Monday 18 August 2014

10 tips on how to stay safe while travelling

After this post on The good, bad and ugly of travelling solo, people came to me and asked me how to stay safe overseas so here's a list I came up with.

1) Always put your bag in front of you.
This should be an obvious one but just a reminder to those who have taken safety for granted growing up in Singapore. I've heard stories where someone's wallet was stolen from an inner pocket.. o.o I carry my sling bag postman style so that my bag is in front of me at all times. I see many people carrying sling/shoulder bags which can be easily snatched away. Oh and please just leave your Pradas at home.

2) Dress like a local.
I know, I know, we all want to take new Profile Pictures but safety first yes? By dressing up too much, you are giving it away that you are a tourist and that makes you an easy target. I always try to blend into the crowd by acting somewhat like a local. Causal dressing, camera inside my bag until necessary, an I-live-here expression and a pair of comfortable shoes so that I can flee in case of danger.

3) Adopt a false identity & don't reveal that you're alone.
Ok I don't usually do this but I did tell a Turk who was trying to chat me up and another dude who offered me a lift that my name is Sally (couldn't think of a new name fast enough) and I was from Malaysia. Choose a country that you know at least something about, just in case the other party starts asking you questions or happens to have travelled/lived there before. But basically tell them nothing real about yourself. And also, if random strangers ask if you are alone, always say NO. Tell them that you are with your friends/partner/spouse. But again, I normally admit that I travel alone to other travellers especially those I'm keen to make friends with because you'll be exposed soon anyway.

4) Be very aware of your surroundings.
Keep your eyes wide open, observe your surroundings carefully and (sorry to say this but) don't trust people too easily.

5) Keep your cash separately. 
I always divide my cash and put them in different envelopes, like maybe 200 in one. This helps me to track my expenses and also to check if any money is missing easily. It's also advisable to keep money on you in different places; wallet, bag, safety pouch (I used one during my recent trip to Europe, just so happens that Qatar gave them out containing flight essentials), backpack, socks..

6) Always keep a list of numbers with you. 
I have a list of emergency numbers (local police numbers, embassy numbers and addresses) given to me by a friend on my first solo trip and I always keep it in my phone. Also, have your hostel number and address with you at all times. In case you need a taxi, you can show them the address and in case you need some help but not serious enough to involve the police, call the hostel.

7) Keep someone updated.
Let someone know where you are everyday and tell them to panic alert the embassy where you were last contactable if they don't hear from you for more than X number of days. I am extremely thankful for friends who constantly messaged me to ensure that I was safe, you guys know who you are <3

8) Learn some self defense moves.
I have been wanting to learn a martial arts for quite some time now but still haven't gotten to it. You can learn judo, taekwondo or kickboxing, anything that teaches you how to fight defend yourself.

9) Learn some local words/phrases.
Learn how to say "Help me!" or maybe "Call the police!" I usually learn local tongue to have small chats with the locals or at least say hi, bye and thank you to them. They appreciate the effort even if you're terrible. Just like how I'm impressed when non-Chinese people say a few sentences of Chinese, it is the same way around. I met a lot of Koreans on my recent trip and they were already praising my Korean when I've only said hello hahaha.

10) Don't stay out too late.
I sound like your grandmother but it is really a piece of advice I adhere closely to. It posed a problem for me when I was in Europe during the summer because the sun sets at 10pm. So if I wanted to enjoy the city lights, I had to be out till at least 11pm for the sky to be totally dark. One solution is to find a friend (preferably someone who stays near or in your hostel) to go with you. Or choose a hostel in the heart of the city so you can return there easily and quickly after dark.


Just take care and you will be fine. Happy travels!

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