|Minimize your risk of this happening to you!|
Staying Safe While Traveling Alone in Africa..or anywhere really.
For 10 years now, I've had jobs that send me on international travel alone. I have worked and lived abroad in Central and South America and Africa...but also in Europe, where surprisingly more negative things have happened to me than anywhere else! But from traveling around without anyone to rely on for safety, I've learned a few things about how to minimize risk but enjoy being somewhere at the same time. For women readers, you are automatically more vulnerable than men and it's important to be aware of that, regardless of how powerful you feel or how travel savvy you think you are.
1. For US Citizens - Before leaving on your trip, go the website of the US Embassy for the country you are traveling to and register your travel. This will allow the Embassy to have your email address and other contact information in case there is an emergency. Often the US Embassies abroad will send out periodic updates regarding any political or social turmoil going on in the country. You will recieve pertinent notices for areas of danger or risks to the safety of American citizens abroad.
2. Before leaving, make a contact sheet with names, addresses, and phone numbers of hospitals, the police, the US Embassy, and the hotel you are staying at.
3. Make a photocopy of your passport and put it in your suitcase - in a separate place from where you keep your actual passport for travel.
4. Once you arrive at whatever airport you are at, see if there is a place to buy an unlocked phone if you don't already have one. Often airports have a shop that sells them and you can get a cheapo for around $25. Then buy some phone credit - They usually sell this at the airport as well. Just by having a means of communication you are already better off.
5. If you are traveling alone especially, use the hotel's taxis until you find a regular taxi you can establish a relationship with and call each time.
6. When in taxis or any vehicle, ensure doors are locked at all times and if you don't know your surroundings, do not roll the window down. Never ride with your arm out the window or hands close the window in traffic - People are willing to do almost anything to take your jewelry or cell phones..do not forget that. And don't travel with any jewelry that you would be upset about losing. Having flashy jewelry is just tempting someone to try and take it if you are in the wrong place.
7. If you are traveling alone especially, try to be back at your hotel or sleeping location by 9 or 10pm at the latest. Do not go out alone late at night if you are a woman traveling in Africa. It's just not smart. Depending on the country you are in, there are many different beliefs about women being alone.
8. If you are a man, there is a good chance that local women alone at bars at night are selling services..in one way or another. So, you can be flattered, but it's safer to not get too involved.
9. Do not be overly friendly with random people. Your good nature will want too, but in many countries where life is difficult and money is scarce, alterior motives are rampant. Do not believe every sad story you hear and even if you believe it, do not allow yourself to get involved unless you know the personal personally or someone you know knows the person.
10. This is discretionary, but I always travel with pepper spray. I haven't figured out what I would do with it yet...but I have it!!
11. Use your 6th sense. If something does not feel right, it probably isn't. Do not be as liberal as you are at home....Allow yourself to have a good time and explore during the day, but still be aware of your surroundings and do not go into isolated areas. Do not get lured into places that are not public.
12. If you travel with a purse, have one that be clutched up under your arm and has a zipper. In busy areas or market atmospheres, keep the zipper zipped and in the front of the purse and keep it clutched under your arm with your hand holding on to the strap.
I hope these help - I may come back to this and clean it up a bit and add or subtract a thought or two. But, all of these are things that I consciously practice each time I travel. Remember to have fun and see things and don't let traveling solo keep you from having great experiences. But consider safety first and foremost so that when you go home, great experiences are the only kind you taking back with you.