Traveling abroad is an incredible experience. You will see and experience things that you had no idea existed, meet fascinating people and learn about stimulating cultures. Hitting the road for the first time can be a life-changing moment.
Unfortunately, every year a small number of backpackers end up in dangerous situations that they could have avoided with a bit of common sense. Most backpackers make it out in one piece with a great story to tell and perhaps some cuts and bruises, others are not so lucky.
Armed with the right knowledge, it is relatively easy to steer clear of dangerous situations if you follow a few simple guidelines.
The idea of common sense is a basic one for most of us, however, we feel it’s important that we list some of the ‘travel-specific’ ideas since we assume that not everyone who reads this will have traveled.
One of the most basic rules of all but still worth mentioning. Do not flash your cash or valuables. Don’t walk along the street with an iPhone sticking out of your back pocket. Try to avoid having a wallet stuffed to bursting point, instead keep perhaps twenty dollars in your wallet and the rest of your money hidden away.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scams vary in scale and ambition all around the world. So if you have an alarm bell ringing in your head or feel uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
One of the best things about backpacking is you meet lots of really cool people, other backpackers and also locals keen to show off their country. What you must bear in mind though is that some of the friendliest people you will ever meet are those attempting to rob you or scam you into buying something you probably don’t want.
If you’re getting on a bus and you are told your gear needs to go on the roof or in the boot, make sure it gets put there. Don’t just trust that it will end up in the right place. If you are forced to leave your pack somewhere then try to put it at the bottom of the luggage pile, it is far less likely to be stolen that way.
Many backpackers get in traffic accidents whilst traveling. Crashing a motorbike in South East Asia is so common it is almost a rite of passage. If you do choose to hire a motorbike, wear a helmet, it can save your life.
Before traveling, look up safety advice on the specific region you are visiting. Each country has its own scams so make sure you know what the risks are before visiting, you will then be far more likely to spot the warning signs and get out of any trouble you may find yourself in.
When it comes to avoiding dangerous situations abroad, the best course of action is to minimize risks before they become a full-blown problem. This means, for example, never having more money in your wallet than you can afford to lose.
One of the biggest danger’s abroad is in fact, yourself. The heady cocktail of cheap beer, exotic sites, and exciting new people can render many newbie travelers into a relatively vulnerable state. Do not let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security, by all means, have a great time but aim to minimize risks through the following steps.
Heading out for a night out on the town with some new friends? Sounds great! Do you know your hostel’s address and do you feel comfortable finding it on your own if you get lost? Probably not… plan accordingly and make a note of your hostel's address and telephone number.
Whenever you enter somewhere new, make a quick note of the exits. If you’re staying in a hostel, be sure to know the best way out in an emergency.
If you intend on going for an afternoon hike in the nearby hills, take a head torch. You don’t want to end up hiking in the dark. This can happen to even the most experienced of backpackers.
If someone suggests something that sounds somewhat dangerous, such as jumping off a cliff into the sea after a few beers, don’t be the first person to give it a go. Hold back a bit and wait to make sure others have successfully made it before you, quite literally, walk off a cliff.
If something feels wrong, it probably is. Do not be concerned about appearing rude, walk away.
If you find yourself being mugged, consider your options carefully. Resisting may sometimes be necessary but if a mugger is simply after the $10 in your pocket, give it to them. Do not have anything on you that you absolutely cannot afford to lose. If you take note of your surroundings and act accordingly, you shouldn’t find yourself in this position in the first place.
Always be aware that you are in a country which may have very different customs to what you are used to. Act with respect and do not do anything which may offend the locals such as walking into a temple with no shirt on. Do some basic research online to find out more about cultural taboos which may exist in the country you are visiting.
In conclusion, the best way to avoid dangerous situations is by minimizing risks and using common sense. Keep an eye on your surroundings at all times and don’t take any unnecessary risks, even if you are trying to impress your new backpacker buddies!