Travel of any kind, whether with others or alone, can be one of life’s great pleasures. It can also turn into a string of disasters. Here are a few tips for avoiding troubles.
Do your research. Know as much as you can about where you’re going and chose your lodgings well. Almost every destination has some bad neighborhoods. Remember the old adage about a deal looking too good. One great resource is TripAdvisor which has traveler reviews of just about every accommodation on the planet. Look at both positive and negative comments. Don’t give up because of a couple of negative comments. No place can please everyone. Look at the nature of the negative comments and management responses. A testy or defensive management response can be worse news than a detailed panning of a property. At the same time, one or two tales of on any one area that are offset by many positive ones on the same topic may just represent the bad day any of us can have. My general rule is to pay very careful to “terrible” and “poor” comments if they account for more than 10% of the total.
Follow the News
We’ve all seen usually quiet places explode into trouble. Tianenmen Square. The Arab Spring. Watch out for strikes as well. Not only can they turn violent, but they can put a real crimp in your travels even when peaceful. I never did get to see da Vinci’s Last Supper. My first visit to Rome had a distinctive aroma due to a garbageman strike. Those are minor compared to those who have been stuck in airports. Not all places experiencing troubles should be avoided, but there may be a better time to go. If you have the slightest concern, check the travel warnings on the US State Department’s website.
There are several good simple steps for protecting your home while you’re away. Leave a light or two on to make the place looked lived in. Stop mail and newspaper delivery. Have a neighbor keep an eye on your place. Use caution in talking about your upcoming trip in public. Avoid referring to your trip on social media before or during your travels. Don’t forget to make arrangements for the care of your pets.
On the Road
Personal safety is probably one of the biggest concerns shared by women traveling alone. Being in an unknown destination can easily make one nervous. There are several ways to make your travels safer.
Avoid looking like a tourist or a good target. Little things like walking around with your camera our can give you away. Try to blend in. A European friend once pointed out that Americans are the only nationality that wears white sneakers so avoid them. Good walking shoes are a must anyway, even for a beach vacation. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry. Don’t flash your cash. Carry only what you need for the day and leave the rest in a safe. Speaking of safes, in-room safes are no guarantee of protection. Leave irreplaceable valuables in the hotel’s safe.
Being alert is probably the biggest key to safety. Stay aware of your surroundings. That might sound like silly advice for someone traveling whose whole purpose is to enjoy their surroundings, but it’s just such engagement that can foul things up. Be careful not to get so caught up in gazing at the pyramids that you miss the person moving in to grab your purse.
If in doubt, take a taxi. Public transportation can be cheap and experiencing it can give a great insight to a culture. There are times, such as being out at night or when traveling through a questionable area to get to that hidden gem of a church, when safety should trump savings. In many places, taking a cab can be a great experience in itself. Nobody knows a locality better than its taxi drivers and you can learn a lot from them. London cabbies are known to be great characters and I always make it a point to take at least one taxi ride while there.
The right equipment can also make travel safer. Several companies such as Magellan’s and Travelsmith sell purses that are slash-proof. Some have RFID protection to keep people from obtaining the credit card information so accessible these days. Clothing with inside pockets can keep wallets and documents safe. Some recommend money pouches that can be kept around your waste under your clothes. I’m not a big fan of those. There’s nothing like having to reach inside your pants to buy a pack of gum.
None of these tips can guarantee that you won’t run into trouble, but following them certainly can’t hurt. Have your own saftety tips? We’d love to see them in our comments.