Making new friends is part of the adventure of travel but it’s very important to stay safe when meeting other travelers. Not everyone you meet on the road has your best interests at heart, and it is wise to be cautious around strangers when away just as much as when at home – if not more so - because the risks are potentially greater. The last thing you want is your trip to go sour because you haven’t followed the basic rules for how to stay safe when meeting other travelers. Here they are.
1. Public Places First
The number one tip if you want to stay safe when meeting other travelers is to have the first meeting in public. It’s unlikely you’ll make friends with an axe-wielding lunatic, but if you do, you know you won’t find yourself in a tough situation if you meet in a public place. Consider a café or a museum as an initial icebreaker. Until you get to know the people you’re meeting personally, there’s no telling whether their intentions are good or bad. It is actually best to always meet publicly until you are very, very sure of the other person.
2. Inform a Friend
Tell someone where you’re going before meeting new people. In the event you run into trouble, someone will be able to call for help on your behalf. This is particularly helpful if you’re going out of town, such as on a hiking trip. Solo travelers should meet fellow travelers safely by leaving their contact details with their hotel or hostel manager. Most reputable locations offer this service as a given.
3. Emergency Help
If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, make sure you know who to call. Emergency contact details can potentially save your life in dire situations. When you hook up with other travelers, take along the numbers for the local fire, ambulance, and police services. Also, carry your hotel number and the number of a trusted friend (even if they’re back home). Store them safely in a mobile phone holder, inside pocket, or even in your shoe.
4. Watch Your Drinks
Young women in particular must stay vigilant against spiked drinks. It’s not totally uncommon for locals and travelers to spike a tourist’s drink. When you pass out you’re completely vulnerable and defenseless. There have even been stories of people losing their kidneys due to this. Avoid going to the bathroom without finishing your drink, or if you do, make sure you purchase a new drink.
5. Quick Exit
You won’t like every traveler you meet. If you’ve organized a meeting through Twitter or Facebook there’s no guarantee you won’t run into the most irritating person on the planet. When you connect with other travelers, devise an exit strategy. You can feign illness, remember you had to be somewhere else, or even claim you’ll meet up with them again later. It’s up to you. Just make it believable and don’t get yourself into a place or situation where you can’t readily escape.
Human beings have this amazing ability to sense danger. You have most likely been in a situation where you’ve felt as if the person you’re meeting is someone to stay away from. Trust your instincts whilst abroad. Stay safe when meeting other travelers by using your exit strategy at the slightest hint of danger. Even if your instincts are wrong, it’s better to be safe.
7. Careful with Large Groups
Think carefully about meeting up with large groups of unknown travelers. Even if you’re with a friend, things can turn nasty if you mix with the wrong crowd. If you don’t feel comfortable about meeting up with a bigger group, politely decline the request. It’s best to meet people safely than to put yourself in a stressful, and potentially dangerous, situation. Anyway, you’re nearly always going to form better friendships with people if you’re in a smaller group.
Meeting other travelers can lead to rewarding friendships and experiences, and as long as you remember the basic rules of safety, a hook up with other travelers can turn a great trip into a fantastic one. No need to be paranoid – just sensible. Do you have other safety tips to share?