Travelling solo is an exciting and challenging experience but it is also rewarding. Travelling alone gives me this freeing feeling. I definitely feel like an explorer whenever I pack my bags and start my journey to another country or city. I am usually excited and nervous at the same time whenever I travel solo. It is definitely an adventure.
Whenever I travel to a country that I have never visited before, I won’t lie a lot of things cross my mind and it doesn’t matter if I have done all I can to be prepared. There is just that uncertain feeling I have. Nevertheless, my desire to travel and experience what life is like in the country I am visiting quenches every doubt and uncertainty that I might have.
Life of itself is uncertain we can only do our best to ensure we take precautionary measures to protect ourselves and ensure that we do the due diligence to be safe. From my experience traveling I have the following tips that I have found useful as a traveller.
1. Be deliberate about your security
As a traveller, you need to think about your safety first. Where ever you decide to visit in the country you are touring put your security and safety first while making any decision. Certain things might not be safe and if you think doing it will sabotage your safety and security then you should definitely avoid doing it.
2. Keep someone in the know of where you are par time
This person can be a relative back home, a friend or even someone in the country you are visiting that you trust. You can send them addresses of where you are or will be at a particular time and even pictures. They will be your virtual travel partners. It seems extra but think about it. If something happens you want to be assured that someone know where to look. Because they know where you are at every point in time.
3. Don’t give the Impression that you are alone
You might be wondering, “why you have to do this?”. But it is actually smart to not tell people that you are alone. You don’t want to look like a damsel in distress or at least give people that impression. It puts you in a disadvantage especially if you are in a country where you don’t know anyone. You never know who you might come across during your trip. The wrong person might see this as an opportunity to harm you. So, unless you have to don’t tell anyone. Leave them to speculate or wonder if you are alone or not.
4. To put off pestering Men, wear a wedding band
A good trick to significantly reduce advances from men who want to hook up or just play around with you is to wear a wedding band. This way they have the idea that you are a married woman or at least there is a man in the picture. It also gives the notion that you are not alone.
This might sound cliché, but it can turn out to be very helpful. so if you are a single solo traveler without any intention to mingle while travelling you can try the wedding band trick. It doesn’t work all the time but it’s worth a try.
5. Be sensitive and alert
Whenever I travel my hope all the time is that that I come across nice and awesome people and that I have a wonderful experience. And that has been my experience fortunately. However, I try to be sensitive to my environment and trust my sixth sense. I have been lucky enough to have not had a safety risk.
Whenever you notice that something is not right, do what you can to avoid or diffuse the situation before it gets worse.
6. Don’t share too much on social media
Some people will argue with this recommendation with the opinion that sharing where we are on social media is like sharing with our virtual friends where we are at every point in time for safety purpose. Also, it can be a form of accountability. I get that. But on the flip side it can make you a prey to dangerous or ill meaning people.
If the wrong person knows where you are they can get to you easily, even quicker than your friends or family. Having only a few friends or family members know where you are just like I stated in point 2 is a smarter way of letting people know where you are and being accountable.
I get that you want to post places that you have been and share your experience with the world. That is very valid. I do that too. What I typically do is share the photos, videos and the names of the places after I have left the place. This way no one can say for a fact that I am currently at the place. It is such a smart safety measure to not share your current location at the moment on social media.
7. Don’t be too trusting
I definitely do not want to portray Africa as this dangerous continent where you can’t trust anyone. Of course that is not the case. No matter what country you visit in Africa you will find that people are very friendly, loving and willing to help. And that’s a fact. However, just like anywhere else there are bad people with bad intentions So you definitely need to be careful about what information you disclose to people.
It is definitely a necessity to meet and interact with people when travelling, you would need people to help you with stuff, show you around the country you are visiting and give you advice or direction around the city. However, you should know when to walk away from people if you notice that they are not trustworthy or you don’t feel safe around them. Trust your guts.
8. Keep your valuables safe
Your luggage and valuables should be locked up in your hotel room. Your hotel room should be locked up as well. that’s double security. On the other hand, the items you carry with you such as; your phones, Debit or Credit cards, keys, and cash should be on you at all times. Ensure that you do not drop them somewhere or with anyone unless you trust the person. There are several cross shoulder bags or waist bags you can purchase that are travel friendly.
9. Dress decently
Dressing appropriately will definitely help keep you from drawing attention to yourself. The last thing you want to attract unnecessary attention to yourself. So, dress decently and to the occasion.
