Today we’re introducing a new section of the site, which we’re calling “Community Wisdom”. This will be an irregular feature where we highlight the most useful, interesting and generally amazing conversations from the Indie Travel Podcast Community.

Safety in South East Asia

Juna’s planning a trip to South East Asia, and just wan’t sure about safety, since she’s a solo female traveller. Some of the best advice?

This post is brought to you by the Art of Solo Travel – a book for beginner solo women travellers.

Simon says:

Compared to other areas, South Eastern Asia is usually a place where there are not many safety concerns. What I would additionally suggest, however, is subscribing to a good health insurance coverage and take with you the basic drugs in case you got sick (I’ve been always fine, but that’s very personal).

(At Indie Travel Podcast, we use WorldNomads travel insurance)

Sukhothai historical park, Thailand

Craig from FearFreeTravel says:

1. Go and Travel…don’t listen to the people that say you should not go alone, just do it.

2. Do research, look at the free sites that the government provide, sometimes take it with a pinch of salt as they are restricted to what they say because of policy and trade; there are private companies that provide relevant briefs. Register with your government travel website.

3. Cultural issues seem to be the biggest trap: try not to bring attention to yourself by offending the locals, look at what others are doing and mimic the look and behaviour to blend in, and maintain a low profile the best you can.

4. Use your ‘gut feeling’ and trust it. For example if you think someone is following you, and you have a funny feeling that someone is…trust it and take action right away. In that situation, cross the road, go towards other people, walk into a safety zone such as a shop, etc.

5. If something really bad does happen — like the airlines say, in the unlikely event — have a plan in your mind ready. You have two choices: submit or fight like hell. Depends on the situation, place and people involved, but I have spoken to a number of victims who have survived bad things using both techniques.

Cambodia travel - Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh2
The 'Norri' Bamboo Train, Battambang, Cambodia

Mary says:

My #1 tip is to stay where the crowds are…at least until you get your bearings. Another favorite…remain aware of your surroundings, and “If in doubt, get out”.

When going to a new destination, arrive during daylight and ensure you find your hotel/hostel before nightfall.

Avoid looking too obvious as a “tourist”. Study maps and get directions ahead of time so you know where you’re going and can avoid pulling out a map or being forced to ask for directions.

You may want to consider that your typical hygiene and personal care items may not be available.

Live bats for sale at roadside market, Laos

Nancie says:

I’ve been traveling in SEA since 2001, and for the most part it’s pretty safe. The big thing is to use your common sense.

Many countries are Buddhist, so dress respectfully. This should help you blend in a little.

When using taxis insist that the driver use the meter. If I’m going to the airport very early in the morning, I have the hotel or hostel book the cab. That way, should I go missing, someone has a record of who I left with.

Don’t ever be tempted by drugs. SEA Asian countries are strict and unforgiving. Also, don’t transport any packages for other people.

Never carry all your money or credit cards with you when you are out seeing the sights. I generally carry one credit card and cash (in different spots), and leave the rest locked up in my hotel or hostel.

Mui Ne fishing village, Vietnam
Mui Ne fishing village, Vietnam

Stephanie Lee says:

Generally the countries are pretty safe, might be the occasional snatch-thieves lurking around, so to avoid this, simply walk against traffic whenever you can. Sometimes when I travel alone and I feel like making new friends or for some company, I just join a local day tour with other solo travellers, eliminating safety and loneliness concerns.

(Stephanie is the author of the Indie Travel Podcast-published ebook, Art of Solo Travel.)

statues in the royal palace of phnom penh cambodia
Statues in the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It was well pointed out that it’s near-impossible to remember directions with all the small twisty alleys in South East Asian cities. And, from our experience, it’s hard for Caucasians to avoid standing out in all but the most cosmopolitan of Asian cities. That said, good advice for Juna, and great to hear of so many positives amongst the warnings and safety advice, like:

Peg says:

I spent five weeks in Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau traveling solo. I met amazing people and can’t wait to go back. I never felt threatened or unsafe. Actually, it was quite the opposite. People seemed to look out for me because I was alone. They wanted me to have a good experience and to love their country as much as they do. I was shown much more respect, kindness and generosity from people I didn’t know than I have ever experienced in the US. The only advice I would offer is to trust your instincts and exercise the same awareness and caution you do anywhere else when you’re not traveling. Most of all just relax and enjoy this amazing experience!