Travel is invigorating, exciting, and endlessly inspiring. Seeing the world and understanding how alike we all are at the base level is a life-changing experience. While, in general, traveling is no more dangerous than day-to-day life in your hometown, there are additional safety factors to take into account for solo travel.
Solo travel is one of the most self-indulgent experiences you can do. You get to make all the decisions; eat when and where you want, sleep in or get up early, hit a museum or spend all day lounging on the beach drinking pina colada’s. The choice is yours.
But solo travel is also not for the faint of heart. It can be intimidating to eat alone or need to step outside your comfort zone to initiate a conversation with strangers. However, the rewards are great. Solo travel brings a very special sense of self-awareness that few ever know.
Here are a few great tips on traveling safely out on your own.
Arrange Transport To Your Lodging Ahead Of Time
Some of the biggest scams involve unseemly behavior where travelers congregate. Airport and bus station arrivals and departures are a prime focus for thieves wishing to have you part with your money. It can be incredibly stressful and confusing to arrive in a new town or country and be unsure where you need to go in order to obtain authorized transportation to your hotel or hostel.
By arranging your transportation ahead of time you can know that the beginning of your time in a new spot will go smoothly. Often your hotel, hostel or Airbnb can even make these arrangements for you guaranteeing you’ll be picked up promptly. If for some reason you find yourself without pre-arranged transport, keep your wits about you and ask a uniformed attendant at the desk how to proceed.
Look Like You Live There
In the past, travel advice tended to lean toward “blending in” and looking like a local but let’s be honest. The world is a big place and you are simply not going to look like the locals in most of it. Our best advice, instead, is to look like you live there. Ex-pats live all around the world and even though you may not know where you are going by looking as if you do you can deter many a thief or someone suspecting easy prey.
Walk with a purpose and carry a day bag that isn’t new and doesn’t scream money. It’s preferable to carry bags that are rather used in appearance with no discernible brand labels. Stay off your phone and focus on your surroundings and those around you, not as a means to assume the worst, but simply to keep apprised of action on the street.
Put Away The Maps In Public
On the same note, never pull out your map in public. It is essential to check it out thoroughly before you head out and get a general feel for where you’re heading. If the distance is long it’s most likely necessary to refer back to it but never do so on the street. This screams lost tourist and is a beacon for thieves.
The simple act of appearing confident and looking like you know where you’re going is huge when it comes to exploring safely, especially for solo travel. Take the time to do a bit of research ahead of time. Make sure you have a plan. Certainly you may need to pop into a local restaurant or coffee shop to get your reference points straight once you’ve hit the streets but having a bit of an idea ahead of time of how many blocks to walk before your turn, what major landmarks you might be passing, and so on all come into play to not appearing as a naive tourist.
Trust Your Instincts
Never discount your own personal Spidey sense. If something or someone just doesn’t feel right, the situation is most likely bad. A natural sense of caution is warranted in some cases and if you feel the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck know it is for a reason.
Solo travel does involve a certain amount of risk, as does all traveling, and placing your trust in total strangers is an everyday occurrence and in general works out great. Just be willing to trust your instincts, even at the risk of insulting someone. Better to be safe than sorry.
Protect Your I.D
A great tip for all travelers is to protect your I.D. One excellent start is to scan your passport, credit cards, travel insurance, and all other travel documents. Then, email them to yourself as well as a friend or family member. If you lose any of them or get robbed it is much easier to replace the information if you have a copy of it.
In addition, wear a money belt or use your hotel safe. Make sure to only travel with a day’s expenses when out and about sightseeing. If the worst happens and you get mugged on the subway it is a comfort to know that your passport, credit cards, and other cash are safe and sound.
Have Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is key. Not only does it protect your health and well-being but it generally also covers your possessions. There are a lot of plans out there so take the time to really read through the coverage. Take careful note of what they consider as valid and invalid activities. Some insurers are very stringent and consider walking a dangerous activity. Others cover nearly everything outside true adventure sports such as skydiving.
At the end of the day, whether you arrived at your destination by private jet or on a donkey cart, solo travel is a worthwhile endeavor. By following a few simple rules you can plan on the adventure of a lifetime.