TRAVEL TIPS

How To Be Safe When Travelling Solo

(Last Updated On: November 6, 2018)

After several months, of planning, and most importantly saving for your solo trip, the D-day is almost here and you feel ready. Well, almost ready. You will most likely feel butterflies in your stomach or if your anxiety levels are on steroids maybe you will feel the entire jungle rumble. You might even be tempted to change your mind thinking the worst of the worst might happen to you. It’s like a disease. Have you ever been sick to the point of googling your symptoms? I know we’ve all done that. I also know a terminal illness popped up as a suggestion to your diagnosis.  You will be in a corner crying thinking you have Hepatitis 10-C but really it’s just a common cold. I know there is no such thing as Hepatitis 10-C but you get my point.  I promise you, if you google  bad things that have happened to travelers before it will only be a matter of time before such horrid stories start appearing on your facebook timeline (Thanks Zuckerberg for this by the way). Anyone else feels like facebook is a “mind reader?” One minute I’ll be discussing with my friend on whatsapp about a book I really like and and a few minutes later , my facebook timeline is an entire crusade of ads of that same book. Zuckerberg please stop this madness. Thanks! Anyway I digress, where were we? Right! bad things happening to travelers.  The mind is a powerful tool and once it’s triggered with such thoughts, it will be all you think about “ kidnapped…stolen goods…human trafficking…getting drugged…sexual violence..” but you can have safe solo travels and you will.

 

 

Don’t we all love our minds at this very moment? Cute! I mean, why are you getting anxious right now after several months of planning. Kinda reminds of you of those exes that realize you are moving on and decide “Let me hit her up real quick”. That’s all sorts of screwed up. The mind likes playing such annoying games on us. It’s an entire cycle of thoughts that make you wonder why are such thoughts showing up NOW after so many months of planning?

Unfortunately it’s apparently an element of survival. It’s what Walter Bradford  coined as “flight or fear reaction” . You can choose to fight those feelings and go ahead with your travel plans  or you can choose to back out . It’s ultimately up to you.

Whatever you decide, I’d like you to know two things:

First, solo travel is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. If you cannot stand your own company then this is probably not your thing.

Second, the same caution you exercise in your own country is the same you will apply when you are alone in another country. It’s really the same principles only that you are in a different town.

If you manage to convince yourself despite the anxiety to take the solo trip. You will be excited. You will not help but take selfies of yourself at the airport or the sgr for the gram. Seriously though.  Don’t do this!! You cannot be that person surely. Don’t spam your online friends with 300 pictures of yourself at JKIA  with #these #kind #of #hashtags!!

Once you take the trip, here are some of the safety measures you will take:

Look for connections/Guides

Connections may come in two ways. A professional guide or a friend of a friend.

Talk to your close friends and have them connect you to decent people that live in the town you are visiting. It will be nice to have a local guide you even if you do not meet in person.

This person will recommend places that you should visit and dangerous places to avoid.

A connection is especially important if you are visiting a country where the local language is foreign to you. For instance if I decide to visit a French speaking country like Ivory Coast, I will have a hard time if I do not find a connect in that country that speaks English considering I broke up with French classes in high school.

Take part in Free Walking Tours

Some towns have free walking tours and I highly encourage them. These tours serve the purpose of locals showing you around. It’s the perfect way to get know a place by engaging with locals.

For instance, for my Harare trip, I explored the town with free walking tour harare.

Update your close friends or family every step of the way

Have that one friend that knows details of your trip. Basically , someone that you talk to everyday. This is the kind of person that will be mandated to check you when you are traveling solo.

I remember that one time I was in Harare and a coup happened without me letting my mom know I was in Harare. Do not be like me folks.

Want to know how I afford to travel? Have a look at my cheat sheet:

 

Make plans to arrive early

This beats logic. In fact as a solo traveler, in a new region, always arrive in the morning or during the day. I am also against traveling solo overnight although in some circumstances it will prove unavoidable. However, if your flight is scheduled to arrive late at night, ensure you pre organize a taxi with your accommodation. Most facilities will have the option of having someone pick you up.

