Backpacking the world is one hell of a rollercoaster. 99% of the time, backpackers are able to stay safe while traveling the world. But every now and again, something goes wrong.
Again, it’s nearly always possible to avoid disaster if you think smart and act fast. Safety while traveling is often taken for granted but it really is pretty simple to keep yourself safe on the road.
One of my top travel safety tips is simple: prepare yo’ ass.
So, how do you prepare yo’ ass for worst case scenarios? Arm yourself with knowledge, my friends.
Using my experiences, I can help you travel the world safely. I’ve assembled a comprehensive list of 36 of the best safety tips for traveling so that you may avoid the worst.
I have been on the road for over ten years and, over the course of my travels, I have been a part of more than a few misadventures. Broken bones, horrible infections, natural disasters, political fallouts; you name one, and I have probably been a part of.
Learn from my mistakes everyone – these tips for traveling safely could possibly save your life.
Table of Contents
36 Top Travel Safety Tips
Follow these essential travel safety tips to ensure that your trip is a smooth one!
1. Wear your fucking helmet
I’m actually not going to tell you to not drink and drive; because if you do drink and drive, you won’t listen to me anyway.
I’m gonna keep this real simple – protect yourself and protect your trip of a lifetime by wearing a helmet, especially when you have been drinking.
I’m a good driver. I’ve driven in lots of crazy countries around the world. It doesn’t matter how good you are; if you ride or drive everywhere, you will eventually have an accident.
I’ve come off a motorbike three times. On two occasions, I was absolutely fine. On the only occasion when I wasn’t wearing a helmet in Thailand, I cut my face up and had to get nine stitches above my eye.
Yes, some ways to travel safely include things you should be doing at home, too. Wear your helmet, it could save your life. Traffic accidents are still the number one killer of backpackers.
2. Beware the mixing of intoxicants and water
The number two cause of death for backpackers? Drowning.
Every year, on every continent, some backpacker will get drunk or stoned out of their mind and then decide it’s a fantastic idea to go swimming.
I get it and I’ve done it, being in the sea whilst smashed is great fun but you have to take some precautions. I don’t go deep or swim off beaches that might have currents I don’t know about. Be aware of the added risk when you are drunk and avoid swimming.
3. Stop using back pockets
This is probably the first vacation safety tip that I ever learned because it’s kinda true. Most pickpockets have the easiest time lifting your wallet from your back pocket. It’s convenient for them because your back is turned and you probably won’t even feel them doing it.
Just keep your wallet and any valuables in your front pockets. They’re more within your field of view and hug your legs more closely. Pickpockets will have a much harder time getting into these.
4. Pack appropriately
Don’t take what you pack for granted – bringing the right gear is a serious safety tip for travelers. You need to make sure that you have the proper equipment for whatever it is you’re doing on your backpacking trip.
If you’re going trekking in Nepal, you should probably bring a warm jacket and a good pair of boots, at the very least. If you’re going to Colombia for a holiday, our personal travel safety tip would be to pack lightly and to avoid bringing anything overly valuable with you.
Pack for what you intend to do on any given adventure. Make sure you have everything you need and that the gear will serve you well. Don’t bring an ice ax to Indonesia – bring flip flops and a surfboard.
Be sure to check our complete backpacking list before venturing out yourself.
5. Know the exit
I picked this up from a Bourne film but it’s still a top travel safety tip – know you’re way out of a building.
When I do feel like I’m in a dodgy situation, I’ve already mapped out a retreat plan. When I sleep in a new room, I make sure I know the options for getting out of that room in case I awaken to find the building besieged by zombies.
6. Invest in a good backpack
When you’re on the road, your backpack is your house – it holds all of your personal belongings and maybe even a secret or two. Thus, you should treat it just like a regular home.
Your backpack needs to strong and secure. It needs to be able to withstand the elements and protect your valuables from invaders.
Would you leave the front to your house wide open? For that matter, would you live in a house that is falling apart? If you want to travel safely, make sure you renovate your travel house.
Buy a quality backpack for traveling. Make sure the zippers are strong or if they can be locked; check to see if the material is tough and if it’ll resist attacks; see if there are hidden pockets for stashing stuff. A backpack will be one of the best investments that you can make in your backpacking career. For the past while Nomatic has been one of the best backpack companies, they are at the forfront of the new generation of travel packs.
7. Hide your cash
This is one of my biggest tips for backpacking in countries with a high crime rate.
