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Authored by Chan Komagan

It is better to be safer than sorry. I know this is an overused cliché, though safety is something which should be taken seriously when traveling. The world isn’t actually dangerous or unsafe, though when exploring a new and foreign place, you still need to take certain precautions to minimize the risk of being hurt or losing your things. Finding yourself in an unsafe situation overseas  may jeopardize your entire travel experience. Solo travel safety tips

After traveling solo for almost 8 months now,  I’ve managed to pick up a safety tip or two. Staying safe abroad largely comes down to common sense and being aware of your surroundings, though of course individual destinations will have country specific tips, so when researching for your next trip, be sure to also look into destination specific recommendations for safety too.

Though in general, apply the following rules and you’ll be fine. This is a guide to help fellow solo travelers; my top safety tips for travel which is trouble free.

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Keep Life Simple

I try to keep my life as simple as possible when it comes to international travel. I carry with me only the cash which is required for the day, a public transportation card, copy of my passport, my phone, and perhaps a map. Though there are many offline apps now which offer city maps on your phone, so you can possibly combine the last two. Safety tips for solo travel

And keep everything on your person, as simply as possible. Never wear anything which draws attention to you as a traveler like a bulky money belt. This is a single point of failure. Is solo travel safe

If you happen to lose your wallet, purse or belt, you’ve just lost everything including your cash, credit cards, phone, passport and cash. Bulky money bags and belts are like a bulls eye for potential muggers. If you are going to wear one, at least wear it under your clothes. Stay safe solo travel

Pro Tip: A common area that pickpockets frequent are the signs which cities have put up to warn tourists about being mindful of theft. When you read a sign like this, it’s quite common to subliminally reach for the part of your body where your valuables or wallet is being held just to make sure it’s still on you. This let’s thieves know exactly where they need to target. So be aware.

Never Leave Anything Valuable in Your Back Pocket

When you’re at home, you’re probably used to carrying your wallet in the back pocket of your pants. Though this is a sure way to lose your money/credit card or phone, and I’ve seen a few too many travelers do this. Pick-pockets specifically target tourists, and this is the easiest grab.

A French traveler I met in Belgrade had a troubling story. He had worked hard throughout the summer and saved 500 Euros for travel across Europe. He went to an ATM in a busy Belgrade street to withdraw cash, and put the money he took out in his backpocket. It only took two minutes and this cash was gone. He lost 500 Euros that day and had to return back to Paris the next.

Though if you enjoy having your back pocket felt up by a stray hand, by all means! How to stay safe when traveling solo Is solo travel safe

Avoid Wearing Backpacks on Your Back in a Crowd

The same goes for wearing backpacks on your back when navigating busy or crowded spaces. Don’t do it. You’re making yourself a target for theft. Instead, hold your bag in front of you. Keep your passport and valuables deep inside the bag, or better yet, in your front pockets. Safe solo travel

A friend of mine was traveling to Paris. In his backpack was a company laptop, his passport, credit cards and cash. As he was leaving the crowded metro station, his bag was cut from his back, and he lost everything that day. It’s quite common for thieves to cut packs from a tourist’s back and sprint away.

Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

Plan Inter City Travel Through Developing Countries For During the Day

For inter city travel in developing countries, plan your trip during the day. The advantages of this are reducing the risk of being stopped and mugged by gangs who are more common at night, and there are better sight seeing opportunities during the day. You have less chance of becoming lost when you’re able to read street signs and use maps in proper light, and you wont draw suspicion to yourself from the local police. Best travel safety tips

If you do have to drive at night, make sure all of your car doors are locked, and do not pull over unless it is an official stop. Make sure you only get into official taxi’s, especially at night. Is overseas travel safe?

Download a City Map in Advance

There are a huge range of helpful apps these days which make our day to day travel easier, and many city maps can be downloaded in advance.

Almost every hostel, hotel and property with Airbnb now offers wifi, though sometimes this is not always for free, so it is a good idea to download the map in advance. Use maps.me or Google Maps to download the navigation directions so you can keep track of your travel path in case if you get lost.

City Map

Keep a Safety Profile of Your Destination

I usually keep a safety profile for countries I am visiting based on my own research and what I hear from other people. Government websites tend to be on the conservative side when issuing safety notices, so your best bet for the most practical advice is to consult the locals, as well as travelers who are currently on the ground or who have just been though. Do this especially if you’re planning on hitchhiking.

If your hotel has a concierge, this is a great person to consult first. They have a wealth of local knowledge and deal with travelers every day. Also, it’s literally their job to make sure you have a wonderful and safe stay.

Use a Lock For Your Valuables

I can’t stress this enough. When staying in a hostel or in a shared space, use the provided safety lockers and make sure your personal valuables are secure.

In the extreme case if the place you’re at doesn’t have a locker, hide it under the bed sheet or in your backpack. Use travelers locks to keep your backpack closed. How to stay safe when traveling overseas

Use a Lock For Your Valuables

Utilize Secret Pockets in Clothing

Look into versatile clothing with hidden pockets – fashionable travel clothes which come with secret pockets to stash your cash are everywhere right now.

