1. Always Well-Research the Country/Area You Are Visiting Before traveling, it is important to have an idea of where you will be visiting! While some travelers like to play it by ear, it is still good to know basic information about the areas you will be traveling. This way, you will not only know the best and safest spots to stay but where to avoid as well. It is also very important to research how you will be getting around—whether buses, taxis, tuktuks—you should understand what companies are the best and most reputable to use and the times it is safest to travel. For instance, Sarah and I only use VinaSun or MaiLinh taxis in Vietnam. We also only take tuktuk’s in Sri Lanka during the day. These are preventative actions that have helped us to always stay safe and avoid getting ripped off while traveling.
2. Feeling Secure is Always Worth A Little Extra Mula Something Sarah and I always do when traveling somewhere new is set up a ride from the airport. Even though it is not always the cheapest option, knowing someone will be waiting to take us safely from the airport to our hotel always gives us a sense of comfort when entering into a new country. Also, we like budget traveling, but we found that sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra to stay in a nicer place that feels more secure—even if that means paying 2 extra dollars to stay in a female dormitory at a hostel. I remember I booked a homestay when I arrived in Saigon by myself, and I got a strange feeling when I got to the home—several factors gave me an uneasy feeling. So, I trusted my gut!...Which is important in general but especially when traveling as a woman. Even though it was uncomfortable, I told the family that I could not stay there, and I paid the extra money to stay at a hotel that was in a better area and where I felt more secure.
3. Know the Appropriate Dress Code I think that one of the best ways to assimilate into a new culture is to dress like the locals. Wearing shorts in a conservative city, where women often cover their ankles, is a sure fire way to get unwanted stares and attention. People respect travelers who respect their culture and give an effort to adhere to dress norms. Overall, I try to dress like a local women, because I like to blend in as much as I can—as much as someone possibly can with blonde hair in Southeast Asia.
4. Use a Fanny Pack! Other than making you look really cool, fanny packs are a great way to keep your valuables safe and secure. When walking in crowded markets and shopping areas, I never have to worry about my valuables, because they are strapped around me in my fanny pack! There are many great options on Amazon.com. There are smaller fanny packs that you can wear hidden under you shirt. However, I would suggest getting a bigger fanny pack, so you can fit everything in it and be hands-free! I always carry my wallet, hand sanitizer, tissues, and phone in my fanny pack.
If Sarah and I are going out to dinner (and want to retire the fanny pack for the day), we wear a small, crossbody purse that zips. These are also extremely convenient.
5. Avoid Drinking Too Much When I am traveling, I am always conscious that I never drink too much when I am out. Often the more you drink, the higher risk you have of someone trying to take advantage of you—whether it is taking your belongings or worse. Thus, while I will treat myself to a few beers, I never let myself drink too much, because I always like to stay aware of my surroundings.
6. Go Out in Groups While day excursions are often fine solo, it is always a wise idea to go out at night with a group. It is also a good idea to make a plan of how you will be getting back to your hotel/hostel before you leave. This way you know who will be coming back with you, and if you need to set up transportation ahead of time! A lot of the nighttime horror stories I’ve heard could have been avoided if they figured out transportation ahead of time, or made a plan to stay together. Depending on where you are traveling, taxis may night always be an option at night. Thus, setting something up with your hotel or hostel can make for the safest most reputable option!
7. Avoid Being Initially Overly-Friendly This is something that I really had to work at when I first started traveling. I really wanted to make friends, especially with locals in the area, but sometimes that friendliness unknowingly came off as flirtatious. I now strive to be much more blunt and cautious when I meet new people, and then slowly warm to them once I have established their credibility—especially with local drivers. I also always avoid giving details about where I am staying or what I am doing the
I hope these travel tips are helpful! These are things that Sarah and I do, and they help to make us always feel safe and secure while traveling. I don’t think traveling should ever be seen as a scary venture, but it is always good to be as safe and preventative as possible--wherever you may be!