Girl went missing in Thailand. British woman killed and two in hospitalin hospital after scooter accident.
Recently, headlines like that are ruling the media. And those are just the stories that make it that far. When you ask friends or frequent travelers what type of stories they’ve heard throughout their trips, you feel like, especially as a woman, you should never step foot outside your own country ever again. Robbery, rapes, accidents – the list is long.
The most recent story might be the murder of two Argentinian girls in Ecuador, which made the hashtag #viajosola and the question if women should travel without a male accompanist go viral.
But I, as a female (solo) traveler, can say that this is not as common as it seems and that traveling without a male isn’t as dangerous as it seems. In 5 months of traveling the world by myself, the worst thing that happened to me, was getting my flip flops stolen – no joke. Because I tried to be cautious and safe at all times. And because of that, I feel like I could give you those four major tips on how to be safe when traveling – especially as a girl/woman.
1) Be cautious (but still have fun!)
Scooters. When I was in Asia, I felt like every second person I saw had bandaids or bandages around their legs. Why? Because they all felt like they should hop on a scooter on a busy island like Koh Phangan and just go with it, without ever having tried it before. Well, no. Obviously, it is a great way to get around and I wouldn’t say don’t do it (after all, I did it as well). But maybe do it with your friend. Practice first. Wear a helmet. And don’t do it drunk. Yes, that sounds like a given, but I assure you, I’ve seen so many people jumping on their scooters after I’ve seen them downing a beer in the bar next door. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. And a bruised knee isn’t all that can happen.
Some travelers decide not to take any smartphone with them at all and instead go with their old, crappy Nokia 3210. I, for myself, took my iPhone, because I knew it would be the only way to have access to internet because I didn’t take my laptop. Which brings me to this point of keeping safe. Think about it, what do you really need?
When I was traveling in Asia, I rarely took my phone with me when I went outside, especially during night times. Because, to be honest, why would I? I had no service most of the time and even though there were so many instagram-y moments, I still decided that the pictures in my mind were the most important ones. And if you decide to take your phone or you camera with you: Just don’t show it off too much. Poverty is still a big thing in a lot of backpackers’ places, so why rub it under their noses that you’ve got the money to buy the great new iPhone 6? And why making it so easy for them to take it away from you?
Also, every hostel provides lockers, so just put all your valuable belongings in them when you’re leaving and they should be safe after all.
3) Team up!
The best thing about traveling alone? You are not alone for long. Be it in a hostel or at a booked tour, you meet people easily. And beside this helping to make your time traveling even better, it also makes it safer! One night in Thailand, a big group from my hostel went out. After a while, one part wanted to go to the next bar, one part wanted to get food and head home. So far, so good. One girl decided to walk home by herself though, since she didn’t want to do either without telling any of us and ended up being mugged on the way to the hostel. So, what I’m trying to say – stick with the people you meet. It helps you on so many levels! Especially when you’ve been drinking one too many Bintangs or Singhas.
4) Respect cultures
Last but definitely not least: Respect cultures. Do you remember that scene in Gran Tarino, where Walt Kowalski is petting a little Vietnamese kid’s head at his neighbor’s place and everyone looks at him as if he was crazy? That’s just a tiny thing related to cultures – in a lot of Asian countries it is considered rude to touch someone’s head because it is sacred. Those and other etiquettes are important to look into before traveling somewhere. I’m not saying you have to cover your whole body when in an Islamic country, but what harm does it do to wear long pants and something to cover your shoulders?
So, overall, I am not implying that all those headline-girls were not following those rules because unfortunately there is still evil in this world (and it doesn’t matter if you are on your own doorstep or in a foreign country) but I know from experience, that following those rules is just a first step in experiencing a trip, that will stay in your mind because of the great places you see and people you meet and not the terrible things that happened!
And one more thing: Don’t let those stories take away your courage and passion for traveling, because you simply would miss out on so many great experiences. There are millions of backpackers out there and just a tiny amount of bad news stories about them. So go with it!