After a long solo travel hiatus, to a non-english speaking country, I was invited to explore a few countries in South America. I was rather excited to finally visit South America. However, a couple of incidents reminded me that I need to take travel safety seriously and not be overzealous when travelling in foreign countries. Take note and try not to repeat some of the errors of my past:
1. Always check travel requirements for your destination
There are different travel requirements for countries depending not only on your nationality, but also on where you are coming from. My travel plans are not always very well researched in advance. Lack of appropriate preparation resulted in a very expensive error, costing me almost $600 for the lesson. Turns out that a hard copy of a yellow fever vaccine is required when travelling from Brazil to Colombia.
2. Carry both cash and cards for travel
Have some cash on hand, as it is more widely used in some countries. This might be necessary for food or taxi rides. I don’t know if it is the African in me or just paranoia but not all my cash is in my purse but some is usually stacked in places where my dignity may be questioned, if I had to pull it out in public.
3. Engage with locals and other travellers
One of the amazing things about travel is opportunity to connect with people of different cultures. Engaging with locals and fellow travellers can lead to valuable recommendations, awesome adventures or tips that might save you angst or money during you trip. I love hearing other’s experiences and so I highly recommend this to everyone. Solo travel can be lonely if you do not engage with others during your travels. Trust your instincts and become attuned to listening to your gut, which will usually guide you away from danger.
4. Share travel plans with trusted individuals
Share your itinerary with 2 or 3 people so people can find you if the worst were to happen. This was hard for me as an introvert, who does not usually share my whereabouts, but have implemented it since someone tried to break into my hotel room at 2am in Sao Paolo, and I envisioned my body in carry cases being taken off to some Amazonian jungle (I have a wild imagination, but it drives positive action so – I will stick with it)
5. Exercise caution and do not engage in risky behaviour
At times when we travel we throw caution out the window. Be mindful that you will have blindspots in foreign countries. Remember each area has safe and less safe areas, so avoid walking alone at night, drink responsibly, particularly when in the company of strangers.
6. Familiarise yourself with few basic phrases in the local language
Demonstrate respect and cultural understanding by learning a few basic phrases in the local language. Locals appreciate the effort, and it can help facilitate better communication and interactions.
7. Familiarise yourself with local scams and risks
Try read up on local scams and potential risks to help you stay vigilant and avoid falling into common tourist traps. For example I was informed not to jump into a yellow cab in Medellin, Colombia, as a non-spanish speaker. Without a common language, anything could happen. Luckily, all I lost was about $20 after an adrenalin pumped ride, where I almost got dropped off knee deep in a favela.
8. Embrace the present moment and have fun
More than anything – immerse yourself in your new environment in a way that is true to you. Whether it’s taking photos, observing silently, or actively engaging with others, find a balance that suits your preferences. I love going to museums, cooking classes and food tours as a way of trying to gain a bit more understanding of the local culture.
9. Secure important documents
Carry original documents such as passports, health certificates, national IDs, and bank cards wherever possible. Safeguard these documents in a secure and easily accessible manner
10. Lock your room door and use security latches
This is not out of paranoia but from personal experience. If you can travel with an alarm door stop as well, that would be great, but if there is a security latch on the door of your hotel room, use it! If there is a door lock, use it! Minimize the risk of unwanted guests easily getting into your room.
By following these safety tips, you can enhance your solo travel experience Remember to prioritize your well-being, stay informed, and remain open to new connections and cultural experiences. Enjoy your solo adventure while ensuring your personal safety at all times.
In the comments section, please share other safety measures you apply when travelling alone.