Travel Safety Tips For Backpackers

How To Travel Safely? Crucial Safety Tips For Travel Backpackers

Travel Backpackers should always prioritize safety at every step of their backpacking journey. Whether you're exploring bustling cities or remote villages, being prepared and vigilant can make all the difference.

We are constantly asked how to travel safely. What is the best travel tip? How do I keep my belongings safe on my travels? How do females stay safe during travel? What is a safety tip that most travellers forget about? So, we've decided to write in The Journal about the top advice that we gathered from a handful of Travel Backpackers. Therefore, you can learn from the mistakes others have made.

The Top Safety Tips For Travel Backpackers

Arrive During Daylight

Whenever you get to an unfamiliar or new destination, it's best practice to arrive during the daylight. No matter how much you studied a map, you don't know the neighborhoods well or how they are at night. Remember, you're literally carrying everything you "own" on your back and don't want to be caught in a tricky situation. Opting for late night transportation is enticing because it's cheaper, but usually not by much. It is worth it to arrive during the daylight so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings well.

Stop Using Back Pockets


Pickpockets find it easiest to snatch wallets from back pockets, where our attention is diverted. We are less likely to notice their actions “back there”. Placing your wallet and valuables in front pockets is a simple yet effective measure. Your belongings remain within your line of sight and are closer to your body, making it significantly more challenging for pickpockets to access them. If you are bringing around a day bag, opt for a cross chest bag, cross body bag, or a day bag that you can lock.

Another safety precaution may be to consider a money belt to hide the valuables that you want to carry around. I usually don’t bring around a money belt unless I am in a city known for pickpocketing tourists. I’ve seen many casual accessories that hide your essentials like scrunchies and scarves too.

The top 15 Cities that are notorious for pickpocketing travelers are Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Paris, Madrid, Athens, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Florence, Bangkok, Hanoi, Marrakech, and Naples. Definitely be extra cautious in these touristic cities.

(the famous meme of a local Italian woman calling out pickpocketers)

Pack Light and Pack Smart

Minimize the weight of your backpack to enhance mobility and reduce strain on your body. Prioritize essentials such as clothing, toiletries, and versatile accessories that serve multiple purposes. Avoid overpacking, as it can weigh you down and make you a target for theft.

If you really want to pack like a pro, start by investing in some compression packing cubes to minimize volume space and keep your backpack organized. Also check out our entries: How To Pack Backpack for Backpackers & What Size Backpack For Travel.

Secure Valuables

Keep your passport, cash, credit/debit cards, ID cards, and electronics secure at all times. Utilize a combination of methods such as a money belt, hidden pouches, or combination locks to deter theft and safeguard your valuables.

Another type of theft is cyber theft. Think about a RFID Blocking Wallet or RFID Blocking Passport Holder to stop thieves from tapping into your credit, debit, and ID cards via radio frequencies.

A lot of Travel Backpackers these days also take around laptops, cameras, and other electronics on their travels. My biggest piece of travel safety advice for you guys is to properly insure your stuff. If you do get robbed, it is crucial that you get a police report – this will make your insurance claim quick and painless. Make sure your travel insurance covers for your electronics too.


(a Generation Nomad TSA approved cable combination lock)


Backup Important Documents

Create digital copies of important documents such as your passport, visas, travel insurance, and emergency contacts. Store them digitally in addition to your physical copies in in a travel document holder. Don't forget a physical copy of your passport too. We have an awesome guide about all the travel documents you may come across and how to store them physically and digitally. Check it out here.


Get Some Data on Your Phone

The importance of having a little data on your phone is everything. It can help you navigate the streets, contact a friend or family member, or even contact a rideshare service. You don’t actually need a full SIM card with a foreign phone number. An electronic SIM card like Airalo where you can buy a little data as needed should be a Backpack Traveller’s standard. You can always turn on and off that data as needed. Also, bring around a portable power bank to make sure your phone has charge.

Safety In Numbers

Consider riskier situations to try to be surrounded by more acquaintances or friends. There is no doubt that if you are in a group that it is safer simply because there is safety in numbers. You can always break up your solo trip and sign up for a group tour to less safe locations.

When I did my 5-month backpacking trip, I did my Egypt leg of the trip on a group tour because of safety concerns I had. A group tour is also great since you get to make new friends and have knowledgeable tour guides. You can find group tours that range from just a few hours to ones that are a few months. We have an awesome entry about group tours that you can read about here.


Familiarize Yourself About Local Scams

Each country has its own repertoire of common scams that target unsuspecting visitors. Numerous country-specific safety tips exist, far too many to cover here. It's essential to acquaint yourself with the most prevalent scams whenever you visit a new country. This knowledge enables you to identify and sidestep such schemes. Conducting research online or seeking advice from the staff at your accommodation is everything.

Don’t forget the oldest trick in the book - someone offering unsolicited help scam. A stranger offers you help when you are not looking for it, then proceeds to give you something you don’t need while demanding a tip or fee for it. It could be as simple as taking a picture for you, or claiming a place is closed and taking you to a similar place that is open to get a finders fee. Another old trick is when somebody pumps your car rental for gas and doesn't reset the ticker down to zero.

