There are thousands of cool and quirky bars in every city in Asia that are well worth exploring. They’re a great way to meet new people, get to know the people you’ve already met, and experience the culture of the area. The majority of the time you will be completely safe, surrounded by like-minded people however, unfortunately drink spiking can occur (like everywhere in the world) and there are some ways to minimise your risk:
-Generally do not let someone else buy you a drink, if you do: it is safer to go to the bar with them, watch the drink being poured and handed over to you.
-When you are sipping a drink do not set it down somewhere out of sight.
-If you are standing with your drink, hold the glass with your palm covering the opening.
When I was in Koh Tao, a beautiful Thai Island, I decided to go out for some drinks with a group I had met at my hostel. After a few drinks (maybe a few too many) I decided I wanted to dance without my bag weighing me down, so I thought I would ask the nice staff behind the bar to keep it safe for me. Big mistake. After an hour the bar began to close so I went to collect my bag, something seemed a little off as the lady sheepishly handed me my now open bag. I reluctantly peeked inside and as suspected it was empty. All my cash had been taken. Luckily as it was the first night I only had the equivalent of £70 in there, I had also left my cards at home and kept my phone in my pocket, it could have been worse. Koh Tao is known for it’s lack of policing and security so looking back on it now I can’t believe I handed over a bag of cash to strangers, quite possibly the most obvious and stupid rule to stick by… don’t give your cash to strangers! If you fancy a boogie in a bar invest in a good bum bag so all your belongings can be strapped to your hip and so won’t interrupt your dancing…
-If it can be avoided (and the majority of the time it can) do not walk home alone in the dark. If you are travelling solo then book a taxi. It can be tempting when sticking to a budget to just walk that 10 minute journey back to your accommodation, but it’s just not worth the risk.
-Use trusted taxi companies. ‘Grab’ is Asia’s equivalent of Uber, so you know that the drivers are professionals and will have been vetted, download the app before you travel; it’s easy and cheap!
-Most hostel receptions are happy to prebook you a taxi or have phone numbers and cards of taxi companies that are well known and official, use these rather than any old taxi you see on the street.
I loved the ‘Grab’ bikes, these are motorbikes you can organise to come and pick you up from the ‘Grab’ app, just like Uber. They come with a spare helmet and you can just hop on the back and soar through the city to your next destination. It was a great way to see the sites in an exhilarating and cheap way, however if it all sounds a little too risky or just not your kind of thing then Grab cars are always around, for a more relaxed and (admittedly) safe journey! After a night out there will be people offering you lifts home for cash, either on a bike or in a car, it’s best to avoid these. The majority probably have the best intentions and will take you to your destination for a small amount of cash, however it puts you in an extremely vulnerable position and it’s just not worth it. It is tempting when you need to get home and it’s a good offer (I was successfully and stupidly tempted in Thailand, and luckily he took me home as promised) but don’t take the risk!
One of the joys of travelling is the friends you make along the way. These friendships are intense and fast-paced and often will last a lifetime, but there are a few things to be weary of (mainly if you are travelling without a group):
-Trust your gut. If things are feeling a bit off or someone isn’t giving you the best vibe do not be afraid to make your excuses and distance yourself from them.
-Remain vigilant. Even if you are having an incredible time with someone and feel as if you have known them forever try not to get too swept up in this. Keep the basic principles in your head: let people know where you are and who you are with, share your location with friends or trusted hostel workers, and set boundaries.
The people I met on The Dragon Trip are still life-long friends, and as an avid traveller it’s very handy to have friends in every continent of the world! Everyone was incredibly supportive and looked out for one another; on our nights out we would always check up on each other and make sure we all got home safely, never letting someone leave on their own. It was a such a rare and lovely experience. Travelling without a tour was very different, I still met incredible people however you had to remember to look after yourself as the protection of a group dynamic was no longer there. This was easy enough, and when you need other people you can always find them.
-Read up on the country and check some basic things: What is thought appropriate for a woman to where (you may have to cover your shoulders), what behaviours are accepted (drinking in public, sunbathing in bikini’s, public displays of affection, displays of affection between same sex couples), the crime rate/general safety of the area you will be travelling to (including common scams and areas to avoid), and areas that are safe to travel as a woman.
-Make a note in your phone of the emergency service numbers for that country.
-Notify family/friends of where you have arrived and some basic information about where you are staying.
On the Dragon Trip this was all taken care of, which was a weight of my mind. The experienced guides in every new city would brief us on the culture of the area, what is the expected behaviour and which areas to avoid, so we felt completely prepared and safe to explore. We also had a full itinerary sent to us before the trip which you can share with family and friends so they know where you are on different days!
See some of our Dragons in action: https://thedragontrip.com/dragonshoots-instagram-competition/