We believe that the world is a safe place and that none of us, male or female, should let worry about safety stop us from exploring this beautiful world of ours. But every country has danger lurking for the unwary, and Tanzania is no different.
If you’re a woman travelling on your own, you might feel especially vulnerable, so here are our top 9 tips for keeping safe for solo girls-on-the-go.
1. Don’t walk after dark
This is pretty much the rule throughout Africa, not just Tanzania. In some developing areas, visitors tend to be perceived as better off than the locals, and this can lead to targeting for robbery – with women viewed as softer targets. Although it’s great to imagine that you can kick and run, don’t take the risk. It’s not safe even to walk in a group. Use safe transport, or stay put in your delightful B&B, enjoying the night sky and a cheeky beer.
2. Big city, proper cabs
If you’re in a big city, like Dar es Salaam, use only licensed cabs. If you’re arriving into the airport then get your hotel to arrange for the transfer. Commercial cabs will have a different license plate colour (white) than private vehicles (yellow), so check before you hop in. Never get into a private vehicle.
3. Spread your cash about
It’s not good practice to keep all your cash in one place. Stash your cash in different places – in your luggage, the hotel safe and on your body. Keep your backup credit card separate from your main one and keep online cash safe in two different accounts. Keep your “on the go” account topped up with just the amount of money you need, so that if your cash card is used fraudulently at an ATM, you won’t lose the lot. Check your credit card fees, and if they are low, consider using your credit card to withdraw cash, as credit card companies take the hit for cards used fraudulently.
4. Hide important stuff well
Always keep your important stuff like passport and credit cards in a money pouch close to your body and/or under your clothes. Bags and backpacks are easily grabbed, but it’s more difficult to grab at a money belt. These are handy when you’re standing in a crowded station, a passenger on a bus or train or in a market.
We especially like the new travel bras – lots of little pockets and add-ons to stash all your valuables.
5. Carry a fake wallet
If you have a spare wallet or purse that you don’t mind losing, stick a few low-value notes in and a fake credit card. If you’re robbed, throw it on the ground for the bad guys to take. Ha! That’ll teach them!
6. If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it!
Tanzania is a conservative country, and Zanzibar is especially so, so make sure that you’re respectful of traditions. Striding around town wearing an itsy-bitsy bikini might make a great feminist statement (and we’re feminists ourselves!) but let’s just go with the good manners to fit in as welcome guests. On the beach and in private resorts, the dress code is more relaxed.
7. Don’t be afraid to “be rude”
If a man strikes up a conversation with you, most of the time it’ll be friendly chat – Tanzanians are very gregarious, curious about others and welcoming. But if for any reason you feel uncomfortable, just walk away (and don’t forget to check out the resources below).
It’s not rude to determine who you talk to and to take control of your interactions, so don’t feel awkward about dropping that polite smile and leaving.
8. Stay in hostels
We think that every girl needs some solitude but when you’re done with that, stay in a hostel. It’s the perfect way to stay safe but also meet like-minded travellers of all genders for some fun company. You’re likely to bond and go exploring Tanzania together!
9. Join a group
By far the best way of safely exploring all the beauty and adventure that Tanzania has to offer is to join a group tour. It’s normal for women travelling on their own to join groups and these will take you across the Serengeti, up Kilimanjaro, across to Stone Town and out and about on the Indian Ocean. You can still maintain some independence and solitude when you want and you’ll have company when you want, too. What a perfect combination!
♦ The travel bra.
♦ The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. This book from a world-class safety expert takes the fear out of life by showing us how and why to listen to our gut feelings.
♦ Art of Charm Podcast about The Gift of Fear – this introduces the concept in the book.