Every now and then you hear stories in the news or from friends of women getting themselves into sticky situations whilst abroad. This always seems to be because women, out there, travelling solo, or in small groups have thrown caution to the winds and forgotten all their normal habits which keep them safe at home and have assumed that no one would want anything but good for them. It’s as if we slide back into childhood, leave the responsibility for ourselves behind and expect the local ‘grown-ups’ to look out for us – why should they? We’re complete strangers.
By following some guidelines, not for spoiling the fun but for making sure that you arrive back home, having had fun and not some overseas nightmare, you can stay safe and enjoy the local country and culture.
Do as the local women do
One good way of ensuring your safety is to take your cue from the local women. If they aren’t going out alone beyond a certain time then that is a good clue as to the safety of the area.
Don’t loose your head
Just because you are on holiday and it’s all great fun doesn’t mean to say that nothing can touch you. Muggers and rapists don’t take time off and will note you getting drunk and acting foolishly at the local bar. Bad people can live anywhere and just because the local guides you met have been lovely doesn’t mean that there are others who won’t take advantage.
Follow local customs in terms of dress. If you are in a Muslim country, cover your shoulders and knees and if necessary, your head. Aside from not standing out this is also a sign of respect for local culture, basic good manners and will earn you more respect back from the local men.
Don’t go anywhere dark, quiet and lonely
It’s nice to get carried away with the romance of a place but if you get too isolated then you become a target. Try and stay within earshot or sight of life wherever possible so that you can signal for help if needed. It might make those meaning you harm a little more cautious, and this will buy you some time if you spot anyone acting suspiciously nearby.
Keep a mini-torch in your bag
Quite often in developing countries there are powercuts. The infrastructure isn’t as reliable as it might be back home and the slightest provocation will cut the lights. I once stayed on an island where there weren’t the facilities to power the whole island at one time so the power used to randomly go out as they switched to powering a different section, no schedule or warning to this of course! I took to carrying a tiny MAG-lite in my purse. Always there it got me out of a hole on a number of occasions. It can also help in times of no street lights and dark hotel corridors when you’re fumbling for your key.
Take out only the money you need
When going out in the evening or to a busy market place it makes sense – take only what you need in terms of valuables. Leave everything else in the hotel safe. There’s no need to be frightened of stepping out of your hotel but at home you presumably wouldn’t carry hundreds of pounds down to the pub so why do it overseas.
Keep your taxi fare tucked away separately
If the worst happens and you are pick-pocketed or mugged then it can leave you vulnerable with no means of getting back to your hotel. Make sure that you put your taxi fare separately from your other money. My long time habit is to keep a couple of notes tucked away in my bra! If they are looking in there then I probably have other fears to worry about.
If on your own get home at a decent hour
If you are travelling alone get back to your hotel at a decent hour. I aim for before 11 if I’m on my own in a city. There are some places where I bring that forward with a bit of local knowledge, knowing that it’s safer to be tucked up in my room by 9. Sus out the local area and figure out when is a good time to be back – ask questions of your hotel reception, they should be able to guide you on the local area and customs.
It’s nice to be out and about and to share a few drinks with new friends, be that locals or fellow travellers. Watch your alcohol intake though. It’s not sensible anywhere to get so drunk you aren’t in control but at least at home one would hope your mates will take care of you. Friends you make on the road won’t necessarily feel that obligation so make sure you are competent to get yourself home safely. Drink by all means, but keep it safe. Also, be wary of accepting drinks you’ve not seen poured and brought over. It’s easy for someone to spike your drink so if you think something is wrong then be cautious, stop drinking and make the bartender aware rather than leaving with a stranger.
Trust your instincts
Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right they there is probably something to be concerned about. Don’t panic but trust your gut and get out of there as quickly as you can.