure you have an understanding of their locations.
10. Try and learn the basics of their language
I know this is difficult and if you’re like me I find impossible! But learning the simple Hello and Thank you can make traveling that bit easily the locals appreciate this a lot. Remember you’re in the country so be as respectful as possible.
Finally, Solo Travel is the best experience, it teaches you so much so don’t be put off by the sad tragic stories we, unfortunately, see on the news. Just have fun but travel smart and travel wisely.