I’ve hidden money in all kinds of different places on my travels. Once, I sewed hidden pockets into my jeans. Another time, I hid money in between two photos laminated together within a photo book.
My favorite method to hide money is a simple belt with a plastic buckle, that can go through Airport scanners without setting them off, and a zip on the inside of the belt. One of my favorites is the Active Roots Security Belt as it is super convenient and inconspicuous.
Usually, when you do encounter problems traveling, it is going to be focused around one thing – money. Yep, money is the root of all evil.
Travel safety and money go hand in hand. Avoid flashing your cash and as well as hiding the bulk of your money in a special security belt, keep your wallet light so that if you do have to give it up you aren’t going to lose out on too much.
8. Beware the sudden appearance of beautiful strangers…
Or even average-looking strangers.
The world is full of truly lovely people but every now and again you meet someone who is just too damn nice. And sometimes these ‘too damn nice’ people are looking to make money out of you somehow.
They may simply try to sell you something. Or, they may rob you. Keep your wits about you, especially if you are drinking, and keep an eye on your stuff.
9. Do you really want to drive?
In some countries, it’s just not worth the extra effort to have your own car. God knows places like South Korea would be totally safe if it wasn’t for the maniacal drivers on the road. Don’t even get me started on driving somewhere hectic like the Dominican Republic either.
Whilst we love a good road trip, sometimes the best road safety tip when traveling is to just avoid it altogether. It’s just not worth the hassle and the stress will probably shave years off your lifespan.
Besides, most countries worth visiting have decent public transport that can get you to where you need to go. For all other instances, hitchhiking is totally safe and actually very effective!
10. Keep your stuff locked up
When I was younger and traveling around the tropics, I didn’t give a fuck where I put my stuff or if it was safe. I just threw everything under my bed and went straight to the bars. It’s no wonder that I barely returned with anything besides my backpack and the tattered clothes on my back.
Shit gets knicked all of the time. It can be as vital as a mobile phone or as insignificant as a t-shirt. I’ve had more than 3 phones and countless articles of clothing stolen before.
One of the best international travel safety tips I can give is to invest in a solid padlock. Most hostels and other forms of accommodation have lockers these days, which are great places to put your stuff. A simple travel padlock is often strong enough to deter petty thieves. These are very inexpensive, too.
11. Or keep it on your person
When you need to leave the hostel with your shit, you obviously can’t lock it up (unless you chain it to yourself like Jacob Marley).
Don’t worry – it’s not like you’re going to be suddenly jumped the moment you step outside. This just means you need to keep everything in your clutches.
Most bags are stolen when the owner is unaware. Thieves lift bags from under tables, from the bus while you’re sleeping, and even from the person himself following a scam. In more extreme situations, someone may even do a drive-by on a scooter and snatch your bag that way (like they do in Cambodia).
When you’re carrying valuables with you, keep that shit on you at all times. Keep bags on your person itself and don’t let it out of your sight. Unless they are put in a safe hold or something, they are fair game.
Personally, I always have a leg through a backpack strap when it’s not on my back. That way, if someone does try to steal it, they’ll either alert me or face too much difficulty in the act.
12. Be aware of gender issues
As much as I hate to admit it, gender inequality is still a problem in the modern world. Women are treated differently than men, for good and bad, and are subject to different problems. Depending on what country you’re in and how the feminine genome is treated there, these problems could be minor or magnified.
Outside of the aggressive Spaniard or drunken German, traveling in Europe may not be a huge ordeal for solo women. But visit somewhere like Morocco or Guatemala though, and being a girl could suddenly be much more difficult.
Traveling as a woman requires extra attention and street smarts. You’ll need to be more cautious and use your instincts to avoid being put into a potentially dangerous situation. Listen to as many tips for solo female travelers as you can and read up on gender dynamics in individual nations.
We would like to take a moment to remind our female readers that no country should be off-limits to them. Yes, it takes more effort to travel as a girl but that is no reason to not travel at all. Lots of women travel on their own and have a great time – you should too.
13. Have smart digital habits
You should be just as protective of your data as your physical items when traveling. This isn’t so much for personal safety as security for your most important data. If you’re going to be creating a lot of digital files – say you’re taking pictures or writing wherever you go – a computer accident could be disastrous. If you’re a digital nomad or freelance photographer, this could lead to the loss of work.
