How to Stay Safe While Traveling Solo
I was very saddened upon hearing the news of a 25-year old girl who was killed in Costa Rica on the first week of her first solo trip. Not only was I upset that this had occurred during her very first solo trip, but it also really saddened me that the responses throughout various articles all shared similar sentiments, “Well, she shouldn’t have been traveling alone in the first place.” I could not disagree more.
Given that I strongly advocate traveling solo, I felt that it was important for me to address the issue of safety as a female solo traveler because it is the biggest concern I hear from individuals and their families regarding solo travel.
I started traveling alone at the age of 18 and at this point have traveled to close to 25 countries alone. This does not in any way mean that I am unsusceptible to crime while abroad, but it does mean that through the years I have learned various tactics to minimize my risk while traveling alone. I firmly believe that unfortunate things can happen anywhere in the world, and it is more important for the individual to mitigate their risk wherever possible.
From my 10 years of solo traveling experience thus far, I have compiled my top recommendations for minimizing your safety risk while traveling alone. My hope by sharing these recommendations is not that you walk around fearful that something bad is going to occur, but rather, prepare you so that you are confident that you are well equipped and have minimized your risk as much as possible.
Top 10 Safety Tips While Traveling Solo
1. Never tell strangers you are traveling solo
I know your first instinct while traveling alone may be to share with people you meet along the way that you are traveling solo, because let’s face it, it is an exciting experience, but I highly recommend you keep this information to yourself.
If you are riding in an uber/taxi, never share your travel plans or that you are traveling alone. If the drivers pry, you can always lie about your travel plans and/or tell them you are meeting someone at your drop-off location.
On a solo trip to Copenhagen, I got very comfortable in a conversation with my uber driver. He was young, super friendly, and we were having a great conversation. At the end of my ride, when he was dropping me off at my Airbnb, I panicked because I realized I had just given my exact travel dates and details without even realizing it. Luckily, nothing happened to me, but I will admit that I could not sleep that night and walked around nervous the entire next day because I knew that I had put myself at a tremendous risk. Avoid this completely, and do not share personal information or travel details with anyone who is not part of your travel group.
Similarly with hotels and Airbnbs, if possible, book for 2 adults instead of specifying 1. Usually, prices should remain the same, as 2 adults is standard.
2. Never geotag locations in real-time
In an age of documenting our entire lives on social media, it is easy for us to share exactly what we are doing in real-time without thinking twice about it. But doing so puts you at a tremendous risk while traveling alone. Wait to geotag your location until you have left to a new location.
Another way to mitigate your risk and equally enjoy your travels real-time is to capture your footage for the day and wait to post it all the following day.
3. Always be aware of your surroundings
I don’t want you to walk around paranoid and skeptical of every person you encounter, but do always maintain a level of awareness of your surroundings. Every once in a while glance to see if you notice someone following you or just be observant of body language.
If you are walking into a touristy place, be aware of your belongings. During my first trip to Paris I was so entranced by my first glance of the Eiffel Tower that when a young man asked me to take a picture for him I didn’t even notice his friend already had his hand deep in my purse. Thankfully, my friend was traveling with me at the time and she pushed and yelled at him and they ran away without actually stealing anything. That was my learning experience to always remain attentive and aware of my surroundings, especially in touristy spots.
I know this tip may be a little challenging when you first start out, but honestly the more you travel solo, the more this ability will strengthen. You will develop a heightened sense of awareness and will be able to trust your instinct when something doesn’t feel right.
4. Walk with a purpose
Even if this is your first time in a destination, walk through this city like you know your way around. People can sense confidence just as easily as people can detect fear.
Prepare yourself as much as possible before you get off the plane and research what mode of transportation you need to take to get to your accommodation so that you aren’t wandering aimlessly in the airport and making yourself a target.
If you are heading out for the day, get a general sense of the lay of the land by looking over a map or at least having a general idea for how you plan to move around.
If you happen to get lost, do not panic. Regroup yourself and head to a discrete location (if possible) to look at your map or ask an established business for directions. Again, do not volunteer information that you are traveling alone and lost, simply ask for directions or tell them that you are meeting a friend at this destination.
5. Allow your emergency contact(s) access to your location on “Find My Friends”
Because you won’t be sharing your geotag location on social media real-time, I highly suggest sharing your location on the iOS app “Find My Friends” with your close family and/or friends. This will allow your close contacts to know where you are, especially useful if you will not be checking in with them daily. Within the app, you will have the flexibility to choose who you share your location with and for what duration.
For specific instructions on how to setup “Find My Friends” click here.
6. Stay in contact through an unlimited data plan like T-Mobile’s
One of the most useful things while I am traveling is my unlimited international data coverage from T-Mobile. T-Mobile ONE, Simple Choice, New Classic and Select Choice plans include unlimited texting and data in over 210 countries/territories at no extra cost.
I cannot tell you how valuable this has been while traveling because I have peace of mind that I can always access my maps and am able to contact people if an emergency were to occur.
If you do use T-Mobile’s data while abroad, just be sure to head to your settings and turn OFF Wifi-Assist (on iPhones: Settings > Cellular OR Settings > Mobile Data) so that if you are ever in regions where T-Mobile does not have free data, you are not automatically pulling data while on wifi and end up with a surprising astronomical fee!
7. Research what neighborhoods you should avoid ahead of time
Before booking an accommodation or heading out to explore a city, be sure to read up on the neighborhoods. You will almost always find information on what neighborhoods are less safe or what areas may be in turmoil at the time. If I have friends living in a certain city, I often ask them what areas of town I should avoid.
8. Try to avoid pre-sunrise flights if at all possible
This is something I had never ever thought about until this last year. But after a couple of 6am flights, my dad actually recommended I start booking flights later in the morning or later in the day versus my norm of booking the very first flight of the morning. The reason being that most often for the first flights of the day, you will be heading to the airport around 3am when it is still completely dark and when the least amount of people are awake and out in the streets. In addition, during these hours, public transportation is often not running, so you are usually limited on transportation options.
9. Use extra caution if you are going to go drinking alone at night
I know people argue either way of whether they think it’s a good idea to go out drinking while traveling solo, so I am not here to tell you what is best for you, but I will stress that if you do, be extra cautious.
Personally, I only go out drinking/dancing while traveling solo if I have made friends at my hostel or in tour groups or if friends have put me in touch with their friends living in that city. I would never go out drinking completely alone in NYC where I live, so I also do not do that when I am traveling alone. I think my awareness decreases once I am drinking, so personally I don’t like putting myself in these situations if I don’t have someone I trust.
That being said, there are people that fully support going out on your own at night. If you are someone that wants to go to a bar and just meet people there, just be cautious as you would doing the same in your own hometown.
10. Trust your instincts
We have all had experiences where something just felt off. Whether you noticed a small change in a person’s voice or body language, or the road just got a little too desolate, do not ever ignore that instinct. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Take the uber ride if you feel unsafe walking in a certain part of the city or a certain time of day. No amount of money is worth your safety, so if you feel like something is off, it is always better to spend a few extra dollars than to be stingy and risk your safety.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Again, I want to stress that this list should not make you fearful of traveling alone. On the contrary, I want you to be aware of times where you may be unknowingly putting yourself at risk, and prepare you with concrete tips so that when you do travel alone, you feel confident that you have minimized your safety risks and can enjoy yourself on your trip! Some of my best trips have been traveling solo, so I hope that you are able to experience that at least once in your life!
I would love to hear if you have any additional tips you have found helpful during your travels! Feel free to share them with everyone below.
Til next time!
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