It is normal for Nigerians, especially women – old and young – to visit other parts of the world and explore destinations on their own.
While this might not seem as a good idea (for women) as theft and harassment are two big concerns, the reality is that most of these women who travel solo and are more independent and confident because of it. The truth is: no place is perfect, and you need to always apply common sense.
To help Nigerian women who have plans to embark on a solo travel, Jumia Travel has put together some tips for safe and pleasant travels.
Research your destination and plan ahead. Before you travel to any place, ensure that you have all the necessary information.
The knowledge comes in handy when assessing the environment. Find out if men in the area are particularly forward or have a tendency to approach female travelers.
Know the typical tourist scams pulled off in the area, how to get around (transportation), the kind of food they have, the local customs, the local dress codes, religious beliefs and the rules and regulations guiding the inhabitants.
Book a few things in advance, like accommodation. Also, consider learning some travel skills before you leave, like how to orient a map and use a compass. It’s also useful to know a few phrases in the local language if it is different from yours.
Pack light. Remember to pack only what you essentially need. When you are travelling solo, there is no one to watch your stuff when you need to take a break or quickly dash off to some place. It is important that your luggage is light enough for you to move around with.
The must-haves include: cash, credit cards, your passport or ID camera and travel size toiletries. Aside from the advantage of more mobility, you will save more money with a light luggage.
Be cautious. It may not seem just, but if you are a woman, especially a young one, you need to be far more careful and watch yourself and your environment. You use common sense and trust your instincts. Do not take chances!
Read situations and if you feel in anyway uncomfortable or nervous, get out of there. If you don’t trust someone, avoid telling them that you are alone. Do not mention where you are staying, especially if you feel uncomfortable.
It is not rude to be cautious. Guard your belongings. When you are in public places, be sure to keep your bag towards the front of your body and zips done up at all time. If you must drink, drink for fun, not to get wasted.
Most importantly, walk with confidence and stay aware of your surroundings. When you travel solo, it’s important to remember that you are your only eyes and ears to ensure you and your belongings are safe.
Blend in. You are always most vulnerable when you are not off your home turf, it is important to know how and when to blend in. Theoretically, women should be able to dress how they like wherever they go, but in this case, it is just not realistic. Be sure to take a visual note of what others around you are wearing and follow suit.
Dress conservatively, or at least like a local when necessary. This might mean covering your hair, cutting out trousers, wearing long sleeves or loose clothes, etc.
It is important you do this, that way you reduce chances of drawing undue attention to yourself. In addition to blending in, it is essential to exude confidence at all times, or at least maintain the appearance of it.
Stay in touch. Ensure you have all emergency contacts: bank, credit card company, insurance company, lawyer, place of work and if you are out of the country, your country’s embassies. Also important, stay in touch with family and friends too, so they know you’re safe. Social media is a great tool when traveling solo.
A simple check-in at a new location or a quick photo upload will help to keep your family and friends back home in the know where exactly you are, what you are doing, and that you are okay.
It is an excellent idea for one chosen friend or family member to have a copy of your travel plan in advance: your flight numbers, your accommodation, and a general schedule of where you will be on which dates, as well as information on your travel insurance, credit cards, and a bank account number.
Letting people know where and when you will be traveling is a very good safety blanket.
Adeniyi Ogunfowoke works at Jumia Travels, Lagos.
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