Be sure to backup all of your vital data when traveling. Hard drives are a great accessory to have and the solid state ones are, in particular, hearty. Consider investing in some Cloud storage while you’re at it as this type can’t actually break (it’s all online). Google Drive offers online storage for good prices.
Online and digital fraud is a little less common. Regardless though, be sure to establish secure internet access while traveling and to avoid shady “free WiFi” spots. Use the wrong connection and someone could steal vital information while you’re browsing the web. If you’re traveling somewhere like China, have a VPN installed on your computer.
14. Act like a spy
One of the best international travel safety tips I can give you is to blend in. Act local, look local, be local…
This is of course sometimes laughably impossible, but when I am traveling in countries like Pakistan or Venezuela I will dress like a local. If you decide to don the national dress, this can often work as a pretty good icebreaker.
Sometimes, I pretend I am ‘007 on a top-secret mission to rescue a Norwegian (I like blondes) princess from a far-flung land. All I have to do is avoid detection…
In all seriousness though, blending in will help you be culturally sensitive and you will attract less attention as well. If you’re visiting a country that dresses conservatively even in the worst humidity and heat, then suck it up. You need to respect the local customs and dress that way too.
Wandering through the streets of Laos topless or in a bikini is disrespectful and you will stand out like a sore thumb. Doing this in somewhere like India (Goa ain’t India folks!) is just plain stupid.
15. Pack a first aid kit
When you’re in the mountains, it can be tough to find decent medical supplies. Having a well-stocked first aid kit complete with bandages, medicine, and antiseptic wash is a safety tip worth investing in.
I’ve always traveled with a first aid kit and although I only end up using it a couple of times a year – usually for just minor cuts and bruises – it is well worth having in an emergency. For example, my little first aid kit has…
- Defeated a thousand blisters
- Made a sling for a friend who broke their arm in a rock fall, we then had to evacuate him
- Stitched up my own arm when I couldn’t get to a hospital
- Cleaned and dressed ten or more friends who have come off motorbikes (on separate occasions)
16. Leave with only what you need
When you’re going out exploring for the day, or out for a crazy night, you should only take what you need with you. Anything you have on yourself is going to have the potential of getting stolen. So, why put extra valuables at risk when you don’t need to?
This means taking out only a certain amount of money or credit cards with you and leaving the rest at home. That way, if you are robbed, you won’t have to worry about losing everything. It’s like the old saying goes: “don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket.”
Not having valuables might even keep you safer too! Another added benefit of doing this is that you’ll be setting a budget for yourself. When the cash runs out, time to head back home.
17. Be careful of shady ATMs
ATM fraud is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It goes like this:
- “Ah shit man, I’m outta cash. You think I can use that ATM over there?” (Points to a wreck of an ATM outside of convenience store.)
- “I dunno man, but the girls want beers soon.” (They walk over to use it.)
- “What’s the worst that could happen?” (Uses said ATM.”
Next morning, our heroic duo wake up to find there have been several unauthorized transactions on their cards as the machine they used was jerry-rigged to steal customer information. Tough break fellas.
The other problem with this hypothetical situation is that these two guys probably used the ATM in the middle of the night. If they were alone on the streets, they could be asking for trouble. Muggers love to hang around ATMs and rob unwitting withdrawers because, hey, the cash is coming straight from the source.
Only use ATMs at established branches and banks. Try to use the ones that are actually inside the buildings as these usually have cameras.
18. Check in
You remember that movie – 127 Hours? The one about the guy who had various delicious drinks stored in the boot of his car and then got his arm stuck under a rock. Yeah, that guy lost his arm.
You remember that other movie, Into The Wild? The cult backpacker movie about a guy starving to death in a van in Alaska.
Both of those movies have one thing in common; neither of the heroes opted to tell anybody where they are going.
I get it – it’s romantic, it’s mysterious, they are brave mountain men walking paths nobody knows or could possibly understand. Except, it’s also fucking stupid.
If you are going on a trek or off on an adventure, tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to be back. That way, if you are several days (or weeks) overdue, somebody will eventually come looking for you. This travel safety tip might just save your life…check in when you’re on the road.
Yes, we fully appreciate that when you’re having such a great time it can be quite hard to remember to check in. Well, thankfully technology has come to the rescue. There are now, awesome apps that do the checking in for you by automatically tracking your travels so your loved ones back home know exactly where you are.
