If you leave safe zones does it mean you are ‘free game’ to other PvP players out there? Can other people just raid your bases / attack your ship?
Yes, outside the safe area people can attack you. But for now, there are probably very few people willing to attack you. You won’t get much benefit from this anyway, they may remove some parts from your ship, but this is probably all. Even so, you are still quite difficult to find outside of 50km. Even so, you can return the ship, albeit battered, back to the station. Just in case, you can have a special small ship on which you could mine ore in a safe zone and earn money to repair your main ship.