The Clever Travel Companion Updates

The Top European Destinations to Travel Solo November 08 2017, 0 Comments

Although travelling by yourself is not always the most appealing plan, depending on where you’re headed, it might turn out to be a once in a lifetime experience. Given that it’s hard to match your schedule with that of your potential travel companions, sometimes, you might have to take matters into your own hands and go solo, which could be daunting. But if you have done it before, you will agree that there is something both challenging and stimulating about setting out on an adventure by yourself. However, some places are better to visit alone than others, which is why we have compiled some of the best destinations for you, particularly if you’re in Europe.

At the top of our list is Berlin, the multifaceted German capital. With a vibrant nightlife and infinite culture on, you’ll be entertained here all day and might even end up making friends during your stay, as it is a popular destination for solo travelers. From museums to landmarks and everything in between including parks, record stores, vintage markets, international gastronomy, unbeatable nightclubs and concerts, Berlin is also an affordable and safe city, which are two fundamental elements that make it a great choice if you’re planning a solo trip. No matter how long you stay, you’re likely to enjoy the experience by yourself as you’ll be able to visit the places that interest you the most without having to compromise.

Another large capital we must add to our list is London. In spite of being a large city, London is very well connected with trains and underground services, meaning you can stay right outside the center if you want to spend less and still be able to get to the main attractions quite easily. With so many places to visit and an unstoppable entertainment agenda that includes everything from music festivals and jam sessions to mental sports tournaments and horse races, London is open 24/7 and will offer you pretty much anything you’re looking for. Although it is less affordable than Berlin, you will not find it hard to spot a quality, comfortable hostel and an inexpensive, refreshing pint, which is a great choice to end your day, especially by the riverside and accompanied by a good book.

Our third choice is also a capital city that is famous for having friendly and sociable residents as well as great beer, fantastic transportation, delicious food, lovely weather and magnificent museums. Madrid, rated the best city in Europe for living abroad, has become an increasingly popular city in Europe over the years without reaching the extreme levels of tourism that Barcelona is now trying to control, this Spanish city offers a genuine experience to its visitors. Safe and affordable, its accommodation offers have also increased, which complements the fact that it’s a city in which you can find something to do every day of the week, so you’re likely to fall in love with its energy and never feel lonely while being surrounded by welcoming Madrilenians. Between museums, the fantastic Buen Retiro Park and the infinite choices of bars, you’ll be well entertained during your stay and will possibly end up chatting with the locals, which means you might even learn a few words in Spanish to further enrich your travel experience.

There are many other destinations in Europe to visit by yourself that are equally amusing, safe and stimulating like Porto, Copenhagen, Bilbao, Turin, Hamburg and Stockholm. However, if we had to recommend places to travel solo as many times as you want, we would insist on Berlin, London and Madrid as they are all interesting and ever-changing locations that never fail to welcome visitors. And, with their cosmopolitan atmospheres, you’ll feel like you are a part of the cities when you visit them.


6-fold increase in pickpocketing in just 8 years November 02 2017, 0 Comments

Pickpocketing in Malta has last year reached an all-time high of almost 2,500 cases, an average of seven reported a day. These statistics have forced the Maltese parliament to address the issue in public. While Malta may not be the best example of the situation worldwide, this is a statistical reflection of the rise in pickpocketing cases reported worldwide and a demonstration of how brazen, professional, organised and adaptive thieves are becoming. 

This worrying trend, which has been developing over a number of years, is even more pronounced when considering that the overall total for 2016 shows a sixfold increase when compared to 2009.

Details on various thefts offence committed last year were tabled in Maltese Parliament recently by Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela in reply to a question by Opposition MP Beppe Fenech Adami.

The places to avoid were the main tourist hotspots of Valletta and Paceville.

It transpired that, in 2016, pickpocketing was the most common type of theft reported, with 2,447 cases. This was 20 per cent up over the previous year. According to the data, this offence rose steadily since 2013. Four years ago 1,469 pickpocketing cases were reported, followed by 1,538 in 2014 and 2,030 in 2015.

This trend has been linked to a number of Eastern European gangs, some of whom have been brought to justice already and further demonstrates that this is a pattern seen all over Europe and not just in Malta. In Paris for example, the rise in pickpockets around the metro and Eiffel tower have seen a number of Eastern European gangs prosecuted as has London's Transport Police in relation to a rise in thefts on the London Underground. 