19. Use rideshares
Taxis fucking suck sometimes – the drivers are mad, the cars sometimes look like they came from a warzone, and fairs can be ridiculous. I could give you heaps of road safety tips for traveling with these nightmares but don’t really have the time to do so.
Much easier is suggesting that you just stick to rideshares. They’re convenient, affordable, and, best of all, provide safety measures like tracking, registration, and customer support. Gone are the days where you had to get the driver’s information before jumping in the car. Hello to the future!
Using rideshares is also one of my top tips for solo female travelers. With these services, you can avoid creepy male drivers altogether and even have a way of reporting sexual harassment. Honestly, once you start using apps like Uber or Lyft, it’s hard to go back.
20. Don’t eat everything
It can be tempting to gorge on all the delicious and exotic food you’re about to be presented, especially in places like Vietnam or Spain. Before jumping in the deep end though and eating without inhibition, you may want to consider if the food is safe at all.
Some countries don’t follow the same health codes as Western ones do. In these instances, foodborne illnesses are much more common and these can really ruin your time abroad.
Granted, not every restaurant is going to make you sick but our best travel safety advice would be to pay attention to hygiene. If a place looks dirty, the chances of you getting ill are higher. If food appears to have been left out all day, God knows what germs it’s picked up.
Pay attention to what you’re eating and double check to see if it’s clean. Trust us when we say Delhi Belly is never fun.
21. Know Critical Diet Information in the Local Language
For those traveling with a serious allergy or a restriction like celiac disease (where even crumbs of gluten can make them sick for days), taking care ahead of time is really important.
In those cases, I suggest picking up a translation card. There are many on the web, but for gluten-free travelers, I recommend fellow travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg’s gluten-free restaurant cards. She has traveled with celiac disease for over a decade, and has really detailed restaurant cards using local food names, and making sure to communicate the issue with cross-contamination. They’re the most detailed cards I’ve seen on the web and you have your pick of a dozen languages (so far).
22. Party Safely
There is a party to be had in every country. It’s hard not to get lured in with cheap local beer and depending on the country, some pretty cheap drugs. Before you know it, the room is swaying and you probably should have stopped drinking two Chang’s ago.
Alcohol, drugs and staying safe while traveling do not mix well. Know your limits, when to stop, and when to go home. If you are on a mission to get smashed then do it with someone you trust. Your new friends you just met at the bar probably aren’t gonna be reliable when you are wasted.
23. Don’t assume that water is ok to drink
Water is the giver of life, the holiest of substances, the stuff that supposedly gets you high according to Mad Max. Drink from the wrong source though, and your life could be in very real danger.
While backpacking in Malaysia, a friend of mine drank from a hose that appeared to perfectly normal. 4 hours later he was puking his guts up in the streets and was helpless in bed for 36 hours. Another mate drank from a tap that was purportedly fine according to some locals at a Nepalese guest house he was staying at. He had giardia for 4 months afterward.
Moral of the story: know where the water comes from and if it’s TRULY clean. Better yet, have a Grayl Geopress with you so you can purify it, no matter how clean it supposedly is (that’s what I do).
Whilst drinking water from plastic bottles is unavoidable sometimes, I really don’t like using them. They create unnecessary waste and expenses.
Try using water purification and carry around a good water bottle when traveling. These aren’t essential vacation safety tips per se, but the Earth will be a better place without the extra plastic (that’s just as important).
24. Be observant
Keep that head on a swivel! Lots of bad situations can be seen coming and can be avoided simply by looking around.
If you’re walking around a dangerous city, like Cape Town, and the area is starting to look dodgy, it very well could be. If you’re in Nicaragua and the streets to get crowded with angry mobs, the revolution may be starting.
Moments like could turn out really bad for an innocent bystander but they can also be easily avoided. Just keep your head up and actually pay attention to what’s going on around you. Honestly, this is one of the best travel safety tips that there is.
25. Be with other people during high-risk situations`
Those situations that we just mentioned in the previous section – a lot of those can be pointed out by a concerned friend. Traveling with multiple people means you’ll have more eyes, more balanced opinions, and more overall awareness. (Unless you’re a stag party, in which case, you’re just fucked.)
Larger groups also appear more intimidating to possible assailants. Thieves are much less likely to target larger groups for fear of getting caught. Like the wilds of the savannah, no lone predator wants to take on an entire herd.
