Top 10 safety tips for solo travelers - Page 3

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on June 11, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Sarah Pascarella, solo travel, vacation package, women's travel.

"Don't ever stay in a ground floor hotel room where windows and doors are accessible to the street, or rooms near the elevator or fire stairs—they tend to get burglarized more often," says McGoey. He also recommends traveling with rubber door wedges. "Stick that under your door, because keys are everywhere. Or, we'll put luggage or a chair in front of the door so we don't get surprised in the middle of the night."

While it's always a good idea to leave your valuables at home, if you do need to bring them, take advantage of the room or property safe—or be creative. "Housekeepers in foreign countries talk a lot ... Never leave anything out that the hotel staff can see," says Rose. "When I do leave things in my hotel room, I'll put [them] in places where no one would look for them, such as my camera in the bread box. I'll also leave something in front of the door so if [it was] knocked over ... I'd know someone had been there and been in my stuff." Rose typically chooses something small, like pens, to leave out. This way, the intruder might not notice things had been moved, but she would.

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"Always put a 'do not disturb' sign on your door when you leave," says McGoey. "That way people will think your room is occupied and won't try anything."

7. Make copies of everything

It's a simple rule, but a wise one: When traveling anywhere, it's smart to make copies of your passport, travel itinerary and tickets, credit cards, driver's license, and other pertinent paperwork. This can save hours of headaches should your bags get lost or stolen.

"Make triple copies of everything, including the front and back [of each card]," recommends Rose. "Stick them in different bags and places, so when you go to the embassy you have all that information. I save all the 800 numbers for banks, my airline, and embassies of where I am so if anything happens I know exactly who to call."

8. Notify others of your whereabouts

As a solo traveler, the idea of total freedom—your whims being your only guide—can be very romantic. But not telling anyone your plans can be foolish, should you find yourself in danger. Keep a few people in the know, both pre-departure and during your vacation, just in case.

"Let people know when you expect to return, where you expect to go," says Alexander. "Leave a trail so if for some reason you do not appear, people will have a way to find you."

9. Make some new (carefully screened) friends

"Traveling alone makes one more sociable," says Page. "I'd stake out a comfortable chair in my hostel's common room, and find someone to chat with. Usually, when traveling, you will be among friends."

Even though you'll be on your own, there's truth to safety in numbers. Sometimes, you may want to seek out a few others if you're feeling ill at ease.

"One time in Nairobi I was walking along and noticed someone lurking nearby," says Rose. She approached a British couple who were walking near her, introduced herself, and mentioned the lurker, then asked if they wouldn't mind walking with her for awhile. "They said, 'of course, stick with us,' and I started walking with three other people. The second that guy saw me meet up with someone, he went away ... Don't be hesitant to just walk up and say 'help me,' and [people] normally will. The way I see it, if it comes down to being mugged or being embarrassed, go with being embarrassed."

10. Do the "mom" test

As a solo traveler, always be in tune with your instincts. If you think a situation is bad, it probably is. Don't be rash or foolish.

"Assess the situation," says Rose. If she can say, 'my mother would be so disappointed in me right now because I'm taking an unnecessary risk,' she'll decide to change her behavior. Before you put yourself in a potentially bad situation, think of the consequences. Would your mom approve or disapprove?

And remember, solo travel can be rewarding, provided you're on your toes. Don't let fear deny you the experience of a lifetime.

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