I have never been robbed, pickpocketed, mugged or assaulted on my travels. There were close calls but I managed to avoid actually getting into trouble.
But my safety radar wasn’t built in. Once someone told me that, “Oh, you’re street smart because you’re Malaysian.” I corrected her because the part of Malaysia where I came from—Kota Kinabalu, Sabah—is actually a lot safer compared to the big cities.
You can build up your street smarts. Here are some of the ways I practice staying safe when travelling alone:
1. Return to my accommodation before sun sets
I avoid being far from my accommodation at night so I usually return to my room before sunset. I would do my travel plans for the next day, journal or read to pass the night.
I would love to live in a world where I could go out at night and not fear for my safety. Until then, I keep safe.
2. Have a separate wallet
I have a separate wallet where I keep enough money to last for the day. When travelling, I would use the money in this wallet instead of my whole stash of cash.
3. Be aware of your surroundings
My “Spidey Senses” are always tingling when I travel. If I notice something strange in my peripheral vision, I would be hyper-aware and be even more careful.
4. Ignorance is bliss
If you’re walking about and you hear someone shouting. Do not respond to it. It is rarely some kind-hearted person telling you that you just dropped $100. It is usually someone who wants to catch your attention. Do not give them the attention or else you might be caught with them for a long while.
5. Trust your fear
If your guts tell you something is wrong, believe it and find another route. (Recommended reading “The Gift of Fear”.)
It’s always better to be safe than sorry so before you visit a city, read up on the Annoyance and Dangers of the place.
But don’t let anxiety or fear stop you from travelling. It’s not easy to balance it but you’ll get there one day.