Alice Lynch shares her top tips on staying safe while travelling solo…
Like many young women, I love to travel. I probably get it from my mother, who spent most of her twenties cycling solo or hitchhiking across continents. While she survived her adventures with nothing more serious than a very well-worn bike, my various travels are a serious cause of worry for her – and not without reason. Sunday 8th March marked International Women’s Day and, while there is a lot of progress to celebrate, the issue of women’s rights and safety while travelling remains a cause for serious concern.
We’ve all seen Taken, and seen how one tiny naïve moment on holiday can cost us a lot more than sunburn and a lost wallet. While there may be a happy ending for Kim, not all of us are lucky enough to have Liam Neeson as our dad. When it comes to health and security, world-wide gender inequality issues mean that, sadly, travelling is still far more risky for the independent female than it is for men. Danger comes in all shapes and forms, from issues of sexual health or general illness, to physical threats such as violence. Serious progress needs to be made in this area, but in the meantime there are ways to minimise safety risks – nothing should stand in a girl’s way of adventure! Here are six top tips for making sure your trip is more “Eat, Pray Love” and less “Taken”.
1) Know Before You Go
Research your destination in advance and make sure you’re clued-up about local customs. If you’re travelling to a more conservative country, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself by wandering around in a string bikini. Being aware of different laws is also essential – did you know that you could get in trouble for eating on or near church steps in Florence? Or that feeding the pigeons is illegal in San Francisco? You may find yourself with a hefty fine, or even behind bars – adventurous? Yes. Fun? Absolutely not. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website is a great resource to get the relevant information to help you stay out of trouble abroad.
2) While we’re on the subject of jail time… be suitcase-savvy!
Never let anybody else pack for you, or offer to do them a “favour” by carrying anything for them… unless you want to end your holiday in a Thai prison à la Bridget Jones, that is.
3) Be aware of the political situation
And keep up-to-date about travel warnings for your destination! The Foreign Office constantly post updates on their travel advice pages, so checking these out is the best way to stay informed.
4) Make sure you’re covered!
Check that your travel insurance covers any activities you’ll be doing, as sometimes the basic option isn’t enough. If you’re planning on a bungee-jumping trip, you should probably consider an upgrade. This is the best way to avoid any horrendous expenses, and by knowing you’re covered in the event of an emergency you’ll be able to have peace of mind.
5) Stay alert
A holiday isn’t a holiday without a cheeky mojito or two, but by staying in control and aware of your surroundings, you can enjoy a drink without it ending in something more sinister. Keep an eye on your drink– we all know the dangers of drug-assisted rape and, sadly, it’s a phenomenon that’s common worldwide.
6) Avoid isolated situations
If you’re on public transport, try to sit in a busy carriage and, while it’s easy to trust somebody who appears genuine and friendly, make sure that someone you know or a group of others are always accompanying you.
When it comes to keeping safe, it can be tricky to keep the balance between having a good time and being in a constant state of paranoia. While bad things can happen, fear should not ruin any holiday and it is easy to stay safe while having a good time. The best way of doing this is just to keep savvy – check out the FCO’s tips on staying safe and healthy. So long as you use your common sense and keep informed, there is no reason not to embrace the adventure.
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