Small town girl travel tips
Growing up in a town of fewer than 2,000 people, I didn’t have a lot to worry about when it comes to safety. We left our cars and homes unlocked, murder and breaking news crimes were basically unheard of. So traveling to a city that boasts to be home to more than a million people is mind boggling sometimes. All the hustle can be intimidating, to anyone, small town girl included. Added to that traveling solo and you might have a little mental breakdown in the middle of the streets of San Juan like I did. To prevent yourself from suffering from intense anxiety, I’ve included a few tips on how to stay safe and anxious free on your travels.
1. Know how to reach security, police
If there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let this be it. Know how to reach police and security in the country you’re visiting. You never know when you’ll have to reach them in an emergency. Hopefully, you’ll never have to contact them, but be aware on what number to dial. As a heads up, in all countries, you can use your cellphone to call emergency personnel. Other numbers such as customer service for where you’re staying can be looked up online while you’re there and needed, but I would know the emergency number offhand or have it readily accessible.
Here’s a complete list of emergency numbers listed by country from the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs.
2. Text someone your daily itinerary
Especially if you’re traveling solo, your friends and family might fret about your safety. To ease their minds, guarantee that you’ll check in with someone daily. It’s not only a good safety measure but also a way to feel a little less homesick too. Just a few words of encouragement from a loved one are sometimes is exactly what you need to hear to propel you through the day.
3. Trust your gut
This goes for all situations, domestic and abroad. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, steer clear of them. Many times I look to surround myself with other people. There’s true safety in numbers.
4. Ask locals about the safety of areas
Locals know best, I cannot emphasize this enough. Don’t believe all travelers’ myths about an area. While in Colorado I was told that Rainbow Falls was a shady area with bad folks. Turns out, it was somewhat of a cultural hot spot for locals and tourists. While we were there, there were numerous people posing for Instagram photos and explore the bridge’s underbelly. I didn’t feel unsafe or uneasy about the falls at all.
5. Don’t advertise you are alone
This is a common sense piece of advice, but I’d feel that this guide wouldn’t be complete without saying it. If people ever ask if I’m traveling solo, I say that I’m meeting up with a friend. That way they know someone is expecting me. It would deter them from engaging in any funny business, knowing that they could get caught. In Vieques I had a taxi driver bother me because I was traveling solo. He was inappropriate and implying I would have a good time without my husband present, luckily I met up with a group of girls on the beach. He left me alone soon after that. (You can read about the entire experience here).
In the same fashion, if you’re feeling uneasy being alone, find a travel buddy! There are great hostel programs around the world for travelers to meet up and explore together. I always book through Hostel World. Otherwise, there are Facebook groups that you can utilize to find adventurers in areas close to you. One of my favorites is Girls LOVE Travel.
6. Don’t look flashy
If you look flashy, you’ll attract unwanted attention. Again, common sense. If people know you have a $1,000 camera and iPhone, they’re more likely to rob you than a person they have no idea what they are carrying. If you must carry expensive belongings, or don’t feel safe leaving them in your hostel/hotel, conceal them and keep them close. There are products such as money belts, where you can conceal extra cash. In the same manner, don’t flash around large bills. Using smaller bills creates less attention and it’s unlikely you’ll become a target.