Travel safety can be a bit of a controversial subject between two distinctive camps. Those who spend their lives travelling and those who make excuses not to. Often as a solo female I get the third degree about my travel choices from family, friends and strangers alike. And surprisingly in this day and age one of the most common questions I still get is “But that part of the world is so dangerous why would you ever want to go there? Aren’t you worried about your safety while travelling alone as a woman?”
People are so quick to assume your ignorance to the dangers of travel, that they forget that these things happen at home as well. I got hit by a car on a quiet Saturday morning on my way to work for crying out loud! The world is a dangerous place no matter where you go and that shouldn’t stop you from booking your dream trip. But here are a few things to keep top of mind when planning your international adventure that will help with your travel safety.
Buy Travel Insurance
Easily the single most important thing you can do before any big trip is to get insurance. While this might seem like common sense, really doing your research into your coverage and making sure you select the best option is vital. I have used a few different insurance providers over the years but I have found that World Nomads is the best option for long term or backpacking trips. This comprehensive coverage protects you and your belongings. It can also be tailored to cover a wide range of high risk sports like scuba diving, sky diving, or mountain sports. The coverage is affordable and you are able to purchase or renew a policy on the road. Which is particularly handy if you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars at one time.
One of the biggest selling points of getting insurance with World Nomads is their commitment to protecting digital nomads. That means all your cameras, phones, computers, tablets etc. are protected from theft and loss. When I lost my Go Pro off a rope swing in Guatemala, I was devastated to have lost all my footage but a quick trip to the police station got me a report stating where and how it was lost. I then began my claim online that day and finished it when I got back to Canada over a month later. Within another 6 weeks I had a cheque in hand covering not only the cost of my go pro but the memory card as well. Needless to say, I was stoked on how easy the whole process was and was able to buy a new camera with the money.
Notify Someone of Your Movements
Back in the day, travellers would provide family and friends with a detailed itinerary of their trip. Sending messages back home was a lot more challenging and usually required a trip to the local internet café for quality time with some dial up internet. With the availability of wifi becoming the norm, sending messages back home is much easier to do. Most long term travellers don’t have a set itinerary and instead leave it open and flexible. One-way tickets and vague country hit list is about all that people have when they take off. So giving someone a detailed itinerary is not really feasible.
I believe it is still super important to let someone know about your movements. This can be as simple as letting your family know when you are moving on to a new city. At the very least it provides them with peace of mind in knowing where you are. And in the worst case scenario that something goes wrong they have some information on hand about where you are staying.
Safety in Numbers
This is particularly important for solo travellers in less than safe countries. The beauty of the backpacker community is that you are rarely on your own. This is our biggest advantage in travelling, and if you’re heading out on your own don’t be afraid to link up with other backpackers heading in your direction. Ask around if anyone is heading to the same place you are and see if they want to book the same bus. While you can certainly travel safely on your own, its always nice to have a bus buddy to pass the time with. And most backpackers are more than happy to look out for someone on their own.
Another thing to consider is accommodation. When Amy and I got robbed in Nicaragua, it happened on the only night we stayed in a private room in a hotel. Now I’m not saying all hotels are unsafe, but super budget or quiet hotels should be booked with caution. In Central America for example, staying in hostels means that there are extra eyes on your stuff. Especially when travelling alone in countries like that staying in dorms will provide additional security and peace of mind. That being said, while in South East Asia 5 years ago, Jane and I stayed almost exclusively in private rooms because of the cost savings. The biggest thing to keep in mind if private rooms is the route you want to go, make sure there are other people around. There is inherent safety in numbers.
Use Your Common Sense
Common sense is your biggest safety defense while on the road. Trust your gut insticnts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If taking the super cheap transportation makes you feel really nervous? Spend the extra money to travel tourist class. Having confidence while on the road in a foreign country makes you less of an easy target. Don’t walk around glued to your lonely planet or street map. Keep your valuable documents, cards and cash on your body on overnight transport. Wrap your backpack strap around your feet on the bus in case you doze off. Don’t flash fancy electronics around. Basically don’t be stupid.
Let your guard down and thieves will take advantage of the opportunity. So don’t give them a chance. Be smart, watch your stuff. And if you do get robbed? Well it’s just stuff, pat yourself on the back for getting that travel insurance, start a claim and go back to enjoying your travels.
Do Your Research
All of the tips above are useless if you don’t do your research about the country you are visiting. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger because of your flagrant disregard of the current climate in a country. Head online to government travel websites like this one, to see if there are any travel advisories for your destination. There is so much valuable information there from visa requirements, health and safety advisories to weather considerations.
You can safely travel through developing countries. Don’t, for example, put yourself in a position where you are in a country with extreme political unrest. If it is just a small region of a country that you can avoid? Then by all means, book the trip. Just be wary of the dangers and be smart!
Bottom line for travel safety…
There will always be risks associated with travel. If you are smart, aware and prepared there is no reason to be worried about heading abroad. Set yourself up so that if something goes wrong you are protected. And most importantly, enjoy your trip! You worked extremely hard to get there, don’t let fears of safety ruin it.