Solo travel can be exhilarating, freeing, and helpful in learning new things about yourself. But solo travelers, especially females, can also be more vulnerable while alone on the road. We spoke to some solo women travel experts who shared their top mistakes to avoid when traveling alone.
Arriving in a New Location During Off-Hours
Taking a flight that gets in at 3:00 a.m. may be cheaper, but do you really want to arrive in an unfamiliar city for the first time when the streets are dark and empty? Janice Waugh, Solo Traveler, says, “Arriving in daylight makes it easier to find your accommodation and gives you time to change it if you find that it is unsuitable.”
Choose your outfits wisely, and try to err on the side of conservatism. Research your destination and find out if it’s taboo to have uncovered shoulders, etc., and dress appropriately. Not only will you be showing respect for other cultures, but you’ll be drawing less attention to yourself by blending in.
Not Having a Backup Plan
Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman, says, “It’s very important [for me] to have a good backup plan if I am robbed or if I lose my credit cards. Here is one of my best tricks. Save your empty vitamin pill bottles; generally you can’t see through these. Roll up five twenty dollar bills, put them into the bottle and add some old loose pills. If you shake this bottle it still sounds like a pill bottle and nobody would consider looking into it for money. You can leave this bottle in your backpack, your hotel room or in your cosmetic case. The contents remain safe and ready for you should you need it.” Also, be sure to scan a copy of your passport and other important documents and email them to yourself. This way you’ll have access to your information in case it’s stolen.
Assuming Other Women Are Safe
Jancie Waugh writes, “Women often feel safer with other women. And, when it comes to small-time danger, we probably are. But there are also dangerous women who are just as capable of luring you into bad situations as men. Be cautious.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make new friends on the road—just be alert for potential scams and dangers, especially when you first meet someone.
Telling People Where You’re Staying
Whether you’re filling out a form that asks for the address of where you’re staying, asking for directions, or just making conversation, be sure to guard the location of your accommodation from prying eyes. Try not to let on that you’re staying alone, as well. (Hey, we’ve all seen Taken, right? Never share a cab to a hotel with a stranger either!)
Taking an Unlicensed Cab
Taxis have licenses for a reason—you’re getting in a car alone with a stranger. Don’t be tempted by illegal cabs, even if they’re cheaper. Ask your hotel to hail or call you a cab when going out, and ask the concierge for the number of a reputable agency you can call to take you home. If you’re using a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft, always check the license plate number and confirm the name of your driver before getting in the vehicle.
Wearing Flashy Jewelry
Sure, you want to look cute while on vacation. But leave the shiny stuff at home—even if it’s costume jewelry. You don’t want to seem like a wealthy target.
Answering Your Hotel Door
Whether it’s someone claiming to be hotel maintenance, room service (that you didn’t order), or even housekeeping, don’t open your hotel door when you’re alone in the room (especially without checking the peephole first). If there’s someone telling you about an emergency or a maintenance issue and they need access to your room, be sure to call down to the hotel’s front desk to verify their story.
Accepting Food/Drink from Strangers
“Accepting food from strangers is not always the right thing to do,” says Hannon. “Picture this. You are traveling solo on an overnight train in Europe. The young couple seated beside you are very chatty and offer lots of good advice about what to do at your destination. They unpack a wonderful picnic of sausage, cheese, fresh bread and wine. The aromas are so enticing, they offer to share their food and wine. You’re thinking, ‘This is what European travel is all about.’ Again, evaluate very carefully before you partake. Understand that drugging is always a possibility. You don’t want to wake up to find your friendly neighbors gone along with all your belongings.”
Letting Fear Hold You Back
We’re not trying to scare you off solo travel. Just be careful. Laura Walker, A Wandering Sole, says, “Do your research and don’t be afraid to engage locals. People were worried when I told them I was going to Jordan and Rwanda. Jordan happens to be one of the safest countries in the world and is safer than virtually all large cities in America. Rwanda also is extremely safe and I never felt in danger in either of these countries. Don’t get me wrong, I take standard precautions, but I don’t let fear or inaccurate information prevent me from traveling and enjoying myself. Do your research and go with an open mind. I have found that locals want you, as a visitor, to enjoy their country, and you should ask them for the most up-to-date information on any safety issues.”
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 10 Best Solo Vacations for 2019
- The 27 Best Apps for Solo Travelers
- 7 Things to Hate About Solo Travel (Even Though They’ll Make You a Better Traveler)
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.