10 Safety tips that every Backpacker should follow

Staying safe isn’t something you do to keep mom and dad off your back, it’s about knowing ways to not die while traveling! This list has 10 clear and easy tips to follow to ensure a safe backpacking trip. This advice for new travellers about staying safe also applies to anyone who wants to know how to avoid a really bad day while travelling abroad. Think of this as a list of rules for how to avoid rookie mistakes. I wish I’d had one. You’re welcome. 

Safety is important to all travelers.
Photo by Felix Hanspach on Unsplash.

Congratulations! You’ve planned your trip, bought your ticket, and watched 17 YouTube videos on what to pack. Now, reality has set in that you realize that you are going- actually leaving- to travel the world by yourself. It’s okay to be a little nervous. 

10 things that every backpacker should know about staying safe abroad.

Tip 1: Learn some self defense. 

If you have the means and the time, take a self defense course before your trip. If that’s not an option, watch some YouTube videos and practice (carefully) some of the techniques with your friends. 

Tip 2: Always get a local SIM card. 

Know the local emergency number so you can call for help if you need to. Put them into your phone. Keep a business card for your hostel with you so you always have their phone number and address.

Tip 3: Stay informed and stay connected. 

Backpackers new to an area have to take extra precautions when deciding where to go, how to get there, and everything else. Luckily, as internet coverage improves, it’s easier than ever to do a little research before making a decision. If that’s not an option, ask the staff or your host for recommendations. At the same time, let them know where you plan to go that day. 

Tip 4: Demand a personal bubble. 

If someone is making you uncomfortable by their proximity, stand up for yourself and ask for more space. Be polite, but firm.

Tip 5: Do not be afraid to say ‘No,’ even if it means being rude. 

When a situation has you seriously concerned for your safety, it’s time to throw cultural respect out the window and get out of there.

Tip 6: Don’t go out at night. 

Night doesn’t mean 10pm, it means dark. When it starts to get dark, get somewhere safe, i.e. your hostel. If you have to be out after dark, make sure there are safe ways to get back to your hostel, such as official taxis or a hotel shuttle. 

Also, don’t arrive anywhere new after dark. If the cheapest bus or plane ticket gets you to a new city at 11pm, find another one. It’s especially bad to be on unfamiliar ground late at night.

Tip 7: Avoid mystery drinks. 

As nice as it is to get a free drink from a stranger, but don’t accept it unless it’s in a sealed container they let you open for yourself, like beer. 

Tip 8: Don’t get wasted. 

Let’s be realistic: if you are in a new area, with a bunch of people you don’t know, and little idea of how to get back to your hostel, you should not get sloshed. It’s a bad idea. It could lead to bad consequences. It’s just too risky. Don’t do it. You will still have fun if you stay sober. And you will be able to function and have adventures the next day. A few drinks are fine, but know your limits. 

Tip 9: Don’t do drugs. 

If you need this one explained to you, you may lack enough common sense to go backpacking at all. If that offends you, too bad. Being under the influence of drugs puts you at risk! Don’t do drugs.

Tip 10: Be aware. 

Spend some time researching the culture and behaviors of the region you are in. You don’t have to become an expert, but a little effort ahead of time could avoid problems down the road. 

  • Find out what is considered normal behavior. Should you haggle or not? How close do people stand when having a conversation? Where should you point your feet? Is direct eye contact okay?
  • Know what official taxis look like. 
  • Have a map or gps: keep track of where you are and where you are going.
  • Find out any insulting gestures/phrases that you should avoid.
“Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of.”
Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Bonus Tip: Trust your gut. 

If you get a bad feeling about something or someone, change course. There is always another option. Even if it means more expense or inconvenience, listen to that little voice in the back of your head. This is especially true if you have joined up with other backpackers and they want to do something and you don’t- trust yourself and don’t give when it seems like a bad idea to you.

How to avoid bad days

Backpacking is an amazing adventure. But there are always risks. Don’t let fear dictate your every move, but instead, form a healthy working relationship with caution. There are going to be bad days among the awesome days. 

There is no magic spell that I can prepare you with that will eliminate all bad days. It’s really about your state of mind. Think of your favorite book or movie and ask yourself how the main character felt when everything went wrong and what a crappy ending it would be if that became their new identity. The same is true for you: challenge builds character. Your life is your adventure.

So when bad things happen, just remember: It’s life. Go live it. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission or compensation if you click through and/or make a purchase. The opinions and recommendations expressed here are my own. 

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I love to travel, but hate to arrive.

― Albert Einstein

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