Backpacking is undeniably one of the most freeing, eye-opening and exhilarating experiences that a young person can have. Most people that you will encounter will be welcoming, interesting and helpful in times of need, but it is important to familiarise yourselves with all of the potential risks and dangers that come with the journey. Most backpackers will never experience any unsafe or hostile situations, and may never fall victim to theft or aggression, but there is a small percentage who can have their whole trip ruined by either being at the wrong place at the wrong time, trusting the wrong people, or making themselves vulnerable. This article is in no way aimed to scare people off from embarking on an adventure and backpacking across different contents, but it is rather an opportunity to raise awareness for the potential dangers along the way…

Do your research:

Before you embark on any journey, it’s always a good idea to do your research and try to get a feel for the area you are staying in. It’s important to have an understating of the state of the destination and how safe it is for travellers, before you make any decisions to visit. As an addition to doing the standard Google search, it’s also a good idea to check out the official position of your government on your chosen destinations safety. If there are official governmental warnings against your chosen place, whether it is due to the fact that there is gang violence, unexplainable disappearances, robberies or hostile situations, or any other reason, it may be a good idea to avoid these areas. If you have your heart set on visiting a place that has a governmental warning against, it does not necessarily mean that you should not visit the destination, but rather that you should enter with caution, and premeditate any dangerous instances.

How to act in the event of an emergency:

Foreign offices or governments will deem a country unstable if it has ongoing conflict or has become a war zone, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before making a solid decision to visit the destination. It is unlikely that you will experience political unrest, change or anarchy on your travels and it is often the case that tourists, backpackers and expats are left well alone in these situations. But, if you find yourself in a dangerous situation such as the aforementioned, it is imperative that you actively avoid any mass political protests and try and find a neutral safe zone nearby. Some of the safest places you can go to during times of danger and uncertainty are your embassy, or neighbouring embassies.

Tips on how to become less vulnerable:

As a female traveller, it is important to familiarise yourselves with some of the more sinister dangers that arise when travelling. If you choose to travel alone in more high risk destinations, such as the Middle East, Africa and India, it is imperative that you remain in crowded areas and “safe zones”, or work in a buddy system with travellers you meet on your travels. Different cultures have different expectations for dress code, and it is not uncommon for female travellers to experience various levels of harassment if they wear clothes that are deemed to be revealing in the previously mentioned areas of the world. High risk areas in the Middle East often pray on solo female travellers to abduct for the sex trafficking industry, so be sure to avoid being in unfamiliar territory alone, outside after dark or in places that make you particularly vulnerable. Carrying an alarm and remaining away from high risk areas can massively maximise the risk of receiving unwanted attention or becoming caught up in sinister situations. If the worst happens and you are attacked or grabbed, the best thing to do is to scream as loud as you can or activate your hand held alarm to make passers-by and locals aware that you and danger; begging and pleading does not work in these situations, try to become aggressive and fight back against them – aiming for the most sensitive areas of their bodies.

Hostel awareness:

Some of the biggest threats to your possessions will actually come from your fellow travellers, as opposed to the locals. It’s believed that most crime is opportunistic, so if you are staying in a hostel which has a shared dorm room, it is important to actively protect your belongings. Some hostels have lockers that you can store your belongings in, this may come at an extra cost, but can be extremely worth it. Regardless of how trustworthy your fellow travellers may seem, it is always wise to live with a little bit of suspicion and keep your valuable possessions close by. For example, if you leave your smartphone on charge unattended, all it takes is for somebody to pass by and quickly steal it. Again, when you are sleeping, be sure that you either hide all of your valuables, or store them in your locker. As well as keeping your valuables and money safe at the hostel, it is also important to make yourself aware of all of the different kinds of scam artists, fake salesmen, street beggars and pick pockets that you may encounter on your travels. Keep your senses sharp, stay alert and do not be too trusting of those who try to play on your emotions for money.

Get the right visa:

As well as staying safe and keeping your wits about you, it is equally as important to ensure that you have all of the correct documentation and visas. Entering a country with the wrong visa is extremely risky and can land you in a lot of trouble. Trying to enter a country without a visa can be even worse, as it could lead to a complete ban on entering the country again. Getting a working visa UK prior to your journey is a straight forward task, but can take a long time, so it’s important to leave yourself enough time before you embark on your travels.

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