My Top Safety Tips For Travelers

During any of my previous travels I’ve always found that things are never as scary as they may seem in the beginning. Generally speaking as long as you follow the same safety rules as you do back home you should be ok. However with female travelers in particular, safety seems to be a prime concern before leaving, especially before their first trip abroad. As a result I’ve decided to make a list of helpful safety tips I always follow on any venture abroad, and also a few tips that are followed regularly by friends of mine and fellow travelers.

The key thing to remember about safety when traveling is that the methods you should take to protect yourself can differ greatly dependant on where in the world you are so you should always do your research before going to a country, and check out the customs and if they have any problems with a specific type of crime. For instance, before making a trip to Europe, although generally quite a safe and liberal continent, you should be aware that the most common problem there for female backpackers (and also a lot of males) is pick pocketing and theft. This is a problem which can be easily combated though, and although you can never guarantee that you will never have any belongings stolen while on the road, you can make steps towards protecting your valuables to prevent criminals.

Pick Pocketing and Theft

  • Always wear your bag across your body when out walking or in populated areas. This helps against your bag getting snatched and also leaves you both arms free in the event you need to defend yourself.
  • Making sure the zip or opening area of your bag is facing in towards your body rather than away, and not carrying things like money or your mobile phone in pockets will help prevent particularly against pick pockets and opportunist theft.
  • Do not carry all your valuables with you in the one bag, and when sitting down somewhere wrap the strap of your bag around your arm, leg, or chair/table leg. This again prevents against anyone snatching your bag while you are eating or otherwise pre-occupied.
  • For more info on protecting yourself from pick-pocketing, you may want to check out this post I wrote on how to avoid pick pockets in Barcelona – arguably the pick-pocket capital of the world.

Protecting Your Valuables in Hostels

I’ve almost always had good experiences in every hostel I have stayed in, however there was a few incidents where a few of my things got stolen (in particular a camera and for some reason items of my clothing?) however this was mostly due to carelessness on my part. Ways in which you can protect your valuables in hostels are as follows:

  • Always stay in a hostel that has a personal locker. I can not emphasise this one enough! If you keep you valuables locked away while you are not using them then it really prevents against opportunist theft (which is by enlarge the only type of theft that goes on in hostels)
  • Bring padlocks with you. Some hostels provide lockers but not always a locker or you may have to buy them from the hostel if you don’t have your own. I always put a small padlock on the zip of my backpack with my belongings inside as well as a pad lock on the locker itself.
  • Don’t leave things lying around. Sounds obvious but I ended up having to pay for a friends camera which I had borrowed to upload from. I had plugged it into the computer, turned round for a few minutes in my seat to talk, turned back round and the camera was gone. The worst thing was it wasn’t even my camera so I felt like I had ruined someone’s trip.

Personal Safety

Personal safety is something which plays on the mind of almost every traveler in the build up to their first trip in particular. As I mentioned above, following the same general rules of safety you would back home is normally enough, and make sure to check out the local customs as this can change radically around the world particularly for women, however these are some of the personal safety tips I always follow when heading out on the road solo.

  • Always carry a mobile phone. Having a fully charged mobile phone on your person is probably the best advice I could give. In the event that something bad happens, you are attacked, hurt, or stranded somewhere, you will be able to phone for help provided you are somewhere with a signal. Check (if you have a pay as you go Sim Card) that it works in other countries (not all of them do) or buy one from the county you are in. Make yourself aware of the local emergency services number and have it programmed into your phone.
  • Don’t walk alone at night. Particularly where females are concerned, if on a night out ask a couple of your friends from the hostel to walk you home, keep to populated areas at night, and make somebody aware of what your plans are that night and when you expect to arrive back at where you are staying. If you do have to walk alone at night for some reason, I normally call somebody on my phone and chat to them until I get back to wherever I’m staying. That way in the event of something happening somebody will at least know you are in danger and be able to alert the authorities.
  • If you are very apprehensive about traveling alone there are also things such as rape alarms or pepper spray that you can carry. There are several rape alarms these days that are both small and discreet and can be attached to your key ring or put in your bag. If you do put them in your bag make sure they are near the top or easily accessible as you don’t want to be wasting time looking for it in the event of needing to use it!
  • Another aspect to consider with personal safety if you are especially concerned about it is taking some self defence classes before you go. I did tae kwon do for a year back in my early teens, and still has some of the basic skill set several years on as an adult, so have never really felt the need to take classes before a trip. That being said I have never had to test it out on anyone so I’m not entirely sure whether it would be helpful or not, but I know from friends of mine who have also been traveling that they found this helpful. It gave them that bit of confidence to travel solo and allowed them to relax and have an all round better experience.

Most importantly, all the safety tips in the world won’t matter if you don’t have good travel insurance!  Even in the safest countries in the world with the lowest crime statistics, it is still possible to have something go wrong. Bad things can happen anywhere, even in your home country, but if you have good travel insurance that covers you for all your possessions, health bills, and repatriation, then you can at least enjoy your time abroad knowing you are fully covered in the event of anything happening.

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3 Responses to “My Top Safety Tips For Travelers”

  1. Here’s a streetwise NYC safety trick I picked up when traveling… I take out a key, pen or something small & pointed & hold it between my knuckles when I’m about to walk into dark or sketchy areas. LOL. I must have seen it in some safety class long ago…

    • jane says:

      Great tip! I actually remember my gran telling me that when I was a teenager. She lived in a rough part of Glasgow so I like to think she could have kicked some criminals ass with that trick lol.

  2. Hi Runaway Jane:

    Thank you for your tips. I loved them! I couldn’t have said it better myself. As a New Yorker, I have always been vigilant, especially in crowds. One thing my husband and I do, when traveling, is we exchange larger currency to smaller denominations and distribute them all over ourselves, so if we get pick pocketed we don’t loose all of our funds. We also don’t want people to know how much we have.

    Stay safe and happy travels.

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