The student culture of travelling, be it on a gap year or year abroad, or during the long holidays, often involves meeting new people and developing new friendships along the way. However, there is a risk of meeting unwelcome strangers along the way who may pose a danger. So, although it is exciting to meet new people and share travelling experiences with them, when should you steer clear of strangers to protect yourself?
Everyone has heard the stories of young people who go travelling abroad and end up being assaulted or worse, and it’s not just in the places such as Thailand, which are very popular with young people – it happens all over the world.
Unfortunately, many of the victims meet their attackers in hostels or clubs and are followed, before being attacked. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, found herself being stalked whilst on placement in Spain. She had alerted her colleagues to the situation and immediately got the local authorities involved which helped control the situation before it got out of hand. But the man’s threatening behaviour made her realise that these incidents don’t just happen in the typical ‘gap year’ destination such as South East Asia or South America, and that it’s always best to be on your guard.
There are several ways to help protect yourself from strangers abroad. Firstly, and most obviously, if at any time you notice anyone suspicious watching you or following you, make sure you report it to your group leader, the authorities or tell your friends – another pair of eyes will help you stay safe. Secondly, keep your drinks safe so that you can’t be spiked and even if you aren’t drinking, try to avoid going places alone, especially if you don’t know the area. If you ever feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, get support from and alert the people around you whether that’s your friends or the person in charge of the establishment.
Try and make sure your valuables are hidden – you could keep things locked up in your accommodation, or wear a bum-bag to keep everything hidden. This definitely includes mobile phones and the best way to do this is to buy a cheap phone abroad whilst keeping your iPhone locked up back at your lodgings.
Finally, and most importantly keep in contact with people back home so that they know where you are, and that you’re safe.
If you are getting unwanted attention from a stranger, you can always contact the British Embassy in the country that you’re in who can offer you advice on how to deal with your situation. Enjoy travelling around the world, but remain safe and happy! https://www.gov.uk/government/world/embassies