With more and more travellers opting to travel solo, what are some practical tips to keep safe while on the road?
According to global home-sharing platform Airbnb, the number of outbound Singaporean female solo travellers has doubled from January 31 last year to January 31 this year. And why not? Travelling solo offers many benefits – from being free to create your own itinerary to learning to be independent and think on your feet.
Of course, travelling alone—especially as a woman—comes with a certain amount of risk. Which is why it’s wise to be equipped with some basic self-defense knowledge before embarking on your solo adventure. Qin Yunquan, self-defense expert and CEO of Kapap Academy, shares with us five must-know personal safety tips.
1. Ensure your valuables are kept out of plain sight.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, Qin says many people tend to forget and still carry their cameras or laptops openly. It’s recommended to keep your valuables in bags equipped with anti-theft locks or anti-slash properties. As an added precaution, Qin suggests getting an RFID-blocking wallet. These wallets prevent malicious people from using RFID readers to steal your credit card information. If you’re unwilling to fork out for an RFID-blocking wallet, another way could be to line your wallet with aluminium foil.
2. Carry an improvised weapon.
One such weapon is a tactical pen, which doubles up as both a pen and a self-defense tool. Made of sturdy aircraft aluminum, this pen is legal to carry and will not attract unnecessary attention. Apart from being able to be used as a weapon, it can also be used to break glass in event of an emergency. Kapap Academy regularly organises workshops on how to effectively use the tactical pen.
3. Be vigilant about hotel safety.
When you get to your hotel room, don’t automatically flop down on the bed and switch on the TV. Be sure to check the room’s locks and windows to ensure they are in good working condition – especially if you are staying in a motel or no-frills backpackers’ lodge. If dissatisfied, ask for a change of room, or use objects that create sound when knocked over (e.g. vase, glass, etc) or obstruct (e.g. chair, bags, etc) to serve as an improvised ‘alarm’.
“Don’t trust the hotel locks,” Qin says, “Even the digital ones.” You can also consider getting a portable doorstopper alarm, which emits a loud siren when a protected door is open. It may not completely prevent someone from breaking in, but at least you won’t be caught off-guard.
Another thing to look out for include pinhole cameras, especially in strategic locations such as near the toilet bowl, shower area, or the bed. Qin says, “If you see a small hole in the wall covered with a shiny bit of glass, it’s very likely that’s a hidden camera.”
Other hotel safety tips include leaving a small light on, especially near the door, as anyone monitoring you will be left guessing whether or not you have really gone to bed. If you’ve brought an improvised weapon (e.g. a tactical torchlight or a short stick), place it beside you, where it’s within easy reach. And of course, keep your curtains closed at all times.
4. Do your homework.
Before you venture out to an unfamiliar place, do your due diligence by researching how to get there and asking for directions in an established business rather than along the way. It’s also good to have the country’s emergency numbers on-hand and a working knowledge of where the police stations or hospitals are, especially if you’re staying in that country for a longer period of time.
What happens if you’re out and about, and notice you’re being followed? The last thing you want to do, Qin says, is to run back to your hotel. She says, “First, make sure your improvised weapon is in your hand, ready to be used if necessary. Second, try to lose the guy. You can do so by merging with large crowds or pretending to cross the road and then turning abruptly at the last minute. If he tries to follow you, it will be too obvious.”
5. Understand predator behaviour.
Qin says, “What predators are looking for is the path of least resistance; they don’t want a fight.” Therefore, she stresses it’s important—especially for solo travellers—to always be aware of their surroundings and exude an air of confidence. Avoid texting or listening to music while walking, and if someone stops you to talk, always face the person so you don’t get caught off-guard by any sudden movement and maintain a distance of at least one arm’s length.
If you face a situation where someone is demanding for your valuables, it’s probably wisest to just hand it over. However, don’t automatically assume you’re safe once your valuables are in their hand. Always keep your guard up and be ready to fight, until they’ve left the scene.
While these tips may sound a little frightening, Qin doesn’t believe in shielding her students from the bleaker realities of life. She says, “At Kapap Academy, we teach our students how to accept the reality of violence. Once they’ve learned how to physically deal with violence, they become mentally and emotionally more prepared to take on any life-threatening situation.”
To help Executives stay safe, Kapap Academy’s sister company, the Centre for Cognitive Technologies has a SkillsFuture approved programme that provides up to 100 percent subsidy for Singaporeans. Known as Executives Travel Safety, this programme (CRS-N-0041219) blends the study of predatory behaviour, body-guarding principles with the use of simple intuitive self-defense techniques to help travellers avoid, get away or fight out of danger if the need arises. For more information, click here.
For more information on Kapap Academy, click here.