How to stay safe as a solo female traveller
Actress Jeanette Aw's close shave with pickpocket reminds her to be vigilant when overseas alone
Local actress Jeanette Aw almost became the victim of a pickpocket during a recent trip to Spain.
In an August Instagram post, the 38-year-old said she was walking along the streets of Madrid when she "felt a slight tug" on her bag. She turned around and "caught this lady in the midst of very delicately unzipping my backpack".
Aw wrote: "Well, I guess she wasn't delicate enough, and I was lucky everything's still in my bag. I think it helped that I had a scarf right on top of everything, so she couldn't find what she wanted with a small opening.
"Anyway, she turned and strolled off, perhaps to find another victim. So I was warned about the pickpockets in Spain, and I'd warn anyone else heading this way... Do be careful."
While travelling alone can be therapeutic and incredible for your personal growth, it can also be daunting and scary.
Here are some tips to make your solo travel experience a safer and ultimately more satisfying one:
REGISTER YOURSELF WITH THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MFA)
By doing so, you will receive information on how to reach the nearest MFA overseas mission. Also, if you are registered with the ministry (on their website or app), it will be able to get in touch with you quickly in times of emergencies to ascertain any need for urgent assistance.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
You might be a spontaneous traveller, but when going solo, you should book at least your first night of accommodation before arrival. One tip when choosing a hotel is opting for a centrally located one.
This way, you will not stand out as much, and you will also have a chance to mingle with other travellers. Also, try to time your trip in such a way that you arrive in the morning.
Some female travellers also recommend packing a doorstop that will keep doors from being opened.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION
Women have often been lauded for their ability to read body language and pick up social cues. Use this intuition to your advantage, and learn to trust your gut.
If you are caught in an uncomfortable situation, pack your bags and hit the road. Just ensure that you have alternate accommodation in mind.
DON'T LET PICKPOCKETS PICK ON YOU
Besides staying vigilant, it is also a good idea to spread your valuables into different compartments of your bag.
That way, if you do fall victim to a pickpocket, your important documents are all spread out, so you won't lose everything in one go.
You can also consider making copies of your credit cards and passport and saving it to Google Docs or Dropbox.
When you are sitting down, loop the strap of your bag around your leg to prevent someone from running away with it. When walking in crowded areas, wear your backpack in front to avoid pickpockets from cutting into your belongings. Alternatively, pick up a slash-free and anti-theft bag from brands such as Pacsafe.
WHEN IN ROME...
While you might want to get all dolled up for your vacation, you do not want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. When travelling alone, try to conform to cultural norms and dress modestly in countries where it is expected. In some countries, you might want to wear a wedding ring even if you are single.
HAVE A TIPPLE, BUT DON'T GET TIPSY
Even though you are on holiday, you should never get wasted when you are travelling by yourself. Know your limits before you party.
If a stranger asks you to go out for drinks, politely decline the offer and say that you have other plans. Remember, you should not feel guilty or bad when saying no if it means feeling safe.
MAKE YOUR MARK
Inform a loved one of your flights and itineraries. A photo upload and check-in at a new location is also a good way to keep your family and friends posted about your whereabouts.
That said, be careful not to overshare. Refrain from telling strangers where you are staying and only post about hotels on social media after you have left.
Even if you are travelling on a budget, international phone plans are worth spending money on. Carry a few international phone cards if you do not want to commit to a whole phone plan.
WHEN HAILING A CAB
Before you head out, grab the business card or jot down the name, address and phone number of your accommodation. It will come in handy if you get lost or are unable to communicate with the driver.
Another thing you should take note of is the taxi number or the licence plate, just in case.
To avoid getting overcharged, ask the hotel front desk for an estimate of how much it will cost to get to your destination.
Alternatively, Google Maps has a feature that will provide you with a rough estimate.
When possible, agree on the fare beforehand and have the exact change with you to prevent getting ripped off.
If you have baggage with you, keep your stuff in the back seat and not in the trunk. That way, you can jump out of the cab if anything goes wrong.
This article first appeared on Her World Online