Once you have decided on where you want to go on your next adventure as a solo traveler, there are many things you should take into consideration when planning your travels. You have done the hardest part by choosing your destination, as there are so many amazing places in this world to visit. The second hardest decision is deciding to go on your own. Now that you are ready to take your next (or first) adventure of a lifetime, there are a few things you need to take into consideration before you leave and while on your travels. Below are my top 10 tips to stay safe when traveling alone.
1. Research destination ahead of time
Before you pack your bags and take off, you need to research your destination so you are aware of a number of things when you get to where you’re going. The most important thing to be aware of is any safety concerns or warnings in place for the country you are visiting. You should be in the know of any terrorist threats or recent issues the country may have faced. This is probably the most important thing to be aware of and most likely best done before you even book your trip.
There are many other basic things you should be aware of before traveling to your destination of choice. General safety as you are exploring and wandering around is a good place to start. Research whether or not the place you are going is known for pickpockets and tourist scams. Many places, especially around Europe, can be prone to this so it is good to know how to avoid anything happening to you. Other things are important to know to be prepared such as the language spoken, the money used, how to get around and, of course, all the sights and activities you want to explore while you are there. It is always good to have a plan before you go so you can make sure you see and do everything you want to do.
2. Provide itinerary to someone you know
Before you leave on your trip, leave a detailed itinerary as best you can for someone at home. Whether it is a friend or family member, it is important that someone knows where you are along your travels in case something happens. I am not saying you have to have everything planned out exactly, but even a rough idea of where you are staying and where you will be going is better than nothing. Most people keep in touch with family and friends through social media, texting or calling anyways, but there is always a possibility you may end up somewhere that doesn’t have WIFI so you can’t connect on a daily basis. It will keep you, as well as your family and friends, at ease knowing that someone will always know where you are.
3. Never tell people you are traveling alone
Even though solo travel has become more and more popular, especially with women, these days, it can be important not to offer up the fact that you are traveling alone to strangers. On the contrary, it becomes obvious to your accommodation staff when you check-in by yourself. However, this is the only time I feel comfortable with people knowing I am alone. I have found hotel staff very accommodating and helpful when they have known I was traveling alone. They tend to keep more of an eye on you to make sure you are coming and going safely which can actually be a nice feeling. They will also give you pointers on areas to stay away from while you’re solo.
As for everyone else you may come across, keep the fact that you are alone to yourself. I have been to a number of places, met loads of people along the way and have always been asked: “Are you traveling alone?” I am always quick to say I am meeting my friends later or try to avoid the answer. This is because the minute you say you’re by yourself, you become a target. It is probably not likely something would happen if you let it slip out, but better safe than sorry.
4. Lock up your valuables
Another thing I have learned the hard way is to keep your valuables in your accommodation safe, such as jewelry. I tend to leave my jewelry at home and only travel with cheap stuff so I don’t risk it being lost or stolen. Unless you are going on a day trip or somewhere where you would need it, keep your passport locked up. I made the mistake once of keeping it on me and I had it stolen. Keeping it locked up will save you a lot of trouble and money trying to file a police report and get an emergency passport issued. Lastly, money is a big thing to keep safe. Only take out with you what you will need for the day and keep the rest locked up (if you carry mostly cash on your travels). Another piece of advice is to spread your money out among your belongings. Keep a small amount tucked away in a sock or something similar, keep a little somewhere else and lock up the rest. This way if you misplace, lose it, or something happens, you will still have some money available. Most hotels and hostels have safes available either in your room or at the front desk.
5. Blend in
When I travel anywhere, I always try to blend in as much as I can. The last thing you want to look like while on your travels is a “tourist”. This is mostly because in certain places this can make you a target. If you are visiting an island and off on a beach holiday, leave your expensive jewelry and fancy dresses at home. You want to fit in with the local crowds, not stand out. If you are exploring a new city, leave the maps at home and wander around freely or pull out your phone for GPS to guide you. You are less of a target walking around with your phone out than you are if you are holding out a map and trying to find your way around. Keep local customs in mind while traveling as well. This is extremely important. If you are visiting the Middle East, for example, you do not want to be walking around in crop tops and high cut shorts. This will definitely make you stand out as a target and you could actually find yourself in a lot of trouble dressing that way. You are already standing out as a tourist when you visit these countries, especially as a single woman, so you do not want to do anything that will add any kind of unwanted attention.
6. Trust your gut
While you are wandering around on your own in a strange new city or even somewhere you have been before, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. If you happen to stumble upon an area that doesn’t feel right, or you walk into a bar or pub that feels a bit shady, trust your gut and leave. If something seems off, it probably is. I have a friend who was wandering around a city by herself during the day and felt as though someone was following her. She trusted her gut and found her way into a shop to confide in the employee there and it turns out she was, in fact, being followed. She trusted her gut and found help. I am a firm believer that your gut will somehow let you know when you are about to find yourself in a sticky situation. So be sure to listen to yourself rather than justify your uncomfortable feelings away.
7. Limit alcohol drinking
This is extremely important while traveling solo, especially as a solo woman. I am not one to go out and party on my own during my travels, however, I do enjoy a glass of wine here and there with my meals. When you are on your own, you only have YOU to rely on to get yourself back to your accommodation at the end of the day. If you are someone who likes to go out and enjoy the nightlife on your own while your traveling, limit how much alcohol you drink so you are fully capable to find your way back at the end of the night. Going out in the evenings may be a great way to meet new people, but you don’t want to end up drinking too much, getting sick with no one to take care of you and finding yourself lost on your way back to your bed.
8. Avoid going out at night alone
Depending on where you are traveling to, there can be places that are a bit sketchy after the sun goes down. When I travel as a solo woman, I tend to get up early to explore the city and head back to the hotel after dinner when it gets dark. It is not to say that everywhere you go is dangerous after dark, but there tends to be a different crowd of people who wander around at night time. Unless you are planning on going out in the evening to experience the nightlife, there really isn’t much to see in the dark anyways. It is better to be safe than sorry and avoid any mishaps that could happen when out at night time.
9. Pack light
Packing light and sensibly is not only a way to make traveling around easier; it is also a way to stay safe. Only taking a small carry on size suitcase will limit you to taking what you actually need rather than stuffing a big bag full of stuff you will never actually wear or use. This will help to avoid losing anything or having valuable items misplaced or stolen. Carrying around a smaller bag or dragging along a smaller suitcase will make it more convenient for you to get from point A to point B. You don’t want to get stuck dragging and lugging a big bag from your hotel to the train station or airport while trying to juggle your shoulder bag and using your phone for directions. This will not only make you a target for pickpockets and unwanted attention, but it will drive you crazy and cause undue stress on your travels.
10. Don’t trust too quickly
Lastly, another important tip to stay safe is not to trust too quickly. You will no doubt meet lots of people along the way whether they are other tourists or locals. You don’t want to give in and trust them right away because they could be trying to trap you or direct you to an uncomfortable situation. This goes hand in hand with trusting your gut. When you meet someone, whether you are on a tour or out having dinner, do not be too quick, for whatever reason, to go off alone somewhere with them. Suggest meeting up in crowded areas and going out where you know there will be other people around. It may sound silly because you are going to meet people and want to make new friends along the way, but just be smart about it until you really get to know them.
Now that you have some tips on staying safe while traveling alone, how about some tips on how to make solo travel more satisfying?