On Staying in Hostels

Hostels suit solo travelers on a budget and should you decide to stay in a hostel as opposed to a hotel, remember that if you are not staying in a private room then obviously you will stay in a dorm.
There are different kind of dorms. Some are mixed (both genders) while others are not. You can opt to stay in a girls only dorm if you feel weird sharing a room with men.
Hostels come with lockers and it is important to always lock your stuff . You are sharing a hotel with strangers and you do not want to take the risk of losing your valuables.
If a hostel does not have a locker, leave all your valuables at the reception. Just take pictures of your valuables before leaving them at the reception.

Always have contacts of where you stay

This is important just in case you get lost and you can’t communicate with the taxi driver because language barrier. Sometimes, the taxi driver might not know where the hotel is . This is where the contacts come in handy because you will easily call the reception and they will offer directions to the driver.

Use common sense

Be aware of your surroundings. Do not walk at night. If by any chance someone robs you, let them have your money because you want to get out of the situation safely. You are not batman or wonder woman. On that note, do not keep all your money in one place. I recommend having different spots to stash your cash incase you get pick pocketed. A fellow traveler narrated to me an ordeal in which he ran into some cops who threatened to arrest him unless he gave them money. He had stashed all the 100 USD he had in one place which he surrendered to the cops. Split your cash and stash it in different places for such cases.

Beware of Scammers

Tourist Scammers are everywhere.  They are legit competing with the famous email Nigerian princes. Unfortunately as a traveler, you are bound to meet scammers. For some reason, everyone you interact with will assume you have a lot of money once they realize you are not a local. From taxi drivers to retailers , to tour guides hiking their charges three times the normal price.
You can avoid scammers by either confirming the rates of services from locals prior to using them or bargaining. Personally, I recommend finding out rates from locals at the hotel or online. This will save you lots of money. And always remember, incase you do not know the rates prior to buying, the selling price is most probably, three to five times the normal price.
Want to know how I afford to travel? Have a look at my cheat sheet:

On Alcoholic beverages

A little birdie told me that Kampala is one of the most vibrant cities in East Africa. Of course if you enjoy parties and you find yourself in a city like Kampala, you will definitely check the nightlife of a place out. However, as a solo traveler, you do not have the luxury of binge drinking and having a hangover the next day. Limit the amount of alcohol you take and if you cannot practice self control then do not drink at all. Travelers have the tendency of become best friends over drinks which is completely fine. You have the right to make friends and hangout with whoever you want but remember, you are on your own. These people you just met may or may not be trusted and your best bet is not to trust anyone . No matter how nice someone seems, always watch your back and your drink.
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Respect the culture

Some communities, especially in Africa and Muslim states are against women wearing short dresses and shorts. Zanzibar is an example of a city that is especially strict on black women. You have no choice but to respect their culture when exploring such towns.

On taking pictures

Ask fellow travelers. I usually take advantage of people taking pictures of each other. I will offer to take photos of them then ask to take pictures of me. Remember to direct the person taking your pictures so that they can actually take nice pictures of you. You can even take a picture of them on your phone or camera then show them that’s exactly what you want.

No one will run way with your phone, especially a fellow traveler.

Blend in

Avoid looking like a tourist and blend in. This means you should not flaunt your expensive jewellery and accessories. They not only bring unwanted attention to you but also make you a target.

On Travel Documents

Have back up soft copies of all your travel documents incase you lose your stuff. I always back up mine on google drive.

Never let your guard down

Look confident always even if you feel lost. Even if you are actually lost. Be confident and never appear worried even if you might be dying on the inside. Be vague but kind when people ask you questions that you do not feel comfortable responding to.
You will meet nice people on the road. However, do not be easily trusting. Always trust your instincts and if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you have the right to kindly excuse yourself and leave. I repeat, always trust your instincts. If you feel like something is off then most likely it is.
It’s human nature to want to be nice but do not at any time feel pressured to be nice by giving out unnecessary information about yourself because not everyone has to know you are traveling solo.
Want to know how I afford to travel? Have a look at my cheat sheet:

These are some of the safety measures you should take as a solo traveller. The most important of all is to always be aware of your surroundings. 
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