Handy travel tips you may know but might just forget.
There are many reasons why we choose to travel alone. Whether it is to enrich personal experiences, recover from a bad breakup, or getaway from social and media; placing an old self in a new environment allows space to rethink, reedit and refresh our lives.
While at that, it is easy to lose track of the priorities in our itinerary or grow a greedy heart when presented with many new opportunities overseas. This makes it hard to focus on the one thing that is least fun but most crucial – safety.
I think it is important that we talk about this topic: the safety measures to take as a solo female traveler. True, there are countless advises out there, but here I’ve narrowed down two handfuls that I religiously practice. Make sure you know all these safety travel tips before going out and get wild!
1. Be informed – know your emergency contacts and locations.
Is it 911 or 119? Save the emergency numbers of the city you’re at. Know where the nearest police stations, hospitals and your country’s embassy / high commission are. You don’t have to memorize their exact addresses, but having an idea of where they are located comes in very handy when things get hasty and you need to hurry the f@%k up.
2. Gear up to counter attack.
Once you’ve completed #1, it’s time to head out where adventures await, yes? Never do so without a pepper spray and safety whistle (this 2-in-1 package makes for a great combo and travel companion).
I must admit that these items have the tendency to fall into the useful-items-you-buy-but-end-up-at-home category. However, they might just be the simple life-saving inventions you’d be forever thankful for. Make sure they are easy to access and not mixed with the clutter inside your handbag.
P.S. Other things to always bring: power bank and charging cable; as a smart phone without battery is as good as a brick.
3. Spilt and hide your cash stash / credit card.
Some crimes are worse than others though all of them are a pain. Being pick pocketed doesn’t literally hurt but it certainly ain’t no fun being a victim. My uncle was traveling Paris with his family when a sneaky bastard pickpocket his fanny pack and got away with ALL the money he brought for the trip! It was only their first day there and didn’t even have time to exchange the currency yet. Needless to say, it totally killed their vibe.
I personally never carry more than RM500 of cash with me regardless the currency; as I can’t bear losing any amount more than that. Half of this stash I keep in a ‘slim’ nude pocket strapped onto my thigh. (A few times I wore shorter dresses so I actually stuffed euros in my bra!) My brother has something like a belt, which he wears around his waist before his jeans. With that, we roamed Barcelona as free as two birds without any worry in the world. NEVER keep all your cash in ONE place / bag.
When withdrawing money, avoid doing so at lonely ATMs especially at night, unless you wanna be a target of getting mugged.
4. Fake your marital status.
Even if you are single and looking, wear a wedding ring – but NOT one with fake diamonds as seen above. You can always take it off when necessary. There is no need to let strangers know you are traveling alone unless you are truly comfortable with that person.
5. Wear the ‘New Yorker b*tch face’.
I got this great piece of advise from a New Yorker in her late 50s when I was alone at the Big Apple. “Did you see the New Yorkers out there when they do their walk? It’s called the New Yorker face. You do that, sweetheart, and walk fast.”
Even when you are feel scared, try not to look afraid or lost. Pull your best b*tch face (the resting version works too) and keep walking towards the direction where it is crowded with people. What if the place is already crowded and you are still being followed? This actually occurred to me.
I acted fast, made believe that a tall suited man next to me was actually my acquaintance and paced my walk as if we were together. If you’re wondering, it worked. That confused the stalker so he gave up trying when ‘we’ crossed the traffic light ‘together’.
6. Be selective of your eye contact.
Even if you’re seeking for love, it is not 24/7 that you want to attract everyone. Avoid eye contact at places where your instinct feels insecure. A casual, accidental glance from eye-to-eye can be mistaken as a flirt or show of interest at cities like Istanbul or Kathmandu. Well at least, that happened to me when I all meant to be was nothing but friendly!
So if you have curious, wandering eyes, try wearing sunglasses during the day. Like the fake wedding band, you can always remove them when you want your summer love to stare into the windows to your soul.
7. Don’t walk danger home. / Call a taxi to the rescue.
“Never walk alone along dark alleys at night.” Your grandmother could have told you that but trust me: it can still happen. Sometimes you might think “Ahh, it’s just 500 meters away. I bet nothing can happen.” Well, that’s when things can happen and you can’t erase them. If Google Maps guides you to take a shortcut that looks deserted, always choose the busy streets. Otherwise:
Order an Uber ride to leave whenever you feel unsafe about the route you’re taking or when you simply feel uncomfortable with your new date. You can definitely afford to pay that few extra dollars home. While it’s good to be able to save when traveling, remember that not all risks are worth taking.
When riding a normal cab, make sure that it is a legit cab company. I always snap a picture of the cab’s registration number with the camera shutter sound on because I’d like the driver to know before Whatsapp-ing it to someone. It might seem rude at first, but imagine a country like Malaysia – red cab – midnight – no meter? Safety first, ladies!
8. Use travel apps (very) wisely.
Today, we live in a mobile world of apps. Travelers rely on Airbnb to book accommodations or CouchSurfing to meet new friends. While you can trust these useful apps, how much can you trust the people behind their profiles? There had been stays and meet-ups gone wrong, which is to say that precautions have to be taken when making your selections, especially when you are a woman traveling all by herself.
Do background checks, listen to your instinct, be wise instead of naive, and leap if you have to. Your instinct is more accurate than you think.
9. Don’t leave your drinks lonely.
Always meet new acquaintances at busy, crowded locations and never leave your drinks unattended. Hold your pee until you finish your drink, bring it into the bathroom if you have to, or order a new one. This point is easy to forget, so remind yourself as many times as you need before drinking. Say no to your fourth glass of wine / know your limit!
10. Get insured by a good company.
Is it necessary to invest in travel insurance? I do when I: 1) know that I have many trips lined up that year 2) have a trip overseas that lasts more than 2 weeks.
Important: Always read the small print before purchasing as insurance companies can be complete assholes when it comes to paying you anything if you need them to.
Most credit cards already come with insurance when you use it to purchase a trip, so make sure you don’t double pay. Find out if your existing insurance(s) cover you internationally as well i.e. your phone protection program. Then, select an insurance package that covers the areas you’re not covered.
The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is old but so true. Have you ever wished you could turn back time to avoid an accident from happening? ONE mistake is all it takes to destroy or mark a girl’s life forever. The good news is, not all lessons have to be learned by mistakes. I hope these 10 travel tips come in handy for all inspiring-solo travelers reading this article. Do you have a handy safety tip to share? I’d like to know. x