Not everyone travels with a group though, some people prefer the lone wolf style. It’s totally understandable. But when you’re in a potentially high-risk situation, like partying at night or going on a big trek, having friends can be a good thing.
A good tip for traveling alone for the first time is to join a group when needed. It may not sound ideal, but they may save your ass.
26. Know about local scams
Every country has their own favorite scams and tricks to rob visitors. Argentina loves the “ketchup on the backpack” trick” Italian thugs play the “you have to pay to get into this church” card. The list goes on. There are tons of country-specific safety travel tips that we can’t all mention here.
It would definitely pay to learn about the most notorious scams whenever you enter a new country. Doing so will allow you to recognize and obviously avoid them.
Do some research online or ask the staff at your lodge. They’ll usually be more than happy to share some holiday travel safety tips. They hate scammers just as much anyone else.
27. Don’t advertise valuables
Walking around with a shiny watch, a dazzling necklace, or a brand new camera is like having a spotlight on yourself. These items shout “look at how awesome and rich I am!” For thieves, it’s practically an invitation.
Listen. I understand that some of these things may feel mandatory – maybe you want to show off that new wedding ring on Instagram while visiting Spain. Others may actually be necessary – photojournalists have to use their camera for work, eventually. Just try not to show off things like these irrationally.
Keep your valuables hidden until you absolutely need them. Only have your camera out if you intend to use it. Travel with a group of people so you guys can watch each other’s backs.
On that note, we mentioned blending in earlier. If you don’t see the locals wearing expensive stuff, then you shouldn’t either.
28. Have copies of important documents
One of the absolute worst things that could happen to you while traveling is losing a passport. You’ll be unable to do a lot of things without one, like booking some accommodations or even leaving the country, for that matter. God forbid you’re in a country where crooked police officers ask to see your passport constantly, the absence of which usually leads to a solicited bribe.
Whilst you can receive a replacement passport from your nearest embassy, it pays to have some copies handy. With copies of your passport and other vital documents, you’ll still be able to go about your business. Travel safety tips abound but this is one of the classics.
Carrying a copy of your passport also allows leaving the original safely back in your hotel room. Best to keep it there away from potential thieves.
29. Be confident but not cocky
Predators almost always target the meek first; the timid travelers, the shakey tourists, the ones who look lost and helpless. They prey upon weakness and, as opportunists, will take every advantage if it means a payday.
One of the most spouted travel safety tips is to always look confident and like you know what you’re doing. This makes you look more intimidating and less like a potential victim. When it comes to staying safe while traveling alone, looking assured is even more important.
Here’s the thing – just because you act like you own the place doesn’t mean you do. A bloated sense of invulnerability can be just as dangerous as a complete lack thereof.
A friend of mine was walking through Johannesburg, South Africa, in the middle of the day, with his camera. He thought he was being smart, by traveling before dark, and was walking without a care in the world. He was jumped by six guys who eventually made of with his wallet and phone.
In conclusion, don’t be blinded by too much confidence. Remember to be vigilant and smart.
30. Listen to your gut
At the end of the say, no amount of tips for traveling safely can match the power that is your intuition. Humans have been using this for years to sniff out potentially dangerous situations – some people are just more in touch with it than others.
When it comes to staying safe while traveling, alone or with a group, you need to be able to listen to your instincts. If something feels funny, then there’s a good chance it probably is.
So if that street food looks like it’ll make you sick, it’s ok to avoid it. If that guy seems a little too friendly, then he may not have the best intentions. Even if you think you may be overreacting, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
31. Study the immediate geography
Getting lost sucks, be it on the way back to your hostel or in the woods somewhere. If you’re in a really precarious situation, like the wilderness or a dodgy part of town, things could go south quick.
To avoid getting lost, study your immediate surroundings. Become familiar with nearby landmarks, like a tower, a mountain, or a museum, and use them as reference points. Know possible routes and where the nearest public transport lines are.
Knowing where you’re going also makes you look more confident and like a local. You’ll glide right past any thieves as they’ll be looking for people who look more helpless.
For people who frequently move around for work, this is a really useful business travel safety tip. Work trips tend to be short, which means you never really know any given area well. Take the time to actually study your surroundings and you’ll be more secure.
32. Talk to people
We can only learn so much by surfing the web. If we’re being honest, pulling information directly from the internet may actually be painting an exaggerated picture of certain countries. (Wait, fake news?)