Cases the police refer to as “snatch-and-grab”, whereby the offender forcibly obtains personal belongings like bags, purses and mobile phones, increased to 179 in 2016, an increase of 41 per cent over 2013.

Though no detailed overall breakdown of the localities where pickpockets are most likely to strike was divulged, this newspaper last month reported that, in 2016, one in every eight offences was reported in Malta's tourism hub, Valletta. This data confirms earlier research carried out by criminologist Saviour Formosa who had concluded that, in 2015, the places to avoid were Valletta and Paceville.

Safe not sorry

• The Maltese police rolled out a crime prevention campaign last summer targeting the spike in pickpocketing together with a number of tips to avoid being targeted.

Keep purses secure and carry wallets in an inside pocket.

• Bags should be carried in front with flaps against your body.

• Keep straps short and bags tucked under the arms.

• Do not display any jewellery.

• Do not show any money – keep it safely in your pockets.

• Stay alert and aware of what is going on around you.

• If possible, install a tracker application on your smartphone.

• Keep a record of the unique reference number (IMEI) of your phone – this can be retrieved by dialling *#06#.

• Use your phone’s security lock or PIN number.

• Do not write PIN numbers for credit/debit cards on your mobile phone.


How to stay safe as a solo female traveller October 14 2017, 0 Comments

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

You might be a spontaneous traveller, but when going solo, you should book at least your first night of accommodation before arrival. One tip when choosing a hotel is opting for a centrally located one.

This way, you will not stand out as much, and you will also have a chance to mingle with other travellers. Also, try to time your trip in such a way that you arrive in the morning.

Some female travellers also recommend packing a doorstop that will keep doors from being opened.


TRUST YOUR INTUITION

Women have often been lauded for their ability to read body language and pick up social cues. Use this intuition to your advantage, and learn to trust your gut.

If you are caught in an uncomfortable situation, pack your bags and hit the road. Just ensure that you have alternate accommodation in mind.


DON'T LET PICKPOCKETS PICK ON YOU

Besides staying vigilant, it is also a good idea to spread your valuables into different compartments of your bag.

That way, if you do fall victim to a pickpocket, your important documents are all spread out, so you won't lose everything in one go.

You can also consider making copies of your credit cards and passport and saving it to Google Docs or Dropbox.

When you are sitting down, loop the strap of your bag around your leg to prevent someone from running away with it. When walking in crowded areas, wear your backpack in front to avoid pickpockets from cutting into your belongings. Alternatively, pick up a slash-free and anti-theft bag from brands such as Pacsafe.


WHEN IN ROME...

While you might want to get all dolled up for your vacation, you do not want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. When travelling alone, try to conform to cultural norms and dress modestly in countries where it is expected. In some countries, you might want to wear a wedding ring even if you are single.


HAVE A TIPPLE, BUT DON'T GET TOO TIPSY

Even though you are on holiday, you should be very wary before getting too "wasted" when you are travelling by yourself. Know your limits before you party.

If a stranger asks you to go out for drinks, politely decline the offer and say that you have other plans. Remember, you should not feel guilty or bad when saying no if it means feeling safe.


MAKE YOUR MARK

Inform a loved one of your flights and itineraries. A photo upload and check-in at a new location is also a good way to keep your family and friends posted about your whereabouts.

That said, be careful not to overshare. Refrain from telling strangers where you are staying and only post about hotels on social media after you have left.

Even if you are travelling on a budget, international phone plans are worth spending money on. Carry a few international phone cards if you do not want to commit to a whole phone plan.


WHEN HAILING A CAB

Before you head out, grab the business card or jot down the name, address and phone number of your accommodation. It will come in handy if you get lost or are unable to communicate with the driver.

Another thing you should take note of is the taxi number or the licence plate, just in case.

To avoid getting overcharged, ask the hotel front desk for an estimate of how much it will cost to get to your destination.

Alternatively, Google Maps has a feature that will provide you with a rough estimate.

When possible, agree on the fare beforehand and have the exact change with you to prevent getting ripped off.

If you have baggage with you, keep your stuff in the back seat and not in the trunk. That way, you can jump out of the cab if anything goes wrong.