It’s better to be safer than sorry. Yes, this is an overused cliché, though safety is something which should be taken seriously when traveling, especially when traveling solo.
The world isn’t actually dangerous or unsafe, and most foreign countries welcome solo travelers quite warmly. Solo travel is a fantastic opportunity to see the world on your own terms, to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and make friends out of strangers.
There are many myths when it comes to traveling solo, most of them around safety. But largely, the biggest secret to staying safe abroad as a solo traveler is using common sense, and being aware of your surroundings
It’s true that some countries will make solo travelers more vulnerable to danger than others, so it’s always important to check up to date advice for your specific country, but by and large, the following common sense tips will ensure your safety.
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5 Ways to Stay Safe When Traveling Solo
#1 Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Whether it’s a quick message to a someone back home, registering with your government, or leaving word with the hotel receptionist, you should always make people aware of where you intend to be for the day and when you next plan on getting in touch.
We totally get that you’re a big boy / girl. But no matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone know where you’re going.
I’m 30 years old and I still email my parents with a copy of my itinerary before I take a trip, usually including the contact details for the hotels we will be staying at. Firstly, it allows them to contact you if they truly need to. We were in the middle of an Outback trek in 2012 when Mike’s father passed away. No-one knew how to reach us.
Secondly, it means they know when they should worry if there’s a natural disaster, or act of terrorism, and act accordingly. There are fabulous mobile apps nowadays too that check up on you when you’re out and alerts your friends if you don’t respond.
So let someone, anyone, know where you’re going. Even if you only plan to stay in your hotel room. It doesn’t make you any less independent, or any less “cool” – in the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.
#2 Be Sensible About Your Accommodation
It’s easy to think that all reputable accommodation will be safe during your travels, but you need to consider it a lot more than you would traveling as part of a group or with a partner.
If your accommodation is very remote in an unknown area with limited staff or perhaps a self check-in system, then you need to ensure that you’re more savvy with your surroundings and take extra care to check all the details before you go.
Research your accommodation and pay close attention to things like the property’s security measures, whether the desk is staffed 24 hours, if there are surveillance cameras, or whether you have to have a key to access guest floors.
One of your biggest considerations should be location. For instance, are you staying in an upscale neighbourhood, or a seedy commercial district? Is it a safe area to walk around after dark; are there any services nearby, like a police station or embassy?
You can easily find neighbourhood information online, or by looking at recent hotel reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. Google Street View is a great resource for checking out a neighbourhood and seeing what it actually looks like. Keep an eye out for any mention of safety concerns when reading reviews.
A great way to solo travel is with an RV rental, as this ensures you have access to a safe place to sleep, eat and drive at all times. As you would with a hotel room though, make sure you keep your doors locked and research campsites.
#3 Stay in Public as Much as Possible
There will naturally be times when it’s unavoidable to be in a private place such as driving a quiet road alone, or going to a public restroom, but the key thing to remember is to avoid wandering from public places into unchartered territory, especially in busy cities.
This could include taking a deserted back street as a short cut instead of sticking to the main busy high street, or being led by a stranger into a quiet place rather than staying where others can see you.
Staying where the public can see you and hear you when needed will keep you safe.
It’s also not a bad idea to learn some of the local language. This will help you to communicate with locals and also know how to ask for help in case if you come across any bad situations.
#4 Keep Your Personal Belongings Close
A lot of solo travelers will be opting for backpacking or traveling light; with all of their important documents, such as passport and wallet, on them at all times due to traveling from different places day by day.
Ensure that all your personal items are safely tucked away, and take precaution with anti theft backpacks by ensuring they are safely closed and difficult to get into should a pickpocket come to try their luck – especially when navigating busy cities.
There are the basic and generic tips of keeping your arm and hand on your handbag at all times and never losing sight of your belongings. Always have at least one body part connected to your belongings by looping a bag strap around an arm or leg, or fasten your bag to something around you.
If an object is loose, it’s a target for theft. Even a minor inconvenience can effectively deter thieves. You don’t have to make your bag impenetrable, just less appealing than the next person’s.
For this same reason, don’t store anything in your back pocket; your phone, your keys, your wallet – pick pocketing is incredibly common overseas, especially in some parts of Europe, and this is easily the number #1 crime against travelers.
Ideally you should keep your phone in a zippered pocket of your purse or day bag. But if you have to have it on your person, keep it in your front pocket.
#5 Act Like a Local (Blend In)
Naturally, tourists are abundant, and there’s nothing wrong with being one. However, if you appear too uncertain and vulnerable when you’re traveling alone, other people can pick up on that and it may attract the wrong kind of attention.
Don’t wear flashy jewellery or clothes than may attract extra attention. In most places where security is a concern you are also likely to stick out regardless, but it is better if you don’t appear like a millionaire.
Be extra careful in crowds and, if possible, avoid finding yourself in the middle of a demonstration or a large group of people where it is impossible to watch all of your belongings.
And you should make your best efforts to dress conservatively … especially if you’re a woman.
Try your best to blend in as a local, and for that, once again, we recommend learning a bit of the local language before you leave for your trip.
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