Guest blogger Janice Waugh is author of The Solo Traveler's Handbook, now in its 2nd edition, publisher of Solo Traveler, the blog for those who travel alone, and moderator of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook with over 9000 members. She frequently speaks on the joy of traveling solo (including, on notable occasion, at The Smithsonian in Washington).
More and more people are traveling solo and while some go with confidence, others venture out with trepidation. They, family, friends wonder: is it safe?
In my experience, solo travel is just as safe as traveling with friends; you just have to be a bit more wise-to-the-world. You, alone, are responsible for navigating and negotiating unfamiliar territory so, whether the question of safety doesn't enter your mind or you worry about it all the time, a quick read of these solo travel safety tips is worthwhile.
- Know the priorities of safety. Take care of your person, your documents, your money and your stuff—in that order.
- You don't have to plan in detail before leaving but you should know where you're going to stay—at least the first night. Book your accommodation before leaving.
- Plan to arrive during daylight so you're not trying to find your way through an unfamiliar city in the dark.
- Know the value of being seen. A public place is always safer than a private place.
- Be aware of your surroundings and listen to your gut. If something doesn't seem right, get out of there.
- Let your emergency contact at home know where you're staying. They should be aware of your movement from place to place and where you're staying in each destination.
- Don't let people you just met on a day tour or at a bar know where you're staying. Your accommodation should be your safe haven.
- Engage people in your safety. Comment to the person at the hotel's front desk where you're going at night, ask people for directions if you're feeling anxious in a place, make it obvious to your server that you're alone...
- If you need help look around and decide who you want to help you. The chances of choosing the wrong person are far less likely than the wrong person choosing you.
- Sleep well and stay sober so that you are capable of assessing and responding to situations well. Don't let your drink out of sight.
- Walk and act with confidence—like you absolutely know what you're doing and where you're going.
- Be polite but don't let being so compromise your safety. Be rude if necessary.
- Don't wear jewelry, even if it's not expensive. Hold your wallet, camera, mobile securely at all times.
- Keep your passport, plane ticket and extra money hidden on your body or secure in a safe. Keep additional money hidden in your pack—a pill bottle with a few pills in it is excellent for this. Have copies of your documents with you. Also, email scanned copies of your passport, driver's license, health and travel insurance to yourself.
- If you see someone suddenly in need of help, ask someone to go their aid. Don't go yourself and certainly don't go alone.
- Know how to access your government's help in case of an emergency. Most countries have specific sites where you can register your travels and learn how to get help when traveling.
- Pre-program your phone with your personal emergency contact number, accommodation phone number, your government's consulate office and the local emergency number.
- Take out small amounts of cash from ATMs frequently rather than carrying large amounts of cash on you. Carry at least two different credit cards. Advise your financial institutions of your travel plans before leaving.
- Pack light so that you can manage your luggage by yourself with ease. One carry-on, whether it's a suitcase or backpack, will make your life easier than larger pieces. Use a distinctive mark on your luggage other than a name and address tag. Keep your name and address inside your bag for proper identification if needed.
- Carry a small first-air kit, a few feet of duct tape, a safety whistle and an extra padlock with you. These can all come in handy.
Want to be a guest blogger for SmarterTravel? Read up on our Guest Blogger Policy, and then send your story pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Guest blog submission." If we like your idea, we'll ask you to write the post!