Meeting other travellers is one of the best things about being on the road. Social networks and online communities can give you a head start on this and put you in touch with travellers before you go. This can be the start of great friendships and unforgettable shared experiences, but there are a few key safety considerations you should bear in mind whether you're on your first trip or heading back to somewhere you know well. Here are a few tips to keep you safe when meeting others.
1. Meet somewhere public. Arrange to meet in a public place, preferably during the day so you can make a swift exit and blend in with the crowds if you need to. If you just met somebody and they want to take you somewhere, make sure you know in advance where it is and that it's somewhere you want to go - they'd expect the same from you.
2. Tell people where you're going. Leave a planned itinerary with someone close to you at home and agree a time to check in, and stick to it. Sending an SMS home only takes a second and is inexpensive, and lets people know you're OK.
3. Keep some emergency contact details. Make sure you have at least one reliable ICE (in case of emergency) number listed as such in your phone’s contact list (put ‘ICE’ before or after the contact’s name). If your device doesn't work where you’re travelling, keep your accommodation’s business card or the phone number folded up on your person.
4. Watch your drink. It’s easy to become overly paranoid when you’re travelling, but it is still worth keeping one eye on your drink if you’re going to meet complete strangers. Make sure no one tampers with it, or a hangover could be the least of your problems.
5. Have an excuse - just in case. When meeting people for the first time, it doesn't hurt to have an exit strategy in case things don't go as you'd hoped. Saying your friends are expecting you back at the hostel is a simple and unarguable reason to make a graceful exit. If you're a solo traveller, you might also choose not to disclose this right away to someone you're meeting for the first time. Then if something doesn't feel right with the person you meet, you can strategically mention that your friend (or rugby-playing sweetheart with anger management issues) is waiting for you back at the hotel.
6. Follow your instincts. Chances are, making connections with other travellers will give you priceless memories and even enduring friendships. But if you feel any flicker of suspicion about the people, always trust your gut.