The first time in an immersive travel experience, especially one that lasts a few months can be a real shock. Culture shock abounds, often made worse by jetlag and language barriers, but after you overcome the initial shock there are more stages of “First Time Life Abroad.”
Great Safety Tips For First Time Or Solo Travellers
Remember all those rules your mother taught you to ensure that you are safe. Apply them rigorously when you’re travelling.
- Trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right leave. Whether it’s a bar or a park or a hostel, if you don’t feel good in the situation, if your spidey senses are tingling, it’s best to get out of there.
- Know the typical con games of your destination. If someone wants to give you something for free it may be a good idea to decline. A rose is often offered on the streets of Barcelona to draw travellers in for a con. A ring apparently found on the ground and offered to you as the person who possibly lost it is another ruse to turn away from. Familiarize yourself with the common con games travellers encounter. Here’s a list of 40 tourist scams.
- Stay in public.I learned this lesson the hard way. I was caught in a con game and, fortunately, I did not leave a public place. Had I done so my life would likely have been much different? Read Solo Travel Danger Part II: Caught in a Con Game
- Where you’re staying is personal information.Don’t tell strangers where you’re staying either in words or actions. Your accommodation should be your safe haven.
- Stay alert. While it’s wonderful to sink into a destination, luxuriating in its culture, it’s also important to be aware of what’s going. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Sleep well.Being well rested makes you more alert. Conversely, if you’re overtired or jet-lagged you should be aware that you are naturally less alert.
- Stay sober. Whatever your drug of choice, it’s best to stay sober as you travel. This is not just important for being alert but also for your judgement. Judgement is compromised by alcohol and drugs.
- Walk with confidence.In tourist areas such as the Eiffel Tower meandering as a tourist makes sense. However, there are other circumstances where you want to walk like a local as if you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going. You don’t want to look like a tourist. That requires that you walk with confidence.
- Blend in as best as possible. Blending in requires more than just walking with confidence. Be aware of cultural differences and blend in if possible. Read 10 Ways to Blend in When You Can’t
- Be polite. Be Impolite.Being impolite can definitely get you into trouble. If people take offence to your behaviour it’s hard to know what can happen. So, definitely be polite under most circumstances. But if a person is bothering you being polite can get you into trouble too. Know when and how to make a lot of noise and attract attention to yourself and the person bothering you.
- Don’t flash wealth.Leave expensive things at home. Don’t wear jewellery or flashy clothes/accessories that will attract attention to yourself. Even if they don’t go after your jewellery they may target you for picking your pocket.
- Keep your belongings close. Hold your wallet, camera, cell phone/mobile… close to you. Never keep your wallet in your back pocket. Keep the number of things you’re most concerned about to a minimum. For me, it’s my wallet, phone and passport. Having just three things make them easy to carry and keep track of.
- Take special care of your documents. I keep my passport on me. I keep my plane ticket on my phone plus paper copies in my bag. And I keep extra money in a couple of places and an extra credit card separate from the one I use. Read: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets
- Carry the business card of your hotel or hostel.Getting back to your hotel or hostel is pretty important but it can be a challenge if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language. When you check in to get a business card from the establishment and carry it with you.
- Don’t automatically jump in to help. If you see someone suddenly in need of help, get someone else to go their aid with you. A local is more able to help and having someone else involved will protect you should the incident be a con game.
- Always carry a map. While walking around with a map in your hands may make you look like a vulnerable tourist, having one of you can be very helpful. If you’re lost, stop by a shop to look at it and get assistance.
- Understand the city transit system. Know how safe it is, fares passes and basic routes before you arrive.
- Take a break once in a while.This goes along with staying aware of your surroundings. If you’re experiencing travellers fatigue join a day tour or cooking class or something that will make for a simple, interesting and relaxing day.
- Stay safe at your lodging. I suggest that you consider the hotels, etc., in the Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide. They have all been recommended by readers of Solo Traveler, Tracey or me. Here are quick and simple tips for hotels.
- Ask for a room on an upper floor.
- If you are a woman ask if there is a women-only floor and get a room there if possible.
- Be aware of the alternative exits.
- Before you go out ask about safety.
- When you return at night, ask for an escort to your room if you are nervous.
- Use the como security lock.
- Lock important items in the room safe.