After travelling solo for over 8 years’ I’m a firm believer that travelling solo is one of the best ways to learn about yourself, build confidence and see the world.
But travelling solo also comes with its own challenges, and fears while you are off having amazing experiences, especially in regards to safety.
It’s impossible to ever guarantee your own safety no matter where you are or what you are doing but there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Here are some helpful tips to stay safe when you travel solo for your next trip.
Make Copies of Your Travel Documents
If you have ever lost your passport overseas like I have you will know what an absolute nightmare it can be. It can be really hard, and time-consuming to get your passport or other travel documents replaced or even continue your travel.
Hands up who has got stuck overseas and been unable to continue with their trip — or get home (me!!!…twice). It’s not good times.
Having digital and physical copies of your important travel documents especially your passport, visa or residency cards needed for travel and ID cards will just make it a lot easier to get help from your local embassy and organize replacement documents.
Save copies of all these documents digitally somewhere other than just your phone like a Google Drive or One Drive folder so that you can easily access them regardless of whether you have your phone or not.
Also, include a copy of your proof of vaccination, and your latest COVID test just in case you need it at any point.
Let Someone Know Your Travel Plans
Regardless of whether you are exploring locally, going away for a few days or heading overseas, let someone know your plans.
Tell at least one person where you will be and when as well as details of where you are staying in each place. Then keep people updated on your travels.
Put at least one emergency contact on your phone just in case.
Research Your Destinations
This is a pretty obvious one, and something you will probably do anyway when you plan your travels. But when you do your research, also find out things like any cultural beliefs towards women, any topics that could be sensitive or off-limits to local people and any crime rates or issues to be aware.
If you go to a destination well informed, it will be way easier to stay street smart when you know what to look out for. For instance, if you know that a place is known for having lots of pickpockets you will probably be especially careful with your belongings.
Get Travel Insurance
After taking a few trips with no travel insurance and encountering issues with out of pocket expenses I encourage you to get travel insurance, especially for bigger trips. It will give you both medical and travel protection just in case of an emergency.
Avoid Potentially Dangerous Areas
The last thing you want is to end up in a rough neighbourhood or potentially dangerous area — especially at night. I know first-hand that it can be pretty scary to realize you’re in a sketchy part of town, especially after a few drinks. So when you do the research on your destination, find out if there are any areas, neighbourhoods or streets that you should steer clear of.
Avoid Traveling at Night
It can get a little intimidating being out at night time after dark, especially if you are a solo traveller. I always feel a little more vulnerable at night.
Generally, it’s ok to visit areas at night time where there are lots of other visitors and locals but be smart about it. For instance, use a licensed taxi to get back to your hotel rather than walk unless it is literally next door.
It can be tempting to use overnight transport, but there is a higher risk of crime than travelling during the day so stick to daytime transport to be on the safe side.
Be Alert & Fake Confidence
Fake it till you make it will help keep you safe because criminals are more likely to target someone who seems unsure or vulnerable. So walk with your head held high, and look as confident as possible even if you have no clue where you are.
Stay alert and aware of everything around you. If anything feels off or anyone seems dangerous, try to get out of the situation and that location as quickly as possible.
Thieves and criminals will usually target those who look the most vulnerable, so try to walk and appear as confident as possible, even if you are lost. Be aware of your surroundings, and if something feels wrong or you are getting a bad vibe from someone you are speaking with, find a way out of that situation.
Keep Valuables Hidden
Unfortunately, most tourist areas will have thieves and pickpockets, and they will target people with expensive cameras or jewellery etc. You can minimize the risk of being targeted by keeping your gadgets and expensive items hidden away unless you are using them.
Always pay attention and also have your iPhone securely hidden away when you are not using it. Thieves and pickpockets will grab it out of your hands if you are not paying attention, particularly in bigger cities like London, or New York.
Make Friends with Hotel Staff
Your hotel staff will be local people who know the area you are staying in so it’s a good idea to ask them for recommendations on places to go as well as what areas to avoid.
Make hotel staff aware in advance that you are travelling solo, and let them know when you are leaving the hotel to explore and when you expect to be back.
Keep Emergency Numbers in Your Phone
Depending on where you are travelling it isn’t essential to have an international phone plan. But a local SIM card that is pay as you go on a cheap unlocked phone that you don’t care about can be helpful.
Regardless put local emergency numbers on your phone for police and ambulance so that you can quickly call for help if you need to.
Also put the numbers for your travel insurance helpline, your local embassy and your accommodation on your phone.
Don’t Let Music Distract You
One of my favourite things to do when I travel or walkabout is to put headphones in and listen to music. But it isn’t very street smart.
Drifting off into your own world, distracted by your music and unable to hear what is going on around you could put you at risk unintentionally. It’s really important to stay alert and able to hear as well as see what is going on around you.
If you listen to Bradley Cooper’s subway story with his headphones in, it’s a cautionary tale of not getting too comfortable in your surroundings.
Use cheap earbud headphones for travel rather than visibly expensive ones which could attract criminals.
Learn Emergency Phrases
If you are in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language it isn’t essential to be fluent in that language.
But learning some basic emergency phrases means you will be able to tell local people if there is an emergency and you need help. Criminals will try to isolate you, so be ready to ask a stranger for help if necessary.
In addition to emergency phrases, learn some basic key phrases too in the local language as it will be way easier to do basic things like order food or ask for a bill. Locals will also appreciate that you are making an effort to communicate with them.
I hope that these 12 tips are helpful. If you have any other top tips for staying safe when you travel, let me know in the comments.
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Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.