10. Know an emergency contact by heart
Boy! am I guilty of not having a number saved to memory. But I have had to work on that. In the case of an emergency, or a situation where you don’t have access to your phone and you need to put a call through to someone for help of any sort, having a phone number or contact details of a family member or friend by heart will be profoundly helpful. Definitely have at least one number of a friend or family saved in your memory.
11. Use a Five-star hotel for your accommodation
This is might be an unpopular opinion because there is Airbnb now, and people have different experience with hotels and Airbnb respectively. Some prefer the latter. I suggest that you use a hotel if you are travelling in Africa. Not just anyone but a five-star hotel or a chain hotel.
Why do I recommend this? The reason why I suggest using a hotel is that, the customer experience with Airbnb in some African countries is not always the best. Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful Airbnb options that will give you awesome experience. However, there are some Airbnb that don’t come with what was promised. There is usually something broken that needs fixing or repair. More so, the security in an Airbnb cannot be similar to that in a hotel. You see what I mean? One more thing on this point. Never use a Motel.
12. Consider having a local emergency contact
You should try to get the local emergency contact number or police number in the country you are visiting once you arrive. You most likely will never need it but it is a wise safety measure to take. You just never know.
13. Do your research about the place you are travelling to prior to your trip
Try to learn more about the country or city in particular that you would be visiting prior to your visit. Take time to check travel forums online to know what people are saying about the place. This way you can even learn about fun places you can check out when you arrive. Other things to check out are hospitals or healthcare facilities, police stations and their proximity to your residence. In case of emergency.
14. Connect with other travellers
During your trip, You might come across other tourists also visiting the country just like you. It usually feels so good to meet fellow travellers just like yourself. If you connect with them then that’s cool, you can go places together. This way you are not entirely alone throughout your journey. Plus, being around other people who are doing the same thing as you will definitely boost your moral and make you feel not alone.
15. Book your hotel and other needed services prior to your arrival
You should make arrangement for where you will be staying, a ride to your hotel etc. before your arrival. These is helpful in so many ways. For one you don’t need to start trying to book a hotel when you just went through hours of flight stress from the plane and you are jetlagged and tired, you don’t want to have unneeded conversations with the front desk receptionists when you arrive. Since you have planned and paid for it you can just go in and settle in.
16. Have a friendly travel budget
What I mean by having a friendly budget is simply having a miscellaneous amount set aside for unexpected spending. So many travellers have had bad and often risky experiences regarding funds when travelling. When you have a friendly travel budget you have money for unexpected spending and you can avoid being stranded and without funds.
17. Avoid movement at night time
We all know that bad things go down and dawn. Staying in your apartment when its dawn is what you should be doing if you are visiting a country that you haven’t been to before and you know no one. you have the day to explore and have fun.
The only time I would be ok staying out at night as a tourist (which is rare) is if I am with a trusted person and even then I know to be in my apartment latest by 10 pm. Avoid dark places at night and if you have to go out never go out alone.
18. Have a back up finance plan
Have a back up finance plan. This is why. You might have issues with using your Debit card in the country you are visiting for whatever reason or you might loose your card or money. (no one prays for that). If these happens you might find yourself stranded.
To have a back up plan, you should keep some money with a friend or family so that if perhaps you cannot access your money. They can do a wire transfer to the country you reside in and you can pick up the cash in the bank. Check my article on How to Access your funds while travelling in Africa.
Another good financial back up plan will be to have more than one debit or credit card with you and also have enough cash.
19. Do not travel if you are not mentally and or physically fit
Staying healthy both physically and mentally is part of travelling safely. If you are sick while travelling you are not going to be useful to yourself and you won’t actually enjoy the trip. It is definitely risky to travel while sick because travelling can be stressful. If you are not in a good place (mentally or physically) to travel it is best to stay home until you are fit to travel.
20. Have a whistle, pepper spray or mace on you
These items prove to be very useful for several occasions. A whistle can help you ask for help faster than your voice if you find yourself alone or lost and you need to get peoples attention. A pepper spray or Mace can help you distract an attacker and buy you time to escape danger. I do hope that you don’t ever find yourself in a situation where you have to use any of these items. But ensure that they are always with you.
21. Respect the culture and the people
Don’t bring attention to yourselves especially for the wrong reasons. Getting into a fight or altercation with a native can be unsafe. If people feel disrespected they act out. No one like disrespect. When people see that you embrace their culture, try to make friends and try to learn their language, they will warm up to you. they will go out of their way to make sure that you are comfortable. i am sure this is what you want too.
I have exhausted my list of the top 21 Tips for staying safe as a Female solo traveller in Africa. I personally need to implement a few of them myself. I am confident that if you exhaust this list you will have a safe and enjoyable trip in Africa. Have a wonderful and enjoyable trip!