Zip-it travel socks are one idea. Keep a little cash in your pocket and the rest in your travel sock. Females can look into options like the SHOLDIT Scarf.

Try Your Best to Blend In

One again, thieves primarily target tourists. So research your destination and try to blend in. In places like Medellin, Colombia, for instance, locals don’t wear shorts or hats. So why wear shorts and make yourself as a “gringo” target. You may as well wear a sign in Spanish saying “mug me please”. Yes, the city gets hot during the day. But you can wear thin long cotton pants and still avoid being an obvious target. Will I be safe if I travel alone

Most importantly, if you are traveling in a Muslim country the dress code becomes even more conservative for both guys and gals.

It is better not to wear any kind of flashy jewelry that draws attention to yourself or which you cannot afford to lose. Feel free to leave your most expensive camera at the hostel/Airbnb and take iPhone/smart phone instead. The reality is you’re not going to come across the kind of scenery which requires photography with a DSLR every day.

iPhone photography

Learn Some Basics of the Local Language

Learn some basics of the local language. This will help you to communicate with the locals and also know how to ask for help in case if you come across any bad situations. Safety tips for traveling alone

Don’t Leave Anything Unattended in Public

Ask someone to watch it for you. If you are one of those who don’t carry a selfie stick and want to take a picture of yourself, ask someone you can trust (like a couple or older person). Is it safe to travel alone?

Enjoying a casual lunch with your bag at your feet?  If it’s loose, it’s a target for theft.  Secure your bag by looping a strap around either your arm, leg or chair leg. Will I be safe if I travel by myself internationally abroad

If you’re sleeping in public, on a train or at an airport, be sure to do the same. Loop an arm through one of your bag straps while you sleep.  Fasten your bag to the seat, luggage rack, or yourself. I will always have at least one part of my body connected to my bag if I’m enjoying a public nap.

Remember, even a minor obstacle or inconvenience can be an effective deterrent for thieves.  It’s not necessarily about making your bag impenetrable, but just less appealing than the next guys!

Don’t Leave Anything Unattended in Public

Purchase International Insurance

Your domestic insurance isn’t going to cover your travel overseas. So it’s safer to purchase insurance before you leave.

A basic plan can cost you as little as $200 for 4-6 months. If you want to add adventure sports it will likely cost you a little more, as these types of activities are normally listed as exclusions. Make sure you read the fine print and know what is included so that you can choose an insurance plan which is right for you. Ways to ensure maximum safety overseas am I safe traveling alone

Register Your Travel Plans With Your Government

Register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a state of emergency or a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest.

Many governments will send out warning notices about any type of potential protest/risk zones that you may want to avoid while traveling, and doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event. Should I go overseas by myself or with a group?

The emergency contact details you register are generally the only way your country can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.

What do you do to stay safe? Feel free to share safety tips from your own travel experiences.

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Chan is an avid traveler and a tech enthusiast who has traveled to 5 continents and 40 countries in his lifetime. He quit his job last December to pursue his dream of traveling to the far corners of the world.

Based in New York, while traveling he does stock trading and blogging at Tayora.com. You can connect with Chan on Facebook and Twitter. You can read more of his guest posts on this blog on his author page.

    40 Comments

  1. If I’m doing a road trip solo, I’ll plan a rough itinerary of where I plan to end up each night and leave it with family. That way, if it’s realized I’ve gone missing, it can help in piecing together where I roughly was each day and where my plans got interrupted. Seems a bit morbid but the trips I’ve done it for were Banff National Park in Canada and Iceland…not so worried about terrorism or crime as much as the remoteness of the locations…(both were awesome awesome trips btw, highly recommend!!)

    • That’s a good point in leaving your travel itinerary with your family. I tend to communicate my plans (whereabouts) to my friends and family through my Facebook posts and/or messenger. Thanks for reading.

  2. All those tips are great, and simple.
    One more?
    Never NEVER put your home address on a luggage tag. Anybody in a hostel, an airport, anywhere, can read it and know you are not home… Easy pickings

    All you need is your name, (first initial only) phone and Email. If your luggage or bag gets lost, that is how an honest person is going to try to get in touch with you anyways.

    Some of my favorite travel tips…
    https://paxview.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/travel-safely/

    • JR – I agree with your point here. Even on my phone I have a piece of paper that has my alternative phone number and email address.

  3. Some excellent common sense approaches here for traveling safely and securely. You must be on your guard at all times and never get complacent as that’s when you get caught out. Luckily only once have we had something stolen and that was because i was too lax in my methods. One word on travel insurance always read the terms and conditions especially regarding the theft section some of clauses are crazy.

    • Absolutely Mark – and that’s why I believe that a brush up on these tips is great even for the most experienced travelers. because we might be more experienced, though you can too easily become complacent when you’ve done something so many times.

      Sorry to hear you’ve had something stolen from you before.

      Totally agree on the travel insurance – the fine print can be tedious but it’s something we absolutely have to do.

      Travel safe!

  4. This is a great common sense list for any traveler.

    • Thanks for reading Brianna.

