It´s true that once you start traveling you begin to realise that the world really isn´t as dangerous as people, and the media, seem to make out. But it´s also true that bad things happen all over the world (just look at the newly elected President of the United States), so you still need to keep your wits about you.
I have compiled a list of ten tips for staying safe, which have been drawn from either my own/other travelers experiences.
- Keep a copy of your passport in a safe place.
It´s unlikely (if your passport is your prized possession, like mine) that you will lose your passport, but it happens. Or it could be stolen. A copy of your passport ensures you have all your details so you can get a new passport from the nearest British Embassy and ensures it will take the least amount of time.
2. If you´re traveling on a night bus, keep your valuables with you.
I have heard a lot of stories about people´s stuff being stolen on a bus, particularly stories about travelers getting their bags back after the journey to find their stuff has been rearranged inside. Or rumors about some bus companies keeping someone with the bags so that they can spend the journey hunting around in people´s bags to see if there is anything worthy to steal. Thankfully this hasn´t happened to me so far, but I have heard that it happens. Depending on the country, you are also advised to keep your highly prized possessions that you can´t live without e.g. passport, credit cards, phone, in a smaller bag underneath your clothing (on you) incase people come on to the bus and start demanding your carry-on bag. Again, this has never happened to me in the countries that I have been in but I have heard it happening in other countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and South America.
3. If you´re traveling to a country where your own language is not the first language, take medication with you.
This could be anything from the medication you always have to take, through to diarrhoea or stomach cramping tablets. It´s not that there won´t be somewhere to buy medication, but it might be that the people in the pharmacy you visit don´t speak English or all of the medications have information in a different language. For instance, I tried to buy travel sickness tablets from a pharmacy in Myanmar, yet I couldn´t find anyone that could understand what I was saying, even with the google translate app. So I gave up and didn´t buy any. However, when I had food poisoning and I was in Koh Phi Phi, I went to a pharmacy where the lady spoke perfect English and I was able to buy some antibiotics from her. What I´m trying to say is that chances are you´ll be able to find medication if you don´t have it, but if you can, try to take some with you just in case.
4. If you´re going out to a party, please don´t walk home alone, drunk.
This should be self-explanatory, and should be something you don´t do even when you´re at home. However, I met a girl who had just been to one of the islands in the South of Thailand and had been out with a group of people. She walked home on her own and ended up being wrestled to the ground, sexually assaulted, and robbed. So even if you feel totally fine to walk home on your own, please don´t.
5. Have the vaccinations that are needed for the countries you are traveling to.
This one should be obvious too. But I know plenty of people who didn´t bother getting vaccinated either because of the cost or because they believed they would be ok. Yes, most of the time you probably will be ok, and the people I know have been absolutely fine. But what if you´re not? Don´t risk your health and your body, it´s the only one you´ve got that enables you to travel the world!
6. Talk to other travelers
There was this joke at a certain point in my travels, where people were saying to me ´why do people only tell you the bad things that have happened to them?´because I was always the person who came out with things like ´someone told me that they were mugged in this area´, or ´someone got their bag stolen from them on a bus´. But I´m glad people told me those things, because it ensures I keep my wits about me. I´m coming to the end of my trip now and I can happily say that I´ve not been in an unsafe situation (probably jinxed myself now!). Chances are, on your travels people will tell you about any scams they´ve encountered, unsafe areas they´ve travelled to, etc. So you´ll always be in the know. Plansify is a good website where you can talk to hardcore travelers and ask them any and all questions you might have.
7. Get insured
I know that some of these will sound really obvious, but you won´t (or maybe you will) believe just how many people don´t travel with insurance. Granted, the ones I have spoken to have all been fine, but what if they hadn´t? You´re meant to be protecting yourselves incase anything does happen, not just assuming nothing won´t so ´what´s the point?´ I´m sure plenty of people have thought that and then been stung with medical bills/lost their luggage at an airport etc. I hope I don´t have to use my insurance, but I have it.
8. Watch what you´re drinking
Bali is infamous for spiking their spirits with methanol. I´ve seen stories in the news and pasted up on hostel walls from other backpackers. It´s not that everywhere you go you shouldn´t drink spirits, but just look around and make a judgement. If the place looks like a dive that you absolutely wouldn´t ever eat from, then it´s probably good if you stick to bottled drinks. Me and my friends did that in Gili Trawangan; we still managed to drink spirits some of the time, but just stayed away from anywhere that looked dodgy, and if we weren´t sure, we´d look it up on trip advisor.
9. Research the country that you´re going to
Especially if it´s somewhere you´ve never been to before, somewhere known for political crime, or somewhere without the same culture as home. You don´t want to turn up somewhere where it is rude to show your skin, and rock up in a cropped top and hot pants. Or go to a poverty-stricken area flashing your expensive watch and new iPhone. And you probably don´t want to get kidnapped while you´re away, right?
10. Lock your stuff away in a safe
Most accommodation should offer safes/lockers for people staying there. Even if your room mates seem like trustworthy people, be sure to lock away the stuff you care about the most. I always make sure to lock away my passport and my extra money. I´ve heard stories about people being robbed from people they´ve met while traveling, so it´s not out of the question.
Hopefully this hasn´t made traveling sound like the most unsafe thing you could ever do, because it´s definitely not. I´m hoping it also hasn´t made it sound like all I do every day is research countries and lock myself in a safe room, because that´s also not the case. Most of the time I don´t even consciously think about what could go wrong, I just keep my wits about me. As I´ve said, I´ve not really found myself in any of these unsafe situations, but I´ve definitely spoken to people who have.
Stay safe everyone!