By Francesca Fantoni
Just a few weeks ago I finished my Spanish studies, so taking a trip to Spain seemed like a great way to celebrate. With my £20 flight and all my stuff in one backpack, traveling abroad has never been so accessible. However, no matter how confident you feel while travelling, it always helps to remember how important it is to stay alert.
A quick check on the FCDO website will tell you that Spain is fairly crime-free, but especially in major tourist cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, it’s worth being extra careful.
Here are some tips I used to stay safe while staying in hostels and traveling to different cities:
- Keep all valuables locked in a safe in your hotel room. Or if you travel to hostels like me, bring a padlock with you that you can use on the lockers in the shared rooms. (Some may provide you with one and some may charge a small fee).
- When traveling in Europe, there is no need to carry large sums of cash with you, as most shops and restaurants in European cities accept payment by card. In Spain it was useful to have coins on me for the bus ride, but otherwise I was able to pay by contactless card at no extra cost (you’ll want to check if your bank charges a fee for using your card abroad) . If you are carrying cash, check what currency you will need and try not to carry everything with you at once.
- Adopt the banana bag! I won’t travel without mine – you can store all your essentials close to your body and easily slip them safely under a jacket. Whatever bag you carry, make sure it’s closed and in front of you, especially in crowded spaces.
- When I travel, my phone (and its GPS card) is my absolute lifeline. But if you always have your phone turned off, you not only drain precious battery life, but it becomes an easy target to grab. It’s understandable that you’re not ready to launch the full tourist mode using a paper map and an analog camera. So when using gadgets, just be aware of your surroundings and try not to leave your phone or bag sitting on the table or chair next to you if you’re out in the open.
- Before embarking on your trip, you can take precautions by packing carefully. Being organized will help you know where your things are and traveling light means you have less to lose! If you have a watch or piece of jewelry with sentimental value, you might want to consider it in your home, just to be on the safe side.
- Without going all the way to elementary school and labeling every item in your pencil case, I recommend that you write your contact details on any important items that are obviously not traceable to you. For example, I have my phone number (with country code) written on my film camera in permanent marker, so that in case I misplace it, there’s a chance it will come back to me and I won’t lose all my dear travel photos!
- Although there may be thieves, you will be surprised by the friendliness of some strangers. When my friend lost her passport in Seville, fellow Brits who found it managed to contact her through Facebook and return it safely. If this happens to you, just make sure the person is genuine – they should be able to send you proof that they have your belongings and get them to meet you in a public place!
With the safety tips sorted, the next part is easy…enjoy the ride! I loved discovering southern Spain town by town. Each location has its own story to tell, and you’ll learn about them easily from the people you meet along the way and through the streets and buildings steeped in history. Best advice from me: A must visit for any architecture fan is the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Alcazar in Seville. I may be in a privileged position, but I promise you don’t need a full Spanish degree to get the most out of a visit to Spain. Taking the time to plan a little before your trip can definitely help you get the most out of it. (Although learning some Spanish greetings and phrases will never fail!)
Image credit: nikolaus_bader via Pixabay