Although backpacking will be full of adventure, the same activity may be wracked with danger as well. No matter how hard you try to conceal the fact that you are a foreigner, chances are, you will be sticking out like a sore thumb in a country that you do not know, surrounded by people who you also do not know, speaking a language that you most likely also do not know.
To prevent any unfortunate incidences, the most common of which is being robbed, while you’re exploring the world on foot, you have to be extra careful of your belongings and be extra aware of your surroundings. If you still remember the warnings your mom told you when you first went off to school, to camp, or to college, the same rules (plus a little something more) will apply to backpacking as well.
You don’t start preparing to be safe when you’ve already reached your destination! You must begin protecting yourself even before you even leave the confines of your home. Before leaving, make sure that you have purchased sturdy bags and strong locks. Photocopy your travel documents (passports and visas) and your credit cards, and keep all these in separate pouches or stored online. Read up on the places you intend to visit and plan your itinerary. In addition, have the addresses and phone numbers of your country’s embassies or consulate offices readily available.
When you’ve reached your destination, protect yourself from danger by following these simple rules:
Always be alert and on your guard
Even if the sights of your destination leave you breathless, it’s not an excuse for you to let your guard down. Be aware of your surroundings, and be careful of the people around you. Don’t trust strangers too easily.
Even if you have a giant backpack you can still look like one of the “natives”. Avoid wearing clothes that scream “UNSUSPECTING TOURIST” and these include those with catchy country slogans or those emblazoned with national logos or symbols.
Avoid getting lost
But in case you do get lost, try not to “look lost”. Keep that destination guide kept in your pocket and resist the urge to open your map in the middle of the road. Go to a café, have a cup of coffee and try to regain your bearing there. If you need to secure the help of a local, make sure that you approach them for advice. Be wary of people who come to you and offer help as, though they may have good intentions, they could have other things in mind. Turn them down politely and move on. If they follow you around insisting that you accept their help, go to a crowded area or look for the police.
Secure your belongings
Whatever you’re doing, make sure that your belongings are safe. If you’re on a train, don’t just put your bag on the baggage rack, lock it on to it. If you’re staying at a hostel, it’s not enough that you keep your things inside your room — get a personal locker and keep these in there. It is safer. And if you’re on the road and need to stop to either take a photo, have a drink, or wait for a ride, keep a your backpack close to you and, ideally, loop a strap around one leg.
As for your important documents and money, keep the originals tucked in a pouch and keep it close to your body (underneath your clothes).
Remember your parents
No, thinking of your folks won’t do you much help, but remembering their warnings when you were a child will. How many times have we heard our parents tell us not to speak to strangers and not to go out alone at night? When you’re backpacking, keep these in mind. If you will be traveling with people you’ve just met, choose who you will be hanging out with, and no matter how chummy you become with them, do not give them any vital information (how much money you have with you, etc).
Finally, all the best laid precautions would be for naught if you decide to risk the odds and explore interesting alleyways on your own or roam around deserted streets in the middle of the night. It’s not enough to keep your personal belongings safe, you must above all keep yourself safe.
If you keep your head on your shoulders, you’ll have a wonderful time getting to know the world like no other tourist can. You’ll fall in love with different fascinating cultures. At the end of your journey, let’s hope that only your heart would have been stolen, and nothing more.