If you’re travelling internationally by yourself, especially if you’re a woman without a friend or partner to pool resources with, there are some things you should keep in mind to help you stay safe wherever you are.
Always keep your phone in a deep pocket and not in the outside slot of a bag. Always carry a power bank – you don’t want to be left stranded with a dead phone. Using location services, snapping photos, posting to social media or making WhatsApp video calls when you’re out and about will eat up your battery faster than when you’re at home. Charge the power bank every night when you’re back at your hotel.
Due to the unpredictability of a data connection or Wi-Fi access, screenshot all important documents, including a copy of your passport, travel insurance, invite letter, confirmed bookings and emergency bank contact details, and save the info on a separate folder in your gallery rather than to the cloud.
It’s tempting to post photos and videos to social media during your travels. To avoid unwanted messages from men in the vicinity, rather opt to share your content hours or even a day later. If you want to post immediately, leave the location tags out – you can always go back and add them later on an Instagram feed.
Always keep or snap a photo of the business card at the hotel you’re staying at; these are readily available at reception. It is useful if you’re catching a taxi back to the hotel and your driver does not speak English. Additionally, save your hotel location on Google Maps, preferably before you leave South Africa.
If the country you’re visiting has decent data rates or packages for tourists, consider buying a local SIM card with a network that has the widest coverage. If you’re going to a remote location, find out if there is signal, or at least Wi-Fi access.
Where possible, try to use an on-demand taxi service such as Uber, Grab, Careem or Lyft. These services typically have a “share my ride” feature, along with a record of the trip, which means that, should there be a detour, you can dispute it or claim for anything out of the ordinary. For other instances, use the WhatsApp “share location” feature with someone back home if you don’t feel safe.
There’s nothing wrong with using free public Wi-Fi, but you need to protect your data so you don’t get hacked. Use a VPN service to encrypt your data on the network, even if it means paying a small subscription fee for the service. Alternatively, sign up for a free trial just before you leave.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, so use your credit card to pay for things. Simply load your holiday spending money on to it, notify your bank and then track what you’ve spent using your banking app. This will help you to pick up any suspicious charges that you can claim back from your bank if they are fraudulent.
If you’re using an on-demand taxi service late at night, walk to the nearest hotel or easily identifiable building and set that as your pick-up point – don’t wait alone at an isolated location.
If you’re visiting a country alone and English is not a common language there, download the Google translate app and save the language for offline use. It is invaluable and allows you to have a conversation with a local by text, audio or note. You can also translate public notices by snapping a photo.