Being an independent budget traveler, I often put an emphasis on how to stretch my dollar during the trip. But sometimes, it’s important to spend a little more money if it means peace of mind and added security. We’ve come up with ten examples of when paying for your safety actually pays off.
That’s not to say that you can’t be perfectly safe without spending more money, but if you’re worried about it, it’s an easy fix. It may also put your friends and family back home more at ease.
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1. Private Room Instead of Dorm or Couchsurfing
As much as I enjoyed my experience CouchSurfing, this might not make everyone feel comfortable or safe. Dorm rooms in hostels are also fine for the budget traveler, but there’s nothing like the security of a private room, with its locking doors. You’re also much more conscious of your belongings and don’t have to worry as much about theft. An apartment rental is another good place to look into booking (like through AirBnB).
>> Search for apartment rentals, hostels, and hotels in one place using booking.com.
2. Arriving During Daytime Instead of Night
Whether it’s planes, trains or automobiles, prices tend to be cheaper if you’re arriving in the middle of the night. And while this is a good way to save a little money, arriving in a new city after dark can be nerve-wracking and downright dangerous in some cases. Between trying to find your accommodation in the dark and not being able to see signs as well, you’ll be less stressed if you get there in daylight.
3. Choosing a Higher Berth on a Sleeper Train
In some countries, traveling by overnight train is an inexpensive way to get to where you’re going and save on a night’s accommodation. And in some places, specifically Asia and India, the price differs slightly for a higher berth sleeper than the lower berth. It’s worth it to have the higher spot to keep your bags and yourself out of prying hands.
>> Check out our Ultimate Train Travel Guide for more train tips.
4. Opting for a Taxi Instead of Walking
Walking is obviously the best way to get to know a city, and it also saves you money on transport fees. But if you’re lost or caught up in a sketchy part of town, it’s probably better to go ahead and hail a taxi in favor of safety. It’s also usually safer to hop in a standard taxi in most cities over the moto taxis and public transportation of your destination. A good tactic is to ask the owners of your hostel or hotel receptionist for reputable transport and companies.
5. Staying Closer to Town Instead of Outskirts
The cheaper hotels and hostels are typically on the outskirts of major cities, but in places like Paris, this is where the crime is higher. It also puts you at risk when going between the city attractions and your hotel. Spend the money you would be spending on public transportation on a place to stay in the city center.
6. Splurging on a VIP Bus Instead of a Local Bus
In areas like Asia or South America, it can be easy to cut costs by choosing the slower, local options like slow boats and chicken buses. But it’s worth the extra cost, and the safety factor, to pay more for a “VIP” bus. It won’t make nearly as many stops, cutting down on theft opportunities, and they usually undergo more vehicle maintenance so it’s a safer ride altogether.
7. Paying for Travel Insurance
If you can afford to travel, you can afford to pay for travel insurance. You may think it’s not necessary, but when you think about what situations it covers, you’ll be glad to have it. Make sure it includes trip delays or cancellations due to political situations or weather. You never know what’s going to happen on a trip, whether it be theft or injury or a government uprising.
8. Going on a Tour Instead of Independently
I don’t think going on tours instead of traveling independently is entirely necessary, but if you’re concerned about your safety, going with a tour has the advantage of someone knowing where you are at all times. Your fellow travelers and tour guide will be able to guide you safely across town and make sure you get home safely at night.
For those who are interested in tours, Viator is a great resource. The site is basically a curation of tours across the world in one place making it simple to search and book.
9. Paying for a Local Phone or Roaming Charges
Bringing a phone with you may cost a bit more, but it means you can call your hotel and ask for directions or call a taxi to pick you up. It’s good to have in case of emergencies as well.
10. Preparing With Language Lessons
One last way to splurge in order to keep yourself safe is to take language lessons or learn a few important phrases before you go. This can be done for free with the help of guidebooks or online resources, but ordering a more in-depth program like Rosetta Stone may allow you to communicate more freely if the situation arises (that’s if you did the work of course!).
These are all great tips! I’ve been following this site religiously ever since I took my first solo trip last August! One website that helped me a lot when I went to Mexico was duolingo.com. They offer many languages, and the website is easy to follow! I downloaded the app on to my phone, which was super convenient. The best part about it is that it’s free!
Great tip, Nicole! Thank you for sharing 🙂
With #1, I think even if you are couch surfing you should have an emergency fund just in case things don’t feel right. Any decent host is going to be okay with you (tactfully) saying you aren’t comfortable and, if they aren’t okay, they probably aren’t decent! Much better to have the peace of mind knowing you have an escape route.
Late night arrivals can be okay if you can find somewhere cheap near the airport. I’m flying into KL soon and arrive at stupid o’clock but there are hourly rental capsule rooms at the airport so I figure I can grab some sleep after I land. I find arriving in busy cities after an overnight flight + no sleep really hard to deal with.
You’re totally right, Kathryn, airport hotels or pods are a great alternative for late night arrivals.
Most of these cost money. What does the budget traveler do? Personally, I have been accruing “hospitality points” by hosting foreign students, which gives access to whole families of people happy to help with rides, tours, meals, beds, language lessons, etc. Also, my ConversationExchange.com Skype buddy has told me in no uncertain terms that I will NOT be staying in a hotel in Barcelona. 🙂
Oops, left out a sentence: My buddy and his family will put me up as long as needed, and will cook for me, too. I think a few days is all I’ll need.
Great tips! However, I personally do not feel really safe in taxis. I actually prefer to walk LOL.
But I guess, in some bad areas it is better to take a taxi…..but I have never been to bad areas I think.
Agree about taxis- lots of sketchy drivers who will overcharge if you’re lucky.
Ubers are much better, more accountability and I’ve never been driven out of the way in one, and they’re available in every country I’ve been to in the last 2-3 years. I was really surprised when the app fired right up in Warsaw over a year ago- they’re everywhere!