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Staying Safe Whilst Backpacking Solo

Travelling alone is the ultimate indulgence - you can do whatever you want to do, everything you've ever dreamed about doing, and your time is totally your own. Your plans are flexible and depending on the circumstances which occur whilst you're travelling, it's likely that your plans will change from what you originally put on your itinerary - you find out so much more about a country once you're in it, and no amount of Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books can tell you about that low-key bungee experience just outside of town.

However, single travellers have to watch out, too. As with all travel, there are safety issues to take into consideration before and during your trip. Without someone to watch your back, or even your bag, you're leaving yourself more vulnerable to the effects of crime and accidents abroad. Saying 'safety in numbers' doesn't always apply, especially since solo travellers have the ability to blend in, but here are a few tips to ensure that you take all precautions against the dangers of travelling alone:

Beware of scams

Know how much it will cost you for a taxi ride before you take one. Solo travellers are more likely to be 'taken for a ride' (please excuse the shameless pun) so ask the taxi driver how much it will cost before you leave, or research it online. If it sounds considerably different to what you know to be true, take a different cab.

Don't look too much like a tourist

This sounds silly but it's actually the best piece of safety advice you can take. Tourists, with their easily-distracted characters and their heads buried in guidebooks or maps often aren't aware to the fact that they're making themselves an easy target. Stay alert, be aware of travel scams such as bag slashers, and only reference maps or guidebooks briefly.

Don't flash valuables

Another way to ensure that thieves will pick you out as a mark - by publicly 'advertising' your expensive possessions. Keep things like jewellery, watches and designer clothes tucked out of sight when in public places. If you want to take a camera out, make sure it has an anti-theft strap and it secured tightly across your body.

Lie a little

You can make your life a little easier this way. Never let it on to anyone that you are alone, again it makes you an easy and vulnerable target. For example, when asking for directions, say that you're meeting a friend.

Common sense

Avoid dark alleyways at night. Stick to well-lit open and public places where you're less likely to be targeted when alone. Also - if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Your instinct is usually right.

Walk confidently and with purpose

People are less likely to bother you if you're confident, authoritative and controlled.

Take the right stuff when you go out

Always carry some form of ID and a copy of it, and the number to your travel insurance medical assistance helpline, so you can always get help and advice when you need it. Also write down the address of the place you're staying, the location of the nearest embassy and local emergency numbers. Don't carry large sums of cash - if you do, split them up throughout your person, and only bring one credit card with you.

Buy travel insurance

In the instance that something does go wrong and you end up in an emergency situation, travel insurance is there to give you the support you need. Cancellation, curtailment, possessions and medical expenses are all covered with the right policy, so you are left to focus on what's important - recovery and moving on.

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