For many people, travel is one of the greater joys of life. The ability to experience different cultures, environments, and see life through a different lens is truly unparalleled. As travel becomes more accessible, it is only reasonable that more people are jet-setting to different corners of the world for these unparalleled experiences, whether with family, loved ones, or even alone – as solo travellers.
However, going to foreign territory alone can be as scary as it is exciting, especially for women. In April, a Nigerian lady, Zainab Oladeinde took to Twitter to give a jarring account of a solo Tanzania trip that went incredibly wrong. She was allegedly almost raped by one of the male attendants at the resort where she was lodged, on her first night. More women went on social media to talk about life-threatening experiences they had when they travelled alone, as well as some precautions they took.
Here are some safety tips they shared that may save your life on your next solo trip:
1. Learn the language
When travelling to East African countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, it would be wise to learn some Swahili; for francophone (African) countries, learn a few French words. You don’t have to master the local language before travelling there, but you should at least be able to say key words like “police”, “help”, “hospital”, etc. – even if it is in a terrible accent.
2. Do thorough research
Aside from the general research about what your accommodation looks like, its rates and so on, you should thoroughly research the environment of your destination. Search hashtags with the destination name on social media, check TripAdvisor comments, etc. If you’re staying at an Air BnB, take time to go through the comments and even try reaching out to some of the commenters if you have questions. You should also search the local emergency number(s), so you can save it in case you need to call.
3. Do a room check
When you’re taken to your room at a hotel, make sure there is a working phone that connects you to the reception. Also check if the window opens. If you’re not satisfied with the safety of the room, you can politely request to be moved to another room.
4. Get some security tools
You could get a door stop alarm and a personal alarm. The door stop alarm is placed at the foot of the door and goes off when someone tries to open the door. Make sure you have it by the door before going to bed. The personal alarm goes off as soon as you press it when you think you’re in danger – it’s very loud. You could also carry pepper spray if it’s allowed in that country.
5. Keep your door locked
Make sure your door is locked at all times. If your door has an inner chain lock, use it. This ensures some extra safety since hotel attendants who may have your room key will not be able to break in from outside.
6. Never say you’re alone
When you’re talking to strangers, never say you’re visiting alone. Talk to them as though you have your family/friends around or like they will soon be around. You really can’t trust anyone, even if they seem nice. However, you should talk to people and form some level of relationship in case you might need their help later.
7. Share your location
Share your location with at least one of your people. You could use the “live location” feature on WhatsApp.
8. Always carry essentials
Make sure your purse or bag has a copy of your passport data page, emergency contacts, and other important details.
9. Watch your drinks
Don’t get drunk – unless you’re locked safely in your room – and don’t let anyone other than the bartender pass you your drink. Keep an eye on your drink to ensure no one spikes it.
10. Don’t stand out
You should try as much as possible to blend in with your environment. Dress how the people in that region dress, and try not to look confused even if you are lost. People figuring out you’re a tourist makes you an easy target.
11. Don’t walk alone at night
Don’t walk in private areas alone at night, but even if you do, be alert! That’s not the time to have your earphones plugged in.
12. Trust your instincts
Your instincts are all you have, so you should trust them. If you don’t feel comfortable about a situation or location, get yourself out of it.
These tips can be applied by both men and women. It is necessary to mention that even with all the necessary precautions taken, there is no guarantee of safety. The onus of keeping women safe falls on the men who endanger women in the first place.