Know The Exit

This may just be the New Yorker in me and growing up in a post- 9/11. Always know the exit and your way out of any building. When I feel like I’m in a sketchy situation, I already map out an escape plan. When I sleep in a new room, I make sure I know the options for getting out of that room just in case.

Sleep In a Room Where Doors Locks

Whether you are sleeping alone or with others, make sure your accommodation has a functioning lock. If you are staying at an Airbnb or Hotel alone, you can always invest in portable door lock for you to add another layer of security to the locks.
The same goes for if you are using a locker or bathroom. Make sure the doors do lock.


Don't Say Your Name Out Loud At Check-In

Don't ever say your name at check-in out loud. Simply hand your accommodation your ID card. You don't want anybody linking your full name with your room number. You never know who is listening. God forbid somebody gets your full name and room number together, and pretends they are your friend visiting and the accommodation hands them a spare key. Like we mentioned before, get a portable door lock if you are staying in private rooms alone. 

For similar reasons, if you are staying in a private room alone, don't stay on the ground floor. The majority of commercial airlines don't permit their stay to stay on the ground floor so that should say something.

Practice Responsible Photography

Respect people's privacy and seek permission before taking photographs, especially in culturally sensitive or sacred locations. Avoid intrusive or disrespectful photography that may offend locals or infringe on their rights.

Besides for people not wanting their photos taken, religious or historic places may ask you not to photograph or use flash photography. Also, some regulated or sensitive neighborhoods as well. Such as the redlight district in Amsterdam or the greenlight (open cannabis trade) district of Copenhagen.

(A Vietnamese kid - looking back, I should have asked his parent's before snapping this photo.)

Trust Your Instincts – Listen To Your Gut!

Listen to your intuition and trust your gut feelings. If a situation feels unsafe or uncomfortable, remove yourself from it immediately. Pay attention to warning signs and take proactive measures to ensure your safety.

When it comes down to it, no amount of safety travel tips can rival the power of intuition. Some individuals are simply more attuned to it than others. Whether you're backpack travelling solo or in a group, being able to trust your instincts is essential for staying safe.

If something doesn't feel right, chances are there's a valid reason. Trusting your gut could mean avoiding questionable street food that might make you ill or recognizing when someone's overly friendly demeanor might conceal their alternative motives. Even if you worry about overreacting, prioritizing safety over regret is always the wisest choice.

Blend In with Local Culture (and Gender Norms)

Respect local customs, traditions, and dress codes to avoid standing out as a foreigner. By blending in with the local population, you reduce the risk of attracting unwanted attention and minimize the likelihood of encountering trouble. Act local. Look local. Be local.

Unfortunately, gender inequality persists as a significant issue in the modern era. Women often face differential treatment compared to men, both for good and bad. The extent of these challenges varies depending on the country. Venturing to destinations like the Middle East or Central America could present considerably greater challenges. Traveling as a woman demands heightened vigilance and being able to rely on intuition to evade sketchy situations. It's essential for female Backpack Travellers to seek out advice from other fellow solo female travellers.

We aim to highlight to our female audience that no destination should be deemed "inaccessible". Although traveling as a woman might demand additional effort and vigilance, it must not discourage you. Many women undertake solo backpacking trips with great experiences. We urge you to embrace such experiences.

(Does growing out a mustache in Italy count as blending in?)

Learn Basic Phrases

Familiarize yourself with essential phrases in the local language, such as greetings, directions, and emergency phrases. This not only facilitates communication but also demonstrates respect for the local culture and enhances your ability to navigate unfamiliar situations. Perhaps download some Duolingo classes.

For those traveling with a serious allergy or a dietary restriction, know critical diet information in the local language. It doesn't hurt to print out or purchase a translation card for your serious allergy.


First Aid

Having essential items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and other medical supplies in your toiletry kit can make all the difference in providing immediate care and preventing minor injuries from escalating into more significant problems. Bring around enough medications that you need. I have really bad seasonal allergies and I make sure to stock up on all meds that I know work beforehand and use a pill chest.  


Be Careful of Sketchy ATMs

ATM fraud poses a serious threat, with criminals employing various tactics like card skimming and phishing to steal personal information and funds. Muggers also love to hang around ATMs and rob unwitting withdrawers. Only use ATMs at established branches and banks. Try to use the ones that are actually inside the buildings as these usually have cameras.

Stay Hydrated and Nourished

Maintain proper hydration and nutrition throughout your backpacking travels to keep your energy levels up and support overall well-being. Carry a reusable travel water bottle and snack on nutritious foods to sustain yourself during long days of exploration.

(Always bringing a travel water bottle with me)


Share Plans & Itinerary

Inform a trusted friend or family member about your travel plans and itinerary. This ensures someone knows your whereabouts in case of emergencies and can provide assistance if needed. There is a fantastic app called Life360 where you can share your GPS location with family and friends to keep them updated on your whereabouts.

