Travelling solo? Don't be an idiot
04 February, 2020
Recently, I had the privilege to attend the Linux App Summit 2019 , Barcelona and also I got to deliver a talk at FOSDEM 2020 , Brussels. I travelled alone in both of the instances and I learned a lot of things that I suppose would be worth sharing. Here is the compiled list:
(Note: This is all written from a 'being safe' + super conservative point of view and are out of my personal experience - please feel free to think or act otherwise)
Do not look like a tourist
- Or in other words, don't stand out in the crowd - blend in. Try to wear the same type/color of clothing the normal crowd does, don't wear extravagant colors or fancy crap: all of this makes you a stand out a target for pickpocketers and petty thieves.
- Always have a sense of direction and confidence whenever you are heading anywhere. Plan your outing properly and avoid being one of those tourists who have no idea where they are, asking strangers for help (not that it is bad but it could attract unnecessary attention as well)
- For travelling to and fro from the airport and your hotel, research the best option as it varies from city to city. E.g., if you're in Brussels, it is most convenient and safe to take the train which takes you right up into the Brussels airport or if it's Barcelona, taking the bus would be the best option (metros tend to be less safe especially at odd times) and so on.
- It should be mostly fine to wander around in late-night in most of the European countries, here you must apply your common sense. Some cities tend to have a LOT of tourists all the time so it may look crowded all the time, while some cities may not have the same magnitude of people around so take care of this factor if you're planning to stay up late because you would not want to end up in a dark lonely street all by yourself.
- Always carry some spare cash in some other place other than your wallet or your pocket e.g. deep in your backpack.
- If you have a backpack, wear it towards the front while travelling in a crowded metro/etc or firmly in between your feet on the floor but never on your back!
- Always be aware of what you have in your pockets at all times. It doesn't hurt to check the contents of your pockets now and then (In fact I prefer to walk hands in pocket almost all the time)
- Keep a note of the emergency service numbers in your phone for quick access. Consider setting up the SOS service in your smart phone (if you have it) as well.
Skip the scammers: If I were to describe how you could be scammed, that would probably take forever - in essence, what scammers generally try do is:
- some appeal to your "generosity" and ask for money because they are from X place facing X crisis and they have no one here. This could happen anywhere, outside the station, in the airport, in the subway. Cut contact/walk away immediately.
- some will put bracelets/accessories they sell on you and say you look awesome and convince you to believe their story (they usually sound compassionate and kind until this point) and then you feel 'obliged' to give them money - and when you open your purse, they TAKE ALL OF IT. No kidding. Do not fall for them, this happens a lot in Rome. In general, avoid street sellers (in many cities, it is illegal to buy from them e.g. Blanket Sellers in Barcelona)
More detailed articles have been written over the subject and are just a Google away:
These are all just some base points that you could make use of - and again, as I said before, these are all out of my personal experience and prejudice as these points worked perfectly fine for me but please feel free to differ and do research further.