Volunteering abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience for solo travelers. You get to explore a new part of the world, immerse yourself in a new culture and make a real difference in the lives of people who need it most. However, safety should always be a top priority when travelling alone, especially in unfamiliar territories. Here are ten tips for staying safe while volunteering abroad as a solo traveler.
Research and preparation are key
Before you set off on your volunteer adventure, take the time to do your research. Make sure the organization you’re volunteering with is credible and reputable. Read reviews from previous volunteers to get a sense of their experiences. If possible, try to connect with other volunteers who have worked with the organization before. Furthermore, it’s important to prepare yourself for your trip by familiarizing yourself with local customs, laws, and basic phrases in the local language. Being mindful of cultural differences and respecting local customs can help you to avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts.
Stay connected with friends and family back home
Staying in touch with loved ones back home can provide you with peace of mind and help ensure that if something does go wrong, someone knows where you are and can reach you. Consider sharing your itinerary and emergency contact information with a friend or family member in case of an emergency. Regularly update them on your whereabouts, activities and how you are feeling. This also enables them to act swiftly should they detect anything amiss.
Always be aware of your surroundings
Travelling alone can be exciting, but it’s important to remain vigilant at all times. It’s advisable to avoid walking alone at night and stick to well-lit, populated areas. Be aware of common scams and pickpocketing techniques in the area. Always keep your belongings – such as your passport, cash, and mobile phone – on you, and avoid leaving them unguarded in a public place.
Invest in travel insurance
Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance is a must, given that unexpected illnesses or accidents can occur when you least expect. A good insurance plan should ideally cover medical emergencies, theft, and any activities you plan to participate in while abroad. Make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with your policy and you understand what is, and is not, covered.
Trust your instincts
Trust your gut instinct at all times. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to remove yourself from the situation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and always prioritize your safety.
Be mindful of cultural differences
Be respectful and mindful of cultural differences and customs. What is acceptable in your home country may not be the same in the country you’re volunteering in. Dress appropriately and abide by local laws and regulations. Avoid actions that could offend locals, and always be aware of how your behavior might be perceived by others.
Stay sober and avoid drugs
Avoid drugs and excessive alcohol consumption, as they can impair your judgement and put you in potentially dangerous situations. Respect local laws and customs regarding alcohol and drug use, and exercise moderation if you do drink to ensure you are always aware of what is going on around you.
Stay in touch with your volunteer organization
Your volunteer organization is there to offer support and guidance throughout your trip. Keep in touch with them regularly, and inform them of any concerns or issues you may encounter. Follow their guidelines and protocols, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them at any time if you encounter any issues.
Be cautious of social media use
Be mindful of what you share on social media while volunteering abroad. Sharing too much information about your whereabouts or travel plans can make you an easy target for theft or harassment. Consider delaying social media updates until you have left an area, and avoid sharing details of your accommodations or solo travel plans.
Stay flexible and adaptable
A willingness to be flexible and adaptable is essential when volunteering abroad. Things can change rapidly, and it’s important to be prepared to adjust your plans at short notice. Understand your limits and boundaries, and be willing to speak up if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any time. Remember, your well-being should always be your top priority.