When it comes to getting a real feeling for a place, sometimes you just need to go there and ask. Talking to actual people of a country is sometimes the best way of really knowing if somewhere is safe or not.
Case and point – Pakistan. Most Western media outlets paint this country as a hellhole that only harbors terrorist groups. If you were to ask anyone who’s actually been to Pakistan though, you’d probably be surprised to hear that it’s actually a very safe country.
In these situations, it also pays to know a bit of the local lingo. People will be much more receptive to if actually try to communicate with them using their language. Even if it’s super broken, they will still appreciate you and open up more easily.
33. Know the local emergency number
We all learned how to call the police or ambulance as a child. It was 911 if you grew up in the USA/ Canada, 999 in the UK, or 000 in Australia.
As you’ve probably already gathered, those are all different numbers. Yes, every country has its own emergency number. So if you’re caught in a sticky situation in Belize, dialing 911 isn’t going to help you much.
When you enter a new country, learn the local emergency contact number. Dial the number and actually check to see if your phone can call it. You may need to use it in the future.
34. Know before you go
Knowledge is power.
Planning a trip is exciting and it’s well worth throwing a quick bit of research into any specific risks you might encounter in the region you are traveling to. Don’t be a fool in thinking no research is a good idea. There are lots of safety travel tips that you’ll only discover on your own.
I guess it’s cool to rock up somewhere new and be constantly amazed by new shit because you haven’t done any research and don’t know what to expect. The thing is though, arriving in a new country totally naïve or oblivious to the culture, religion, language, and customs is just plain risky.
Before setting off on your adventure, hop on your country’s foreign office page and check out the travel safety tips for whatever country you’re off to. Every country has different safety concerns.
Knowing the scams and dangers before you arrive in the country will make you more confident to decline an offer that sounds too good to be true.
35. Be mindful of your health
Not all of us are as young we used to be. Hell, there was a time when I could drink all day and eat as much fatty food as I wanted without fear of repercussions.
As we once-spry backpackers become older though, we need to be more mindful of our health. This means exercising more often, being conscious of what we eat, and not overdoing it at the bars.
There are some issues that every traveler, regardless of their age, should be aware of as well. A big one is disease. Some countries suffer from some major ones, like yellow fever in Peru, HIV in South Africa, and malaria in India. Two-stepping with any of these could lead to a major derailment in your plans and life.
Before you do hit the road, be sure to check in with a travel nurse to find out if you need any vaccinations. It’s also worth familiarising yourself with some of the most common travel illnesses faced by backpackers.
36. Buy some god-damn insurance
I’ve had to claim on my insurance a few times – once for $17,000 worth of medical bills – and every time it has been a lifesaver. My number one safety tip is, do not travel without insurance. There are lots of insurance options out there – I’ve summed a few of them up in this article. Personally, I recommend World Nomads.
BONUS: How to build a kick-ass first aid kit!
From bloody wounds to horrific hangovers, a first aid kit should be in every traveler’s packing list. Investing in a decent first aid kit is well worth doing and when you get your first blister hiking, you’ll be thankful you packed a first aid kit.
If you’re not wandering into the wilderness it’s likely you’ll get by on a basic traveler’s first aid kit, or what I like to call my ultimate first aid kit. Not sure what to put in your ULTIMATE first aid kit?
Never fear amigos I’ve put together a list, for what to pack in your ultimate first aid kit!
First Aid Essentials
- Tape – for blisters
- Band-aids – for minor cuts
- Steristrips – to close up open wounds
- Gauze Dressing Pads – endlessly useful
- Gauze roll bandage – for broken arms
- Rehydration sachets – for heat stroke and dehydration
- Painkillers – Ibuprofen is best for reducing swelling
- Imodium – for the cursed traveler’s diarrhea
- Antiseptic cleaning wipes – get clean
- Antiseptic gel – keep clean
- Mosquito repellent – aim for 40% DEET
- Antibiotics – I carry Amoxicillin
- Scissors, needle, and thread – always helpful
My advice for traveling safely – buy this first aid kit, it’s affordable and comes with pretty much everything you need – you’ll just need to pimp it out with the pills, mosquito repellent, and rehydration sachets.
Besides a first aid kit, the smartest thing you can pack to keep yourself safe traveling is a head torch. I’ve been carrying my head torch for years now and it’s saved my life on more than one occasion. Being lost in the dark is not fun and phone batteries die when you’re in the mountains.
