Last week I found myself in an unfortunate situation in Ukraine where I had my money stolen by a taxi driver. I wasn’t planning on talking about it, but it wouldn’t be fair to only talk about the good times. Travel has many ups but it also sometimes has downs. It isn’t always as perfect as Instagram portrays. So, I’ve decided to put together some tips on how to stay safe when travelling. If I can help just one person avoid the situation I found myself in I’d count it as a success…
Arrive in daylight – This isn’t always possible but it’s something I’m going to try really hard to adhere to in future. I usually travel after work on a Friday and arrive at my destination late in the evening.It’s always better to arrive in daylight and spend time getting your bearings around a new place.
Let people know where you are & check in regularly – It is so easy to stay in touch these days, there is no excuse not to drop someone back home a text or IM about where you are and a rough idea of your plans. It is also worth scanning a copy of your documents and emailing them to both yourself and someone back home in case they are needed.
Trust your instincts – Always listen to your gut feeling. If you don’t feel safe, leave. You have no obligation to stay anywhere where you don’t feel 100% comfortable. Use your common sense, it could be your most powerful tool.
Don’t be too trusting of people you’ve just met – This sounds so bad, considering how many friends I’ve made when travelling. However, what I mean by this is that the majority of people you meet are sincere but not everyone is. Just be careful with the situations you get yourself into and make sure you’re keeping yourself safe.
Don’t drink too much – Anyone that knows me will laugh at me preaching this. However, I’m being serious. When I’m travelling solo in a foreign country I’m completely different as I only have myself to rely on so need to have a clear head. I’m not saying don’t drink at all, just be responsible with the decisions you make. As we all know, when intoxicated people tend to make decisions they wouldn’t necessarily make when sober.
Blend in & look confident – Try not to stand out too much as it may draw unwanted attention to yourself. Additionally try to look as if you know what you’re doing. If you’re lost, go into a cafe or shop before taking out your map. If you act like a local, you’re less likely to be bothered unnecessarily.
Make the most of wifi – If you’re like me, you don’t want to pay excessive charges for using your data abroad. When I’m at a place with WiFi I tend to use that time to touch base with people back home, to Google routes to places and to do a bit of research on my destination. It’s always worth learning the customs and at least a few words of the language.
Hide money – Don’t keep all your money in one place, separate it between bags if you can. I’ve heard loads of tips about keeping your money safe – from storing notes in your bra to inside a tampon case. If you find something that works, do it! I tend to have two purses on me meaning if I am robbed (again) then I can hand over the purse with the smallest amount of cash in it.
Questions prices – Before I step foot in a taxi I always ask for the price. If the journey is based on a meter then I ask for a rough estimate. If you feel like you’ve been ripped off then ask for a receipt and you can investigate/ complain once you have time to get away from the situation.
Give it up without a fight – If someone is demanding your money, your phone or anything, just give it up. There are people in the world with questionable morals who wouldn’t hesitate harming you to get what they want. Your iPhone is not worth dying over. Just give it up. Material goods can be replaced, but you can’t!
Get a rape alarm – Thank goodness I’ve never had to use this when travelling, but this was a really useful gift from my mum a few years ago. If you feel like you’re in a situation where your safety is at risk you pull a little cord and the most horrendous scream comes out of this tiny contraption. It’s designed to draw attention to your location and scare people away. They’re not expensive and they’re small enough to carry about on your key ring or in your bag, so I recommend having one.
Invest in insurance – And finally, make sure you have insurance. If the worst does happen and you do have something stolen or you are hurt, insurance is invaluable.
I hope some of the above is useful. Have you got any other tips on how to stay safe when travelling? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below….