Fears for your safety as a solo traveler can often be a deterrent to leaving home and exploring the world. For many places in the world, safety is a concern, but if you take some sensible precautions, most of the world can be explored safely.
Here are some things you can do to minimize problems.
1. Always make sure someone at home knows where you are and where you plan to be at all times. Give them a copy of your itinerary and check in with them frequently.
2. Make sure your cell phone will make international calls and has text capability. Most international phone plans have unlimited texting. Use texting to stay in touch with people at home and let them know if you plan to make any deviations from your itinerary.
3. Check the State Department website for any travel alerts before you leave home. Some parts of the country may be perfectly safe, but others may not. Research your destination so you know what neighborhoods are safe and whether the safety situation changes after dark.
4. Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk around with headphones on. They can block sounds that can alert you to danger. Likewise, keeping your face buried in your camera can also leave you oblivious to danger around you.
5. Keep passports, extra cash and credit cards in a pouch under your clothes where it can’t be easily stolen. Never leave your passport in your room or in checked luggage. Make sure you have copies of your passport in various places like Dropbox or another cloud-based service. Make sure someone at home has a copy as well. If you lose your passport it is much easier to replace if you have a copy of it. Keep extra cash and a credit card in a separate, secret location like in a sock in your luggage or at the hotel. If your purse or backpack is stolen, you won’t have lost all your resources.
6. Study local customs before you leave home. Many Muslim countries require females to wear certain types of clothing. Even though you may object, defying these customs won’t change anything and will just place you in potential danger. Try to blend in and don’t dress like a tourist. If you are in a country where you can’t pass as a native, at least try to look and act like someone who has lived there for many years.
7. Although part of the joy of traveling is strolling through the city and finding new out-of-the-way shops or restaurants, be sensible. Don’t wander off the beaten path after dark. If you do, walk purposefully like you know where you are and where you are going. Don’t make it obvious that you are a tourist and new to the area. If you need to consult a map (and you should always have a good map), go into a shop or restaurant to get your bearings. Don’t just stand on the street with a map looking lost.
8. Know the location of the closest embassy or consulate. If you are going to be somewhere for an extended time, you may want to check in with the embassy so they know you are in the country.
9. Stay sober and alert. Like anywhere else, keep an eye on your drinks if you are in a bar to make sure no one is tampering with them.
10. Don’t reveal your hotel information to anyone and be mindful of the personal information you share with the people you meet. Many people are genuinely friendly, but others are looking to scam tourists.
11. Take care in selecting your hotel. Saving a few dollars is not worth your life. Make sure your hotel is in a well-traveled, central location. Know how you are going to get there. Get a business card from the hotel to make sure you have its address to give to taxi drivers in case there are language issues. Use an alarmed doorstop to help make sure no one can enter your hotel room. Don’t just rely on the locks on the door.
12. Purchase travel insurance to cover any medical expenses that might occur while you travel.
13. Don’t bring valuables with you. Don’t flash large amounts of cash or wear expensive jewelry. That will just make you a target for thieves. Carry the minimum amount of items you need for the day. Wear purses crossbody if possible to deter purse snatching and keep all pockets closed and zipped. Don’t keep valuables in the outside pockets where they are easily stolen, keep them in pockets closest to your body.
14. Listen to your instincts. Most of the time, they will let you know something is wrong. Don’t ignore them.
Don’t let your fears keep you home. If you are foolish, you can probably get in trouble as easily in your hometown as in a foreign town.
If you have other tips for safety as a solo traveler, feel free to share in the comments below.