Safety is something all travelers have to consider whenever they hit the road. Potential unfortunate situations can happen at any time, anywhere and to anyone. Having said that, budget travelers tend to be a bit more adventurous and creative on the road as they look for ways to save a few dollars as they travel. This might be in the form of hitchhiking, sharing accommodation or staying in less than desirable places due to the attractive low prices.
Those options are all fine and part of the travel experience, so enjoy them. But, here I want to give you some tips, from my experiences as a budget traveler, so you can also stay safe on the road and have fun along the way.
- Let's start with an obvious one be cautious and use common sense. If you see a desolate area that doesn't look too safe, stay away from it, or at least don't go by yourself. Ask employees in local businesses, cafes or shops about the area to get a feeling of it.
- If you have a local host at your destination, have them show you the area, tell you a bit about its history, social context and what's ok and what's not. This will help you understand the destination much better.
- Practice measured friendliness. You can be as friendly as you can, but be conscious of what information you're giving to a stranger, even if you're traveling with them. For example, don't just share with random people on the street the exact location where you're staying. I've seen people do this and end up getting their stuff stolen at the hostel by that random stranger or followed back to their hotel to scam them in one way or another.
- If you try to walk from point A to point B to save a few dollars on transportation, learn the route beforehand. If you're walking at night in a desolate place, don't walk on the sidewalk. Instead, walk in the middle of the road (if there's no traffic). Walking in the middle of the road separates you from the common dark pockets found on sidewalks. Should anyone be hiding there, you'll have more time and space to react. You want to be always in plain sight and in well-lit areas, which is often found in the middle of the street.
- When hitchhiking, ask for rides at gas stations instead of signaling on the roadside, and always try to hitchhike during the day. Refuse rides from impaired drivers (drivers under the influence), and always trust your instincts.
- It is highly advisable to have travel insurance to cover you in case of theft or medical emergency (depending on your coverage).
- Always stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings and who's around you. Always keep an eye on your belongings to prevent becoming an easy target for pickpockets and thieves.
- Blend in when possible, and when needed. Follow the cultural norms of your destination to avoid any insult or unwanted attention. For example, in most Middle Eastern countries, women should cover their hair in certain public places and all religious locations as a form of respect to the culture and religion.
- Always be confident while traveling (or at least fake it). Act like you know where you are, even if you don't. There's nothing wrong with getting lost, but as soon as a scammer sees you're having doubts about where you're going and what you're doing, you immediately become their prey. Should you need directions, ask someone inside a shop or any random passerby (still with confidence). Or, step aside a shop and take a quick look at your map.
- Public transportation is excellent to save money, but always keep an eye on your belongings and never let go of them. It is not uncommon seeing a thief wait for the next bus or train stop, grab the bag of an unsuspecting person and run out the door.
- As comfortable as you might feel at your hostel, never leave your valuables unattended or unlocked. Chances are nothing will happen, but I've seen people lose their valuables due to carelessness and feeling comfortable with the people around them. Remember, even though you might get along with your dorm mates, they are still strangers.
These are just a few common tips on safety that could save you from a lot of unwanted situations and headaches, but in the end, it is up to you to apply them to your trip using your common sense.
What are some of your top travel safety tips?
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