As an expat I travel often and alone. My solo travels have taken me round South Africa, The UAE, the UK and more recently to Canada. I’ve also travelled with hubby to most of Europe and to America when he’s been working and I’ve spent the days exploring various cities on my own.
In South Africa I lived in Pretoria and worked as a volunteer, which involved frequent trips into townships and driving late at night. I also travelled to Kruger, Durban and Cape Town for holidays as well as trips into Johannesburg to explore the city.
In the UAE, I’ve explored every inch of Dubai on trains, buses, taxis and on foot.
The UK which is my home country, my employment took me to remote areas as well as city centres late at night and weekends, as well as camping trips, days out and more recently using public transport up and down the country to visit family and friends and to and from airports usually last thing at night or before sunrise.
On my recent trip to Canada I stayed with a friend I met online 3 years ago, went camping with them in the wilds and stayed a few nights in Toronto prior to flying home to Dubai.
Living as an expat has changed the way I live my life both with my family and when I travel whether with hubby or on my own. After 4 years in South Africa I’m on high alert whenever I go out, not fearful for my safety but aware of it.
When you’ve lived in a country where the risk of harm and death is a daily occurrence you can’t help but change the way you live.
Many of these practices I learnt in South Africa are what I now consider best practice when travelling especially when I travel alone.
1. Make sure your phone is unlocked and purchase a local sim card, air time and 3G
2. Always put your hand bag in the foot well of your seat when driving or as a passenger and ensure doors are locked when driving.
3. Keep your hand bag in full site of you when in cafes/restaurants etc.
4. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning to your hotel or base.
5. Switch off location finder on your phone when taking photos
6. Upload pictures to Social Media after you’ve left your last location
7. Don’t announce on Social Media where your next destination is, City or town is OK but not the name of your hotel, café, activity etc
8. Write your email address on your luggage label, should you be separated from it and not the name of your hotel
9. Make sure you keep bank cards and cash to a minimum and in separate places when travelling alone. If everything is in your hand luggage/bag in case you lose it or it gets stolen.
10. Keep a written list of emergency phone numbers separate from your phone or hand bag. The bank, the next location you are staying in, the emergency number for police, fire, ambulance. Your next of kin
11. Carry a copy of your travel Insurance documents in your wallet in case of an accident or illness.
12. Spend time in advance working out how the public transport system works, where you want to go, the cost and length of travel time. This will save you getting lost, although from getting lost I’ve experienced so many more things than I would have done if I’d stuck to my planned route.
13. Confirm hotel bookings at least 24 hours in advance and give them your expected arrival time. I arrived at a hotel in Cape Town late one evening and they’d double booked…it does happen