According to the Women’s Travel Survey by TripAdvisor, female solo travel is on the rise in Southeast Asia. The survey of 9,181 female travellers globally and 431 in Southeast Asia. revealed that 48% of women in Southeast Asia said they have travelled alone before, compared to 36% in 2014. The report also revealed that the majority of the women in Southeast Asia who travel alone do so because they enjoy the sense of freedom of being able to do whatever they want, or a sense of challenge of traveling on their own. Another reason cited was that their family or friends do not have the time or resource to travel with them. Traveling alone has helped them to be more independent and self-reliant, to be more confident and to learn something about others or other cultures. When asked about the precautions Southeast Asian women take when travelling alone, personal safety was stated as top priority. However, when probed further, it appears that many of these female solo traveling have adopted very rudimentary safety measures - such as avoiding going out late at night (71%), avoiding quiet streets (55%) and behaving like a tourist (42%). Qin Yunquan, CEO of Kapap Academy, and the only self defense expert to ever win the Young Leader’s Award from the Queen of England (2017), shares with us five must-know personal safety tips.
1. Ensure your valuables are kept out of plain sight.
Many people tend to forget and still carry on valuables on their bodies like cameras, handphones etc openly in full view and loosely secured. This can literally serve as an open invitation to the petty criminal to snatch and grab, or slash and grab. Qin suggests that first, it is best to keep your valuables out of sight and 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 cybercrimes where RFID readers are used to steal your credit card information.
2. Carry an improvised weapon - Tactical pen
A must-have for travelers is to carry a tactical pen as an improvised weapon. In essence, operating as an actual functioning pen, this specially designed item doubles up as a self-defense tool. Made of sturdy aircraft aluminum, this pen is legal to carry in most countries and will not attract unnecessary attention. When deployed as a weapon, it is a force multiplier that helps increase one's ability to hurt as an impact weapon against pressure points/ nerve centres, big muscle groups and even vital parts of the human body like eyes, throat etc when one's life is in danger. Kapap Academy regularly organises workshops on how to effectively use the tactical pen.
3. Be vigilant about room safety
If you regularly stay in motels or no frill backpack hotels in your travels, make sure that you conduct a room safety check when you first get into your room. For examples, check that the room locks, window locks, chain latches etc are in good working order. If dissatisfied, do not hesitate to ask for a change of room, and if none available, be even prepared to change to another hotel with better security. Alternatively, use objects that make sound when knocked over (e.g. vase, glass etc) or obstruct (e.g. chair, bags etc) to serve as an improvised ‘alarm’.
In today's era, where 'spy cameras' are inexpensive and easily available, stay vigilant against oversized clothes hooks that are often disguised hidden cameras, or wall plugs and switches with suspicious looking holes that are often covered with shiny bits of glass that are really camera lenses (circled red in picture). These pinhole cameras are often placed in strategic locations such as near the toilet bowl, shower area, or facing the bed.
4. Do your homework
Before you venture out to an unfamiliar place, research about the town or city that you are visiting, and especially the areas that you will be staying in. Check on the internet or ask the locals about which districts and streets are crime prone areas, what kind of crimes are these areas known for, and where are the local police stations near to the places you are staying in. Find out also about the country’s local emergency numbers for police, hospitals and even your country's embassies or consulates especially if you’re staying in that country for a longer period of time. In countries that are less stable, register your name, passport and contact details with your own embassy or consulate so that they are aware of your presence.
5. Understand predator behaviour
As a general principle of personal safety, never fight for your valuables if confronted with a determined and armed mugger. Remember, your life is worth much more than what you could possibly be carrying on you in your travels. Surrender your valuables and continue to stay alert with your hands up in anticipation of any strikes or knife attacks. When the opportunity presents itself, such as the momentary distraction of attention away from you by the mugger.....run and focus on getting away.
Only if your attacker seems intent on kidnapping or hurting you, stand ready to fight. To help Executives stay safe, Kapap Academy’s sister company, the Centre for Cognitive Technologies has a SkillsFuture approved programme that enjoys up to 100% subsidy for Singaporeans. Known as Executives Travel Safety, this programme (CRS-N-0041219) blends the study of predatory behavior, bodyguarding principles with the use of simple intuitive self defense techniques to help travelers avoid, get away or fight out of danger if the need arises.