For a lot of travelers, going solo is the way. After traveling solo for many years, these are my tips for making sure you come home with your head still on your head. Okay, that’s pretty extreme, but these are 10 things to consider about your security when you travel to a land you know no one and you’ve never been before.
- Do your research. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t assume you know about where you’re going to because of some article you read on a Google search. Go deeper than that. Ask friends if they know of anyone living there or who lived there in the past. Speak with them personally and ask them questions like:
- What’s the place like at night?
- How peaceful is the area? Are there high incidences of crime?
- If lost, how easily can you find your way to your place of lodging?
- How friendly are the people?
Don’t just assume, be certain.
- Make friends. Develop the skill of making friends quickly and easily, sometimes, they could spell the difference between life and death. I usually start by making friends in the bus. If I notice the person sitting close to me is a native of the place I’m visiting, I try to start up a conversation immediately. Hopefully, we quickly build up a bond. I then ask a lot of questions and in exchange for their help, I over value in return. For example, I share some of my travel experiences with them too. It’s a good way to get a native’s phone number should you run into a situation where you’ll need it.
- Don’t be a hero. A while ago, I was traveling across southern Nigeria. On one of those occasions, I visited a beach in Akwa Ibom State. While taking pictures and preparing for my interview with some locals, two men approached me. Immediately I saw them coming, I knew they were up to no good. In Nigeria, they are called ‘agberos’ or street boys. They accused me to taking pictures of their water without paying them. I had no idea one had to pay to take pictures of the ocean. To deescalate the situation, I smiled a lot and tried to make friends with them. Finally, we settled for an amount, and they let me go.
- Trust your gut. For real, you should. It’s probably right.
- Reduce attention. No need of wearing fancy jewelry or designer clothing, you don’t need all that. Unless of course, you’re staying in a luxury hotel and you have a dedicated cab taking you out and bringing you back. Blend in perfectly with your environment. It’s better you don’t make it obvious that you’re a tourist. Clicking your camera at every single sight will undue attract attention some of which may be negative.
- Avoid keeping important things behind you. Wear your backpack facing front. Please, don’t keep stuff in your back pocket. It’s a terrible idea. You’ll be any easy target for pickpockets.
- Learn self-defense. They may come in handy. You don’t need to be a taekwondo champion or anything like that, but it’s good to have some knowledge of self-defense when you’re attacked. Equally important is knowing WHEN to use it.
- Keep cash in different locations. This is in case some is robbed. I suggest you have a secret pocket sewed somewhere in your clothing. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to this but leave some cash with family and friends before you travel, so that when you are completely out of cash, they can have it wired to you via Western Union. Inform your bank before you travel as well.
- Avoid walking alone at night. If it’s unavoidable, walk slightly behind a couple, but just don’t walk alone at night.
- Carry a small notebook. This is where you write your address as well as emergency phone numbers.
This list is for both genders and of course, it’s not exhaustive. Traveling solo is very rewarding but also comes with its challenges, and it’s important for you to be very prepared. Find out more about safety while traveling abroad here.