Keeping Safe While Travelling Solo
While travelling alone can seem daunting and downright scary, it’s an opportunity to discover people and places you might otherwise never get the chance to know if you wait until you have a like-minded companion to go with. Travelling alone gives you the freedom to explore your interests at your own pace without worrying about what the other members in your party would rather be doing or if they are having a good time. You also get the chance to learn and discover things about yourself that you may not have known. While travelling alone has a tremendous number of benefits, it also comes with the increased responsibility of keeping yourself safe.
Here are some things to keep in mind before heading off solo:
While you will undoubtedly research your destination before packing your suitcase, you should delve a little deeper than just looking at hotels and sights to see. Especially if you are travelling abroad, you need to pay attention to things like customs and forms of dress, civil or government unrest in the area you are visiting, the neighbourhood where your hotel is located and criminal activity in the area. Check to see if there are any travel advice or warnings you should know about, local emergency numbers and the locations of embassies and hospitals.
Check with your mobile phone provider about service in the places you will be visiting. Another option is to rent or purchase a temporary phone. Leave a copy of your itinerary at home with a friend or family member and check in with them by phone, email or social media, especially if your plans change. Be aware of sensitive information you are sharing at an internet café as these networks are generally not secure.
Don’t Stand Out
Don’t draw attention to yourself as a tourist. Avoid flashy clothing and jewellery. Be aware of religious views and what types of clothing are frowned upon, especially for women. Avoid sneakers and open-toe shoes. Unless you are backpacking, leave the backpack at home or at the hotel. Nothing screams tourist more than a camera slung around your neck so unless you are a working photographer, put the camera away after snapping that picture. Avoid walking around with your nose buried in a map or guide book and if asking for directions, never let on that you are travelling alone. In fact, it’s best to enter a business and ask for directions rather than approaching someone on the street. Exude confidence and walk with purpose.
Money and Important Documents
Carry identification in more than one place. Make copies of your important documents, such as passports, credit and debit cards in case these items become lost or stolen. Keep a set of these at home with a trusted friend or family member and keep a set with you but separate from the original documents. Certainly don’t store these items and all of your cash in a purse or pocket that can easily be picked by a professional. Consider a money belt that can be hidden under clothing. Use the hotel safe to keep your passport under lock and key. If you are accosted by a mugger, it’s best to let them have your phone or wallet. Save self-defence moves for life-threatening emergencies only.
While this may not sound like a whole lot of fun, it’s in your best interest to not overindulge. Avoid mixed drinks, especially in developing countries, that can be spiked with drugs or deadly substances. Opt for bottled brews and never leave a drink unattended. If you are female, wearing flat shoes can keep you from a face plant on a cobblestoned street in the event you do get a bit tipsy.
A lot of people feel anxiety about dining out alone. If you are one of them, consider a seat at the bar or counter or at an outside table where you can people watch or read a book. A restaurant booth offers privacy or you can opt for takeaway or room service at your hotel. Chat with the waiters. They can be great sources of information for off the beaten track places to visit.
More Tips for Women
Use your judgement. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! Be aware of your surroundings, use common sense and be street smart. Look like you know where you are going. Keep to open, public spaces, particularly at night. Avoid sleeping in empty train compartments. Learn how to deal with European men and unwanted advances. Dress modestly and consider wearing a (real or fake) wedding ring. Think this way, if you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it at home, don’t do it abroad.
Travelling alone has so many wonderful benefits and with a few precautions and some pre-trip research, it can be totally safe as well. There are many resources available online for the single traveller in the form of books and blogs written by people just like you who have taken life by the reigns and explored the vast reaches of the world. By keeping these tips in mind, you can start planning your own solo adventure.