Is solo backpacking safe, should you go hiking alone in foreign countries and what are some tips for travellers?

If you're lucky enough to have the time and money, the thrill of meeting new people and sampling unknown sights can be an unforgettable experience.

Is backpacking safe?

Hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, many on pre or post university Gap Years, don their backpacks every year and head off around the world.

Data by Hitwise, the UK’s largest online behavioural research tool, shows there was a 143 per cent increase in "solo travel" searches over the past three years.

Hotel booking sites have reported similar trends with giving a 170 per cent increase in the last 12 months for those looking to book a room themselves.

But, as the case of tragic backpacker Grace Millane shows, even "safe" destinations such as New Zealand can be dangerous for lone travellers.

While more women than ever are travelling on their own, occasional atrocities understandably strike fear into the hearts of any parents, friends or those who are taking the plunge themselves.

There is no perfect solution to keeping safe, even in the day of smart phones and travel insurance.

But you can make sure you're as safe as you possibly can be. See below for our top tips on being safe as you possibly can.

Can you go solo hiking?

Opinion varies on how safe hiking is for solo travellers.

Being part of a group is certainly safer, and can provide support for you when you're tired, hungry, or emotionally low.

There are also real dangers to hiking alone, with the potential of attack from both humans or animals.

If you're concerned about potential attack, it's worth carrying a pepper spray with you.

Also pack plenty of food and water, and plan your hike in advance so you have a general idea of where you're going.

Make sure someone you often see (a fellow traveller, a friend or family member at home, ideally all three) knows where you're going, where your intended target is and what your planned timeframe is, so they can check in with you or worry if you don't appear at the right time.

Top tips for solo travellers

There is no exhaustive list for staying safe. Every person will have a different experience, while every destination will present various challenges.

But there are some tips that should help you prepare as much as you can, compiled with the help of government advice, Rough Guide writers and risk experts.

  • Get comprehensive travel and medical insurance before setting off.
  • When it comes to alcohol, keep in mind if you have an accident when you’re drunk you probably won’t be covered by your insurance. Check the small print.
  • Pack a first aid kit, whatever your size and budget.
  • Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers.
  • If you're travelling alone with someone new, tell friends and family your plans before you go and keep in regular contact.
  • Equally, if you're meeting anyone new, whether it's a date or a new friend, keep your family and friends informed.
  • Don't post on social media too much. Criminals can use social media to track your movements. You will reduce your chances of becoming a target by only posting updates once you have moved on from the place you are posting about. Even, be careful how much your social media profiles show to the public – you could be broadcasting to strangers where you are.
  • Risk expert Lloyd Figgins also advises travellers to splash out on accommodation for their first night abroad. The idea is to take the pressure off when you are at your most vulnerable, even if it's just for one night.
  • Figgins also advises carrying a false or dummy wallet to hand over in case of a robbery. This should contain an expired credit card and a small amount of cash.
  • Rough Guide advises to always have local help numbers, such as the tourist police and other emergency service numbers, in your phone. This can give you confidence to deal with awkward situations.
  • Leave colour copies at home of all your important documents, including passport, driving licence, and take another set with you. Also make digital copies and email them to yourself.
  • Be discreet when checking a map – ask for directions from someone in a public, client-facing role where possible.
  • Always carry your mobile phone and keep it charged – but try not to draw attention to it in public.
  • Observe and respect local customs.

Further reading:

  • Official government advice
  • Gap 360
  • Ten tips for surviving solo travel
  • Year Out Group's 75 tips for safer gap year travel

Source: Read Full Article