For both first time and seasoned backpackers, safety while travelling is one of the biggest concerns. Of course bad stuff happens everywhere, but you can minimise the risk, so here’s some simple travel safety advice that can be applied all over the world.
1. Be informed
Always make sure you’ve done some research or spoken to other travellers about your next destinations so you are prepared. There are lots of country specific scams like the ‘mustard scam’ in Argentina, the ‘fake police’ scam in Bolivia and ‘closed hotel’ scams in Vietnam.
2. Be prepared
Always get the recommended high/medium risk injections before you set off on your backpacking adventure. And yes it’s expensive, but do invest in travel insurance, you don’t want to be stuck somewhere with a huge medical bill to pay.
3. Don’t be flashy
They have a saying in Colombia that can be applied anywhere in world, ‘don’t give people papaya’. What it means is simply don’t give people opportunity to steal your stuff. E.g. walking around with your phone in your back pocket is pretty much inviting a theft.
4. Keep eyes on
Particularly while you are in transit between different places, make sure you always know exactly where your stuff is. Keep anything valuable on your person and if you’re on an overnight bus, don’t just leave a bag by your feet, tie it onto you or lock it onto the seat frame.
5. Separate your cash
This applies for both physical cash and the money in your bank accounts. Keep notes in different pockets both on you and in your bag. Don’t have all your cards in one place either. And have different bank accounts so if a card gets cloned someone can’t access everything.
6. Use lockers
Fellow travellers can be just as much of a problem in terms of stealing belongings, so if you’re sharing a room lock your valuable stuff away. 99% of hostels have lockers so it just doesn’t make sense to leave your laptop on the bed while you nip out for something to eat.
7. Watch the drink
If you know you’re out for a big one, consider leaving anything that you’re not prepared to lose locked away safe in the hostel. Drinking away your senses is one of the most common safety issues for travellers because it makes you so much more vulnerable.
8. Trust your instinct
If something feels wrong, listen to your gut. You know dark alleys are never a good idea, you know it’s not a good idea to walk home alone at night, you know leaving your bag with that guy while you nip into the shop may not turn out well, so don’t let complacency creep in.
9. Make backups
This applies to before and during your travels. Make both paper and electronic copies of your passport and other travel documents. Also back your photos and apps up as you go, then if your phone or camera does disappear, it’s only monetary value and not memories too.
10. Don’t play the hero
Most importantly, if you do come face to face with a truly dangerous situation, just hand your stuff over. Your fight or flight response will kick in, but remember, your belongings are not worth putting your life at risk for.
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