This week, I’m giving you my top solo travel safety tips. These tips apply to anyone, but especially to women and other at-risk minority groups who want to stay safe while travelling solo.
If you know me, you’ll know I always say that going solo is the best way to travel. There are some experiences that you just don’t get when you travel with friends or in a group.
For one, travelling alone practically forces you to get out of your comfort zone, talk to strangers, and say yes to everything. This inevitably leads to trips and experiences you never would have had otherwise. For another, you get to do whatever you want to do, 100% of the time. (I’m not saying there’s no fun in compromise, but you should travel alone at least once in your life, just to see what it’s like.)
As someone who lived a quiet, anxious life until their mid-twenties, I also find solo travel incredibly empowering. I have ended up doing things I never thought I could, and tackling obstacles I never thought I’d have the strength to overcome.
Of course, solo travel does come with its risks, especially if you are part of an at-risk minority group. It’s a good idea to set off armed with a bunch of solo travel safety tips, so you know what to do when something goes wrong.
In this article, I’ll be sharing some of the solo travel safety tips I’ve gathered over the years, (some which I’ve found helpful, and some I’ve learned the hard way). Some of these tips are more specific to more dangerous countries, but it’s good to exercise caution whenever you’re away from home, even if you’re in a really safe place.
💡 I’m going a little more specific than your generic advice article, but that doesn’t mean those articles aren’t worth following! It is essential to get travel insurance, exercise caution and get all of the appropriate vaccinations before travel. It’s also a good idea to use an anti-theft bag and wallet, keep your valuables separated (so you can’t lose them all at once!) and think twice before you drink tap water or eat street food.
Here are some solo travel safety tips you might not have thought of!
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by Lauz Explores
Solo Travel Safety Tip #1 – Familiarise yourself with the ‘Dodgy Areas’
Pretty much every city is going to have good neighbourhoods and bad neighbourhoods. Pretty much every country will have good cities and bad cities. It’s a part of life and the world and its wonderful diversity, but it does mean that exercising a little caution will come in handy.
You could research a city and see that it’s reasonably safe, only to book your accommodation in the one bad area of that city! You can often find information from locals or people who’ve been there on smaller, personal travel blogs and also forum websites like Reddit and Quora.
Personally, I tend not to trust larger websites to tell you where it is safe to stay. Unfortunately, some of these websites are more interested in making money from hotels that pay them for links and adverts than they are in giving honest information.
Solo Travel Safety Tip #2 – Take a Backup Phone
This one sounds a bit extra, and it might just be me, but having two phones with me when I’m travelling always helps me to feel safe. I have a really crappy old phone that used to be my dad’s (sorry dad) which I carry everywhere with me when I’m travelling. If I have to buy a foreign SIM card, I will usually put it in this second phone so that I can keep my usual phone number in my regular phone.
As well as a back-up in case one gets lost, you can also give it to a mugger or attacker if you’re being threatened. This is very worst-case-scenario, but worth thinking about when you’re travelling in more dangerous places.
Solo Travel Safety Tip #3 – Take a Doorstop or Door-Locker
You can get special devices that lock hotel room doors from the inside. I’ve never tried one, but they look pretty handy. I don’t know if this makes ANY sense at all, but I always feel much safer in a hostel dorm room than in a hotel. I think I feel much more alone in a hotel, especially a big one with endless corridors.
So, despite that I’ll happily sleep in a room full of people that I don’t know, if I’m in a hotel room alone I will take a doorstop and shove it hard underneath the door from the inside.
The devices that you can buy on amazon to lock a door probably do a much better job at this, and they only cost 10-15 €, so you’re probably better off with one of those than my foolish doorstop hack! Besides, they are much slimmer, saving precious room in your rucksack.
Solo Travel Safety Tip #4 – Make Sure Someone Knows Where You Are
If you’re going on a solo adventure, always make sure that somebody knows where you’re going. That could be a friend or bunkmate in the hostel, or if you’re totally new and haven’t made friends yet, just casually mention where you’re off to to a receptionist or staff member.
As a slightly over-cautious traveller, I usually try to keep my family updated on my location and what I’m doing. Yes, they are on the other side of the world. No, they can’t come and save me if I get kidnapped. But, if something does go wrong, at least they have that information to help track me down if I’m lost or in need of some help.
Solo Travel Safety Tip #5 – Blend In With the Locals
Now, I really hate this one, because I feel like it’s a bit victim-shaming. Of course, if something bad happens to you it is NEVER your fault, no matter what you were doing. However, it is usually a good idea to respect local customs (e.g. cover shoulders/legs/cleavage if that is customary) and not wear anything too flashy.
I love wearing jewellery, but realised I’d made a huge mistake when I had a bracelet taken straight from my wrist in a crowd when I was backpacking in Mexico. Next time I go travelling, I’ll be leaving the shiny stuff at home and decorating myself with cute beachy-vibes jewellery that can be replaced with 5€ and a trip to a tourist shop!
Solo Travel Safety Tip #6 – Trust Your Instincts
As nice as it is to assume that people are going to be nice, it’s important to keep your wits about you. If someone is giving you a strange vibe, be careful! Now, I’m not saying don’t be nice (being kind to the odd-ones-out is a wonderful quality in a person), but trust your instincts and don’t divulge any personal information.
This is key: even in a polite way, don’t tell them where you’re planning to travel next! There’s nothing wrong with lying when it comes to your personal safety. I once told someone a bit strange where I was travelling to next, out of politeness, because he asked. And – what do you know – he turned up at my next hostel a few days later. Creep alert! Luckily I was travelling with a friend I’d met at my previous stop and we managed to steer clear of him.
To conclude: I hope this hasn’t put you off solo travel! I hope these solo travel safety tips are empowering, and make you realise that you can go anywhere you want, on your own, and stay safe while you’re at it.