I was barely 20 years old, living on the other side of the globe to my family, knew maybe 6 people in London and had no real experience of the wider world. So when traveling solo to Prague, my first experience of ‘European’ Europe really seemed like a great idea, I somehow found myself on a plane flying towards a country I knew almost nothing about (bar living with two lovely, crazy Czech architecture students) for an 8-day holiday.
If I met my younger self now, I would sit her down explain a plethora of things. I would point her towards the timeworn tips of a solo traveller blogger, tell her to patch together a Pinterest board and Tweet out the lessons learned – but back in the day we didn’t quite have the same easy wealth of information at our fingertips (or social media addictions). Luckily, many years on I’ve learned a thing or two, so when TSB contacted me about working together to spill a few of the best safety tricks I’ve learned (many the hard way), I put fingers to keyboard.
Don’t: Throw open a map picking a city simply based on how cheap the flights are and the beer varieties on offer (hey, I was young).
Do: Research how safe you’ll generally be (especially solo women), know what acceptable local customs are such as how to dress and ensure that there is the possibility of central accommodation that doesn’t have you walking around on your own late at night – then book the flights.
Don’t: Realise on the tarmac during takeoff that you haven’t researched Visas, let alone got one.
Do: Your homework! Luckily for me, the Czech Republic love Kiwis and I didn’t need to have a specific visa prearranged. What a rookie mistake that could have been – I spent the flight duration rehearsing my explanation “Hi Dad, well, my trip to Prague went interestingly – it was a bit shorter than planned as they deported me, but the interrogation rooms in the airport were surprisingly nice…”
Don’t: Wear a neon bumbag and carry an enormous guidebook around, stopping in the middle of the road, becoming a target for hustlers and pickpockets.
Do: Duck into a nearby cafe or quiet spot to check maps and guidebooks (any excuse for a coffee and slice), carry smaller books and I usually travel with a small, nice cross body bag that rests on my hip with good zips and hidden pockets for the items I can’t bear to leave in the hotel safe.
Don’t: Flash your bling (OK, this is writers license, my friends will attest that I’ve never been bling-tastic but I’ve definitely seen other travelers do it) or wear ‘holiday’ garb. You know exactly what I mean – Hawaiian shirts, cargo trousers, awful hats and sky high heels.
Do: Try to fit in a little with the natives. Don’t go stroll in safari casual down the Champs Elysee in Paris, don English footballs shirt if you’ve left the shores of Ole Blighty, wear Louboutin’s to traipse around historic Roman ruin excavation sites and never, ever wear socks and sandals. I don’t care where you’re going, just don’t. I’ve always found tidy casual will help you to blend into the crowds (in Prague the transport police often over check tourists’ train tickets hoping to be able to fine them, but I’ve never been bothered due to my jeans, blouses and leather hobo bag).
Don’t: Think that travel insurance is expensive.
Do: Realise that waking up in a foreign hospital can cost hundreds, even thousands of times more than that travel insurance you ignored.
Don’t: Carry large amounts of cash with you, pulling out wads of foreign currency every time you pay for something.
Do: Keep just the money you’ll need for the day in one pocket, the rest quietly in a hidden zipped pocket or better yet in the hotel safe. If you can avoid it, travel with a variety of payment methods too, just in case you’re parted with your hard earned cash – credit cards, pre-loaded currency cards, travellers cheques (if they exist any more…)
Frank Gehry’s Fred & Ginger Building or,
how to make a feature of the complication of not spoiling someone elses view
They aren’t any ground-breaking ideas, but lessons that make a lot of sense, now at least! I adored my trip to Prague, and need to revisit for another taste of their hospitality, hearty goulash, quirky buildings and refreshing brews. As first visits go, I was lucky enough to pick a good ‘un!
Do you have any time-honoured tips?
TSB are a local ethical bank, and their mantra is to borrow well and be sensible with money. As such, their latest campaign is all about Current accounts where you get travel insurance (etc) thrown in as an extra. They kindly sponsored this post in order to keep our travel fund topped up for future fun and blog posts coming your way.