Self Defence for Travellers: Tips and Techniques You Need to Know

In the age of wanderlust, more people are exploring the world than ever before. While travelling can be an enriching and life-changing experience, ensuring your safety is essential.

Here, we cover crucial self-defence techniques and strategies tailored for travellers and cover everything travellers need to know to keep themselves safe.

Understanding Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is a critical skill, not just for travellers but for everyone. It revolves around being acutely aware of what's happening around you to understand any potential dangers.


It all starts with observation. As a traveller, take note of exits, people, and the general vibe of a place. For instance, if someone is acting suspiciously or a particular location seems unusually deserted, it might be a sign of potential danger.


This involves understanding what you have observed. If you notice a person following you, your orientation might tell you this isn’t typical for the location or time of day.


Based on your observations and orientation, you must make decisions. Using the previous example, you may change your route, enter a public place, or notify someone about the situation.


This is the culmination of the first three steps. Based on your decision, take immediate action.

By enhancing your situational awareness, you can often prevent dangerous situations from escalating or even occurring.

Pre-Trip Preparations: Ensuring Safety from the Start

Before embarking on any journey, proper preparation can make all the difference. Provide insights into research and planning, choosing safe accommodations, and familiarising oneself with local customs and potential risks. Here’s how to make yourself as safe as possible:

Research: Familiarise yourself with your destination's safety profile. Are there any areas that are best avoided? Are there any common scams or crimes targeting tourists?

Safe accommodations: always opt for accommodations with positive reviews and robust security measures.

Local customs and risks: being aware of local customs can help you blend in and avoid unwanted attention. This can also save you from unintentionally disrespecting the local culture.

Safety gear: consider packing personal alarms, door wedges for hotel rooms, or even pepper spray (if legally allowed).

Local phrases: knowing how to shout for help or ask for police in the local language can prove invaluable.

Physical Defence Techniques for the Road

While avoiding conflict is always the best approach, it's helpful to know some basic physical defence techniques, as having these under your belt can be a lifesaver:

Balance and stance: keep a low centre of gravity, making it hard for someone to knock you down.

Leverage: use the attacker's momentum against them, which can help you redirect their energy and create escape opportunities.

Vital targets: know where to strike for maximum impact - eyes, nose, throat, and groin.

Escape techniques: Learn how to break free from various grabs and holds.

Utilising Everyday Objects for Defence

When confronted with danger, everyday items can be transformed into improvised weapons. These belongings aren't just for convenience; they can also be lifesavers:

Pens: A sharp pen can be used to poke or jab an attacker.

Keys: Held between the fingers, they become pointed weapons.

Flashlights: Apart from lighting your way, a heavy flashlight can be used to strike.

Belts: Can be used as a whip or a restraint.

Post-Incident Steps and Seeking Assistance

Emergencies or threats can strike when least expected, and navigating the aftermath can be daunting. Beyond the immediate response, it's critical to understand and undertake a series of actions to ensure safety, get appropriate support, and facilitate potential investigations. Remember:

Report: after ensuring your immediate safety, it's crucial to immediately report any incident to the local police or appropriate authorities. A timely report aids in collecting evidence and might prevent others from becoming victims. Ensure you note important details — time, place, description of the assailant, or any other relevant information.

Medical attention: seek immediate care. Even if injuries appear minor or non-existent, it's always advisable to get a medical evaluation. Hidden injuries or trauma can manifest later and could have serious implications.

Embassy/consulate services: if you're abroad when an incident occurs, reaching out to your country's embassy or consulate should be a priority. They can offer a myriad of services, from legal guidance to evacuation if necessary.

Psychological support: the mental and emotional toll of a threatening situation can sometimes be more profound than the physical. It's essential to recognise and acknowledge your feelings.

Remember, the period following a dangerous event can be filled with confusion and a whirlwind of emotions. Prioritising your well-being and utilising available resources is paramount. Always trust your instincts and lean on supportive networks, whether they're personal or professional.

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