I recommend the Smarter Life LED Headlamp – it’s tough, bright, last’s forever and, best of all, it’s cheap.
How to travel safely
Travel safety can be broken down into two areas – protecting yourself and protecting your gear. Let me run you through some of my best travel safety tips for keeping yourself, and your stuff, safe.
How to Protect Yourself
Use your common sense:
Keeping yourself safe while traveling is largely using your common sense. When you’re liquored up with a bunch of new mates it is so easy to be convinced to do something stupid – like climbing scaffolding, smoking outside a police station or swimming in a fast-moving river in the dark.
I’ve found myself in all of those situations whilst traveling and on those occasions, I’ve known that it is a bad idea. If you know it’s a bad idea, don’t do it – screw the peer pressure and just walk away.
If you get attacked by someone fight back, hard. Your life could depend on it. Once you have them down, run somewhere public and get the heck out of dodge. If you’re touched inappropriately or feel threatened in public, make a scene and draw attention.
Someone will always come to help or stand up for you. This is commonplace in many cultures such as India and the Middle East. If you have to fight, go for the throat and eyes.
The best way to minimize the risk while traveling is to plan. If you’re hiking in the hills for the day take your head-torch – if it gets dark you will need it. If you get lost hiking; stop, sit and wait. Someone will find you or cross your path eventually.
Decided to head out partying? Arrange a place and a time to meet your friends if you get lost. If you are taking drugs or getting drunk, write the address of your hostel on your hand or, even better, take a business card from the hostel front desk.
Trust me, there is nothing fun about wandering around late at night (or early in the morning) looking for your hostel when you have no idea where it is or what it’s even called…
How to Protect Your Stuff
Packing is one of those things you’re gonna get good at when you start traveling. It doesn’t mean that is easy to figure out what you should bring and what you shouldn’t. I mean, you probably don’t need your birth certificate and that family treasured ring passed down to you- those should probably stay at home.
Do not take anything you cannot afford to lose. If you are mugged, you should not have anything on you that is worth ‘fighting to the death’ for.
If you’re bringing valuables with you (cameras, phones, laptops etc) keep these on you while in transit as much as possible. Don’t leave your laptop bag to ‘save your seat’ while you run to the toilet on your overnight train – this might be fine nine times out of ten but eventually, your stuff will get stolen.
If you are heading on a trip where you might be taking to the ocean or rivers, I recommend getting hold of a dry-bag. Keep your electronics in this at all times whilst you are on the water.
Prepare for the worst, ensure your stuff:
A lot of backpackers these days take laptops, cameras, and other valuables on their travels. My biggest piece of travel safety advice for you guys is to properly insure your stuff. If you do get robbed, it is crucial that you get a police report – this will make your insurance claim quick and painless rather than a massive pain in the ass.
World Nomads Insurance
The problem with insurance is that a lot of the policies out there offer awesome insurance for you but not such great insurance on your stuff. Insurance companies know that stuff is likely to get broken, stolen or damaged and this is where they are likely to have to pay out.
The best insurance option for backpackers is World Nomads – they are not the cheapest but they have the most comprehensive insurance that’ll cover you for pretty much everything. You can add on additional cover for your gadgets (which you really must do if you want them to be covered) up to about $1000 per item.
Another option is to get your travel insurance with World Nomads and then ensure your valuables separately with an insurance company like Gadget Cover.
If World Nomads doesn’t sound right for you, no worries – just get insurance from somewhere. Here’s a breakdown of other travel insurance companies worth checking out.
Final Travel Safety Tips and Thoughts
And so there you have it, amigos! Hopefully, my travel safety tips will arm you with the info you need to stay safe while traveling.
Backpacking around the world is an incredible experience and you will have the trip of a lifetime. Don’t jeopardize it with foolish decisions – get yourself back from your adventures in one piece, take necessary precautions to keep yourself safe, and remember you have people who love you waiting for you back home.
The world is a constantly changing place and some of our advice for traveling safely may be more or less necessary at a given moment. If we missed some valuable bits, please share your own tips for traveling safely! We’d love to hear how you travel and what you’ve learned from your experiences.
Otherwise…peace, love, and happy traveling guys!
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Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.
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Writer and entrepreneur. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for thirteen years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures, including The Broke Backpacker – the world’s largest budget travel blog. He is passionate about solving the plastic problem and cleaning up the oceans. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2020.