Personal safety is often the number one reason why women do not want to travel alone. There are of course other factors including finances, having families to take care of, and a desire not to be alone. If personal safety is one of your traveling fears then I am writing this blog for you. Here are 10 tips regarding travel safety for black girls that can help you on your journey.
People Will Want to Take Pictures of You:
If you are going to a country outside of America then there is a chance that people are going to want to take pictures of you. I have primarily heard of this happening in South America and in Asia, but it is a thing. There may be times where people stand from afar and take pictures of you. In some cases it may be that someone will walk up to you and take a picture. They sometime might want a selfie and they may not ask permission for it.
If this is something that happens to you, stay calm. This is more than likely something that is trivial and is less of a deal than anticipated. It may be that they don’t speak English and don’t know how to ask for the picture in a polite way. In other cases you could be the first black person that they have ever seen that wasn’t on TV. Think of yourself as a work of art.
My concerns in this situation would be about pick pocketing. If you begin to be approached by different people, keep your possessions close to you. I really suggest that you get an anti-theft backpack and also a money belt. You can politely ask for them to leave you alone but in truth, it may just be easier to take the picture and keep moving.
Racism Can Happen:
I have only had one instance of flat out racism while traveling abroad. As I add more countries to my passport I will continue to update posts such as this if other issues were to arise. There was one time while I was in Italy where I was refused service. It was buying a cannoli in a bakery and the woman behind the counter refused to take my money and called over other employees to accuse me of stealing.
In this situation I remained calm and luckily the worker who gave me the cannoli came over, made it clear I was given the cannoli, and the transaction was completed. Of course I could have walked away but I wanted that cannoli and I had done nothing wrong.
When going to another country, you always want to do your research. With that being said you are going to want to have a back up plan. If you are in a restaurant you may have to ask a few times for service. I always keep my receipts from every shop and restaurant just in case I am questioned. You can also choose to leave.
Anti Theft Backpack:
When it comes to travel safety for black girls, it is important to realize that there will be several times that you stick out in the crowd because of your skin. I don’t mean that there will be racism but you should always remember that in some countries there is almost no chance of running into a black person face to face.
Due to this, I highly recommend that you get an anti-theft bookbag. What this means is that all of your pockets and all of your zippers should be against your back. This will make you less susceptible to random pick pocketing. I am not going to say that a backpack is the one thing that can save you but it will help.
The goal is to be less of a target when you will obviously stand out. Even in countries where there is a population of black people, if you aren’t from the area, you will stick out. Even if your skin doesn’t give you away, your accent might. I personally suggest taking every step possible to protect yourself.
Don’t Drink From a Source You Can’t See:
If the bottle is not sealed, and I have not seen the drink poured myself, I am not going to drink it. Drugging drinks is an issue that happens. I don’t want any of my followers to end up being the victim of a sneak attack after a night out.
In countries such as Greece and Italy there are a bunch of public water fountains and I have never been afraid of filling my water bottle at these places. It isn’t just the drinks at bars that you need to be afraid of. There are certain countries that you really shouldn’t drink the water. I want to know if my water came from a bottle or from the tap. Truthfully, I don’t want to get sick.
I will typically decline any type of drink that someone wants to buy for me unless it comes sealed. If I can pop the top myself then I know it is less likely to be tampered with. If you are at a bar then you can follow them to the bar and see your drink made. You should also research signs of drink tampering and never leave your drink unattended.
Stay in Places That are Lit:
If you are planning to go out in the evening, especially if you are traveling alone, then you need to make sure that you are staying in places that are well lit. I like to stay in places where the door entrance, if it is a hotel, is facing the street. This way I can try to avoid going down an alley.
I basically don’t want to be walking down any dark places, alone, where there may be places for an attacker to hide. In all cases, I want to be able to see if someone is trying to follow me. It is also important to just see where I am going. If I can’t see the street signs, or landmarks that I remember, then it is much easier to get lost and my chances of walking into danger gets much higher.
Know Your Taxi Options:
There was a time that I put myself in real danger. It was about 5 AM in Florence and I was supposed to catch a train. I thought my taxi app from Rome would work. It didn’t. I walked a mile to the train station by myself in the dark. Looking back it was not the best decision I have ever made.
There are cities around the world where Uber actually works. There are other cities where there isn’t Uber but there is a local ride share app available. In some cases there are instances that a taxi will be your only option. With that being said, you are going to have to research your local options.
I bring this up because you may not be a hermit like me. When I travel, I will usually head out early in the morning and get done what I want to have done. I will then go back to my lodging and proceed to do absolutely nothing of importance. When I do go out in the evening I always want to know how I am getting “home.”
It is your job to get yourself home. What I mean by that, is if you want to go out at night and party. It is your job to have a plan on how to get home. If you are walking down the road and start to feel unsafe, it is your job to have a plan to put into place and get home. Part of staying safe is knowing your public transportation and taxi options at all times of the day that you will be out.
People May Invite You to Their House:
In some cultures it is common to be invited over to someone’s house. Literally, you will meet people who want you (a complete stranger) to come to their house for dinner. They may want to meet up the next day for breakfast. They will basically act in a way that is completely foreign to Americans and other western travelers.
When you are making up your mind about whether you want to go to someone’s house, you will first need to make sure that you have someone to check in with. I wouldn’t go anywhere that isn’t on your itinerary without updating them on where you are going. If you have an Iphone then you can drop a pin when you get there.
I would also try to go during the day and not at night unless you are going for reasons other than food. If they suggest dinner then you can try to redirect them to a different meal of the day.
Download an Offline Google Map:
There is an upside and a downside of having your phone out when you are traveling. If you are in a major city like Paris then it is likely that many people will have their phone out and you are not likely to be a target. If you are in a more remote area then having a fancy phone out may make you a target.
With that being said, I always download offline Google Maps on my phone. Whether it is a road trip or it is a train tour, it is important to me, to know where I am going. Every night, before I go to bed, I will download or update my offline map of the area that I am in.
Another tip that I can give is to mark the areas that you want to visit on the map. This way if you are walking around you can take the most efficient route. Beyond that, Google Maps can also give you information on the public transportation that you can take to your destination.
The main reason that I want to have an offline map is because I want to avoid getting lost. I am not saying that a map will solve everything. It is less conspicuous than a paper map and less likely to show you as a tourist. I want to make sure that if I can’t get a taxi I can always find my way back to my lodgings. It isn’t always the case that I feel comfortable having to ask strangers.
Keep Your Receipts:
I keep every receipt from when I buy something until I leave the country that I am in. At the very least, I will keep them for a day or two. The reason I make sure to keep my receipts is because I want to protect myself, just in case I am accused of stealing.
Now, I have luckily never had an issue where I am followed out of a store or questioned by the police regarding a payment issue. I still try to make sure that I keep my receipts. There are plenty of times where I have been followed in a store or questioned in a store about “help.” Keeping my receipts is one of my minor but important tips regarding travel safety for black girls.
Don’t Walk Round With Your Original Documents:
When I say important documents I am talking about your drivers license, your social security card, and especially your passport. There are countries where police or military at the border have been known to keep traveler’s documents until a bribe is paid. If you are ever attacked or robbed, you don’t want to have your important documents taken from you.
My suggestion would be for you to make several copies of your important documents. Leave your documents in the hotel safe or in a safe place while you are walking around. Never allow someone to take your important documents in place of payment or as a deposit.
There you have it! These are my tips regarding travel safety for black girls. Let me know what you think in the comments.