  5. Before traveling, I make color copies of my passport info page, my driver’s license, and all of my credit cards (fronts and backs) on one sheet (front and back). I make 2 copies–one I leave on my desk at home, and one I pack hidden in the lining of my luggage. I then scan and save a copy in my PDFs file on my phone. At least if I lose my wallet, I can prove who I am at the Embassy, and cancel my cards easily.

    • Excellent point Wendy. I have digital copies of the passport, credit and debit cards on my phone and also a copy on the cloud as well -:) Thanks for your comment.

  6. Great tips. After 10 years of living inIndia I came to my own conclusions on many of these through experience! It’s always helpful to be cautious but to not become overcome with fear about leaving your stuff places! I also always make sure to have copies of my passport and credit cards saved in my email so in case of the worse case k can still call to cancel them if needed.

    • Absolutely Karilun – there’s always a fine balance of being precautions but not becoming overcome by fear :) A lot of people do learn these through experience, I have found a lot comes down to common sense, though always nice to read over again to make sure they’ve sunk in :D

      Electronic copies of your passport and credit cards is a brilliant idea too – I need to start doing this much more actively than I currently am!

  7. Wow thanks for this. What a great reminder for travelers. I know for a fact that some travelers like myself tend to get so overwhelmed that we forget to check our surroundings or take care of our belongings.

    • Glad you could take some tips from the post Janna :) It’s very easy to become overwhelmed while traveling, so it doesn’t hurt to read over a few reminders every now ad then :)

      Travel safe X

  8. The most brilliant tip I read in your post is the tourist warning sign one. I just never thought of it! It’s an instant reaction upon seeing a warning sign and putting your hands on the place where one has kept cash or cards. Fab! Thanks a ton!

    • Glad you found that helpful! It blew my mind when I heard it first too – such a simple concept, which we don’t even notice we do!

  9. Great tips Megan – there are definitely a lot of tips on here that I adhere to as a solo traveler, especially registering via STEP before leaving the US and never leaving anything unattended in public!

    • Thanks Chanel – Chan has some great advice :) Registering your travel plans with your government online is one of the biggest things, I think especially now when there is so much global unrest. Super simple measure which really doesn’t take up any time, but is so valuable to keeping you safe just in case :)

      Travel safe!

  10. Finding a reliable place to stay is where I waste a lot of time. How do you solve this problem?

    • Hi Prayashi – we suggest pulling up third party booking sites like Orbitz and Expedia and then pulling up Tripadvisor reviews after you have narrowed down your top choices. Traveler reviews are always the best way to figure out if a place is reliable :)

      Happy travels!

  11. It’s a dangerous job of being a solo traveler. But if you rather want to be alone than with your friends, these safety tips will help you while traveling. Always be aware with those people who will take advantage on your situation. Reading this blog will you make sure that you will be fully protected while your traveling.

    • Thanks Gielowski, glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t think solo travel is dangerous – I’ve found that it’s life in general which can be dangerous, whether we’re traveling solo, traveling in a group, or staying in our own home town, we’re always at risk from something.

      But yes, we can definitely minimize those risks by considering our safety and surroundings at all times and taking heed of the above tips :)

  12. In a few weeks, I am going to visit North India with a group of people I found online. This post is really very informative for me. Thanks Chan for this awesome post.

    • Have a wonderful trip Ravi. Safe travels :)

  13. “It is better not to wear any kind of flashy jewelry that draws attention to yourself”. This is the best tip i would recommend for the Indian travelers specially women who like to show off.

    • Absolutely – it’s hard when you enjoy wearing beautiful jewellery, but when you’re traveling in a foreign place you want to blend in as much as possible and not make yourself a target for theft :)

  14. Brilliant tips. Great blog. Very helpful pieces of information. Thank you for sharing.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. Happy travels team :)

  15. Good tips! I love solo travel and haven’t found being a woman much trouble.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, and that you’re having a smooth time out there no the road. Happy travels!

  16. These are fantastic travel tips. Yes, I agree that when you’re in a religious country where you are expected to be more conservative/modest in your outfit choices, you should really be respectful and aware. Another tip, if you like: I love scheduling my airport parking every time I travel via the airport these days!

    • Thank Katheen, I’m glad you enjoyed the post :) Great tip on scheduling your airport parking – many now are establishing off site long term parking which is a lot cheaper than the airport itself, but then have free shuttles to get you to the terminal. We utilize this a lot, it’s great :)

  17. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. It is very supportive and useful tips. solo traveling is not an easy travel. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content. Great blog. Thanks!

    • Hi David, I’m glad the post was really helpful for you :) Happy travels!

  18. thanks for the information

    • You’re welcome Rohit, happy travels :)

  19. Great blog. You share the nice information is really useful for tourist. Solo travel is not an easy. Thank you for sharing.

    • Glad the post was helpful for you Erica. Happy travels!

  20. I love to travel alone in that we have the comfort to spend time anywhere at any time in many places. Traveling alone is also a strategy for knowing new things.

    • So glad to hear it Varsha, it really is a freeing and liberating experience traveling alone – you definitely get to know yourself, and learn new skills when you only have yourself :)

      Happy travels!

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