If you're a woman who's chosen to travel alone, it can be one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and exciting things you'll ever do.
Sorting out backpacker insurance, drawing up an itinerary and choosing a destination is exciting, but it is vital to remember that whether you're away for a week or for a whole year, there are a number of safety precautions you should be taking in order to make your travels as enjoyable (and safe) as possible.
Research and embrace the culture
Firstly, it's important to remember that travelling alone is not always as safe as travelling with a group. When you're with a group, it is easy to rely on 'safety in numbers' - but when you're alone, you have to look out for number one 24 hours a day.
When walking alone around popular areas, locals can become acutely aware that you're a tourist and this can leave you exposed. However, if you read up on the local customs of the country you're travelling to (dress sense, eye contact, common greetings, etc) and prepare yourself for the day ahead, it can be easy to blend in to your surroundings.
For example, study what the local women are wearing. Are they showing bare skin? Are they wearing certain styles of dress? Is their hair tied up or let down? This can extend to wearing types of jewellery and other valuables; expensive accessories can make you a target. So, by acclimatising yourself to a new culture, you should be able to avoid unwelcome attention.
Contacting family and friends
Another way to keep safe is to regularly update your friends and family about your escapades. Phoning or emailing people close to you on a regular basis lets them know you're safe and in good health. Furthermore, maintaining regular contact can develop into a routine - try scheduling in a phone call once every two days, for instance. This way, family and friends will know something is wrong if no call is made.
Another top tip is something that should come naturally to you - stay in well-lit, public areas. You wouldn't walk down a dark alley late at night at home and the same rule applies across the globe. If you're apprehensive about going out in the dark, then make sure you accomplish what you want from the day, during daylight hours. If you have to get up early, then so be it!
If you are planning on venturing out into the night, then there are a number of items you should be bringing with you for security. For example, a whistle or a pepper spray can be effective in attracting attention and defending yourself if trouble occurs. If heading out to nightclubs and bars, ensure your drink is with you at all times to prevent spiking.
Finally, it is imperative that you don't consume too much booze in an unfamiliar place as your awareness level and senses are lessened. Stay sober and always be aware of your surroundings.
This list may portray travelling alone as a harrowing, frightening experience, but that could not be further from the truth - by employing a few sensible ideas, you'll have a great time. By taking the right precautions, preparations and researching your destination, travelling solo is an enlightening experience that you will never forget.
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