A few days ago I responded to a tweet about practical advice for solo female travelling and my response has been saved loads so I thought I’d put all my thoughts into a blog post. I have travelled lots on my own, mostly for work and to very safe places across the US, Europe and West Africa but the practical things, I think, are the same no matter where you go.
Because my child has a horrible independent and stubborn streak, that she could only have inherited from her father, this is the advice I wish she had taken when she went on her travels. She too went to mostly safe places but let me tell you, it doesn’t stop you worrying, especially when in your circle you have young women who while travelling have been kidnapped, lost all their money, passports and plane tickets and in one case broken her neck. Yes travelling is full of wonder and there is only ever a very small chance that anything will go wrong, but if it does there is plenty you can do to mitigate the stress and get home quickly.
In no particular order, here is my advice:-
Make sure someone has your schedule and make sure you have a copy of your passport in the cloud and with you, not with all your paperwork obviously. Make sure someone at home who you trust has a copy too. Get the right vaccinations in enough time for them to be effective or you may not be admitted to your destination.
Know where your Embassy is and save the local phone number and email address. Most Embassies have a team who have pretty much seen it all before and if necessary they can get a new passport to you quicker than anyone else as it can be sent via the Diplomatic bag not the regular post, if of course they are not able to produce an emergency passport themselves.
Store emergency numbers in your phone and in the cloud.
Book your flights with ABTA and ATOL members, if anything happens, they are insured to get you home. The UK government do not have a duty to get you home, if they have to they will charge you for it and its not easy to organise at all. The FCO regularly update travel advice, read it!
Get adequate travel insurance – the youngster I know who broke her neck didn’t have insurance, her parents are still paying the bill for having her transported to a hospital on the mainland and her treatment.
Use the safety features on your phone, and give someone access to those features just in case they do need to track where you are. My friend who was kidnapped in South America (for her organs) would have a very different story had her friend not managed to get away.
There are loads of apps and digital solutions that are brilliant for travelling, I have no idea what they are cause I write down everything but the one thing I always do is upload my photos to my cloud storage because I’d be heartbroken if I lost any of my pictures.
Don’t keep all your money or your cards in one place. Spilt your money across two bank accounts too just in case someone does clone your card, that way they can only access one account. When I go away I always transfer enough money for a couple of days into the account I use for travelling so the most I’ll ever loose is a couple of hundred pounds.
Leave anything your really value at home, things get lost and stolen, the simplest thing to avoid disappointment is to leave really precious items at home. Boring but sensible.
Be nice to the domestic staff where you are staying – these women know everything and they will look out for you and keep an eye on you.
Of course be a good visitor, learn the local does, don’t’s and customs and for the sake of my last nerve please don’t turn up in a village with your massive camera taking photos of people with a humble lifestyle like they are in a zoo. Poverty tourism is not cool.
Obviously practice safe sex and don’t get married. I don’t care how cute they are, do not come home with a baby, an infection or a spouse. If it is love (I met my husband on holiday) you’ll make it work beyond your travels and when you are dealing with the humdrums of reality.
My favourite, no one should be travelling anywhere without knowing how to knock someone out and protect themselves. Seriously, self defence training means you are aware of your surroundings, you engage your spidey senses, you are confident and you know that DNA sticks to your nails and your keys should you have punched someone out. The Suzy LamplughTrust has great advice but it isn’t hard to find a local self-defence class.
Finally, call your mother regularly (if she is in your life and not dysfunctional). You may be a grown woman with your own apartment, a string of degrees and a fabulous job, but that is all irrelevant when your little girl, who will always three to their mother, is going travelling. Yes of course we want you to have fun. We also want to know you are safe and if for any reason we think you are not we will happily ensure the local army comes to find you and deposits you on the first international flight home so you can be grounded until you are 40.
What have I missed?
I’m sure there is loads but in short, stay safe, have fun, call your mum and your travels will be amazing.