How to Travel Safely
Your safety as a traveller depends on your location, time of arrival, perceived level of vulnerability, confidence, and level of common sense. Here are some key, widely recognised tips for staying safe whilst travelling.
1- Learn local laws and customs before you reach your new destination.
2- If you due to arrive late at your destination, it is advisable to have booked accommodation for at least your first night’s stay. Hostel world (www.hostelworld.com) is probably the largest source of hostels and hotels worldwide. Also make sure that the hotel knows when you are due to arrive and that a member of staff will be around to let you in.
3- If you arrive late at night at a train or bus station and are unsure of your location, stay there for the night! It will not be the most comfortable of sleeps you will ever have, but waiting until morning to look for your hotel can greatly reduce the risk of incident.
4- If you are taking a taxi, be sure that the taxi is registered and clearly labelled.
5- Do not advertise valuables. Do not wear expensive jewellery or watches in poorer places. Similarly, never keep your stash of money in your wallet. When arriving at a new destination, discreetly slip only a couple of notes into your wallet, the rest should stay hidden in the backpack that you keep with you at all times. This will ensure that opportunists do not pounce when seeing you with a wallet full of cash as you search for change to pay for a can of coke.
6- Act confidently. Victims are often targeted so don’t look like one! Walk confidently with direction and study maps and directions before you begin on foot
7- Try to never take taxis or buses alone. It is always advisable to team up with other tourists at least for unknown journeys. It’s also a healthy way to meet other like-minded people.
8- Smiling goes a long way. Even in a situation that seems to be quickly escalating, although words or even common gestures may not translate, a soft demeanour and a smile is universal. Most theft or muggings in poorer places are carried out by relatively ordinary people who are most likely good at heart, showing them that you are a real person through smile or light, calming contact, can go a long way.
9- Never fight with a local! An absolute golden rule of travelling. He may be half the size of you, but I will guarantee that he will have countless friends on the other end of a quick phone call and would be able to find out where you’re staying very easily should you be victorious in a scuffle.
10- Apologise and be gracious. You are in their country and so respect that, they owe you nothing and their culture may see things very differently than yours.
11- Being trusting is key to befriending locals, but always be weary.
12- If someone pulls a weapon on you, do not ask questions, do not even speak, hand over whatever is in your pockets and quietly nod. Often it is less hassle, particularly in some poorer regions in Africa, for muggers to simply shoot you and then rob you rather than mess around holding you up. Do not give desperate people a reason to pull the trigger, as they will most likely take it.
13- Never carry drugs and do not accept drugs from strangers as they may well be undercover policemen. If you want to take chemicals, let someone else shoulder the risk and take them the moment they are in your hands.
Being drunk will skew good judgement and will often result in you rubbing people up the wrong way. Know a place before getting drunk there, and never party alone.
Be weary of local women in poorer places. Prostitutes will not be upfront about their motives, and some have been known to plant drugs on you or in your hotel room in order to collect a ‘finder’s fee’ from corrupt police.