Stay Sober and Alert

Stay clear-headed and alert to make sound decisions and stay safe. The travel backpacking community tends to be on the younger side and wants to party. Just be careful and perhaps limit your alcohol consumption. Yes, a lot of the friends you make while travelling are in the same boat as you, but remember, you still don’t know them that well. Don't trust too easily and don't do stupid things especially in foreign countries.

Use Reliable Transportation

Opt for reputable transportation options. Ridesharing apps tend to be the most convenient, affordable, and provide safety measures like tracking, registration, and customer support.

I have heard situations of taxi drivers acting sketchy or upcharging passengers. These risks are mitigating by using ride share apps like Uber or Lyft.

(Major rideshare companies across the world)

Keep Emergency Cash

Carry a little emergency cash in a separate location from your main wallet, providing a fallback option in case your wallet gets lost or stolen. Ensure the amount is sufficient to cover essential expenses such as transportation and accommodation. I recommend having a travel document pouch with all your physically documents and cash locked up in your bag or in your accommodation. Then take as needed from your document pouch to your daily card holder or wallet. Kind of use your document pouch as your personal ATM.

Utilize Maps and Navigation Tools

Familiarize yourself with maps, GPS navigation apps, and offline maps to navigate your surroundings effectively. Plan your routes in advance and avoid wandering aimlessly, especially in unfamiliar or remote areas. Bring around a portable power bank to make sure you have access to these navigation tools.

Don’t Consume Everything

In some countries, health regulations may differ from those in Western countries, leading to a greater incidence of food-related illnesses that can greatly affect your international trip. While not all eateries present hazards, maintaining cleanliness is crucial for ensuring safe travels. If a restaurant seems unsanitary, the chances of getting sick rise. Additionally, food left exposed for extended periods might contain harmful bacteria. Stay cautious where and what you are consuming. Don't forget about drinking the tap water in some countries

  (Snake infused alcohol in Southeast Asia)


Stay Protected from Sun Exposure

Shield yourself from the sun's harmful rays by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. One of the big reasons why we wanted to create a toiletry bag designed specifically for Backpack Travellers is for sunscreen. Knowing that Backpack Travellers travel for longer periods of time, the little travel sized bottles of sunscreen won’t get us very far and tend to be expensive. You’ll definitely need a lot of sunscreen.

(Backpacking Florence)

Stay Well-Rested

Prioritize adequate rest and sleep to maintain optimal physical and mental health during your travels. Avoid pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. FOMO is real. You don’t have to see everything at a destination. Prioritize what interests you and don’t push yourself.

Stay Informed about Local Laws

Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of the countries you're visiting, including rules regarding alcohol consumption, drug possession, and public behavior. Adhering to local laws helps avoid legal troubles and ensures a smooth backpack travel experience. There may be destinations where it is perfectly fine to drink an open beer on the street and other countries where drinking alcohol is completely forbidden. Google the basics of local laws that travellers should know about a destination beforehand.


Don’t Flash Valuables

Advertising your valuables while traveling significantly increases the risk of becoming a target for theft or scams. Flaunting expensive items such as jewelry or electronics attract unwanted attention from individuals looking to exploit tourists. It's important to maintain a low profile to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Keeping valuables discreetly concealed not only minimizes the risk of theft but also enhances your overall security and peace of mind while exploring new destinations. If you don’t see the locals wearing expensive stuff, then you shouldn’t either.


Wear A Helmet

What do I mean? Traffic accidents are the number one killer for Backpack Travellers. While exploring unfamiliar terrain or navigating bustling city streets, unexpected hazards and road conditions can pose significant risks. A helmet serves as a crucial protective barrier, mitigating the impact of falls or collisions and reducing the likelihood of head trauma or life-threatening injuries. Don’t worry about looking good; wear the helmet.


Know The Local Emergency Number

Growing up, we all learned how to call the police or ambulance. It was 911 if you grew up in the USA or Canada, 999 in the UK, or 000 in Australia. Every country has its own emergency number - Check out the map below for what the local emergency number is in the country you are visiting.

(emergency services number across the world)



Comprehensive Travel Insurance

Invest in travel insurance that offers extensive coverage, including medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and theft. Read the policy carefully to understand the terms and conditions, ensuring you're adequately protected throughout your journey. If you are travelling with a lot of electronics, make sure your policy covers that. We recommend World Nomads for great coverage and quotes.


RECAP: All of the above tips were not supposed to discourage you from backpack travelling or travelling at all. They are simply there to expose you to all possible scenarios that could go wrong and how you can mitigate them from happening to you. A lot of the above are just solid tips for living anywhere in the world; even in your hometown. Stay vigilant, always trust your gut, and yes, maybe sample the street meat one time.




I’m Mark, the Founder of Generation Nomad, Avid Travel Backpacker & Digital Nomad. I am passionate about helping others discover the world through my experiences. I solo backpacked for months at a time, lived abroad, and even speak two foreign languages. Besides collaborating on the best lightweight travel accessories for Travel Backpackers, I also love sharing my travel photography.
Favorite Trips: Spain, Egypt & Vietnam 
Favorite Cuisines: Italian, Peruvian & Japanese
Quote: “Be a circle and just roll with it” 
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