In the first Traveling Fearlessly post, I asked people to tell me what they wanted to know about traveling solo. Many of you wrote to ask about staying safe while traveling solo. Both men and women asked for this. This post will cover my tips on staying safe while traveling solo. I have put every one of these into practice, and it has helped me feel safe on all my trips and nothing has happened to me.
1. Be Confident
This is the simplest thing you can do while traveling. Appearing confident discourages people from picking you out as a potential victim. When you look confused, some evil people will want to prey on you, and you may let them because you aren’t confident.
Plan how you will get from the airport to your hotel. Appearing confident will deter people from harassing you for a taxi at the airport. You will be confident if you know that you plan to take the train and where to get it from or if you do plan to take a taxi and know where the official taxi line is. If for some reason you cannot find your planned transportation, go to the information desk. They will help you find your way to the official everything!
Research the area your hotel is located it. If you think the price is too good to be true, there may be a reason why. The neighborhood may not be safe or is dead quiet at night. Quiet may seem good, but not if you are coming back at night you may be alone. Having people around doesn’t guarantee safety, but it helps. Reviews may tell you this information. It may even be possible to find out whether or not the street is lit well at night in online reviews. This helps you to be confident! You can also research the sites you are visiting to know what frequently happens there. I know that a coworker had her passport stolen at the Rome Colosseum and I was extra cautious there.
Ask the clerk to write down your hotel room number and not say it out loud. No one besides you and the hotel needs to know your room number. Most hotels in the U.S. do this now, but not always overseas. Keep an eye your bags. I have refused to let bellhops take my bags into the hotel if they are not in hotel uniform or just give me bad vibes. Don’t be afraid of appearing rude, you are protecting yourself and your belongings. Be confident!
5. In the hotel room
Always lock the door with the extra lock and the chain, if there is one. They make portable door stops with alarms that you may consider buying. I will be buying one after this trip to Egypt where the locks on two of my hotels only had push button locks. A regular doorstop can also work. Close the door and push the doorstop under the door. This will make it very hard to open the door. Keep your valuables locked in the in-room safe. If it won’t hold them, put them in the hotel safe. If your hotel has neither, make sure you lock your suitcases and take the keys with you. If you are worried about thieves slicing open your luggage, consider getting anti-theft luggage, such as Pacsafe, which is made with slash guard fabric.
6. Protecting your stuff out on the town Only take cash enough for the day. This way if your wallet is taken, you won’t have lost all your cash. Make sure you have copies of all your credit cards and passport in your luggage. I like to take photos and send them to myself via email. Don’t flash you money and credit cards around, as this will make you a target. Put away expensive camera gear when you are not using it. Once I am done taking photos, I put the camera in my bag. It is a pain, but I am less of a target this way. Do not wear expensive jewelry. It also makes you a target. Ladies, if you are carrying a handbag, carry it on the opposite side of the street so that it can’t be grabbed by a passing motorist. Do not carry anything in your pockets. This is something even I have to remember, as I like to carry my cell phone in my pocket. Men, carry your wallets in an inside jacket pocket or at least in a front pocket that you can keep your hand on. Keep your possessions in sight while eating out. When I travel alone, I take everything with me while going to the bathroom at restaurants. I tell the waiter, so they don’t think I have run off without paying the bill.
7. Protecting yourself out on the town
Never tell a stranger you are traveling alone. This may make you a target. I have lied many times about a husband or friend that doesn’t exist. Never tell anyone where you are staying. Walk with confidence! Don’t spend too much time on the street looking at maps or your phone. People will know you are lost and may take advantage. Women, if a man comes and grabs your arm to take you into a shop, don’t be afraid to make a scene. Sometimes they are harmless but seem to think it is okay to touch Western women. Men, if women approach you in bars and seem too friendly, be aware. This seems to be a ploy in some countries where prostitution is popular. Both women and men, need to watch their drinks while out. This goes for non-alcoholic drinks too. If you leave it for any amount of time, do not drink it! It could be drugged leaving you a target for violence or being mugged. Don’t drink to much either. If you are going out at night, know how to get back to your hotel and don’t stay out late. If you are staying in a hostel, go with a group or, at least, tell the hostel what time you should be back. This way someone will know when to expect you. I am not sure if a hotel would do this, so I frequently check-in with family back home while traveling. Most importantly, trust your instinct, leave the area you are in if you are not comfortable.
8. Blend in
Don’t stand out. Don’t wear white sneakers and logo t-shirts. I try not to carry a backpack unless it is absolutely necessary. I carry a regular handbag so that I don’t look like a tourist. If the locals wear mostly black, wear black or neutral colors. In Paris, I wore a scarf every day. In the Middle East, I stand out no matter what, but I covered myself appropriately and did not draw attention to myself by being loud.
9. Learn some of the local language
I have learned that knowing some of the local language gains you respect and that alone may deter the petty thief or harasser. It also helps if you need help. It may take you a day or two to be comfortable doing this, but make the effort to say please and thank you in the local language.
10. Have a plan in case of emergency
This may sound like I am being too cautious, but it is part of being prepared. Give your family or friends your travel plans. Know where your local Embassy is and what their phone number is. If you are American, you can register with the Embassy in advance of your travels, so they know you are there. Know where the hospital/pharmacy is if you get sick frequently. This way if something does happen, you know what you can do.
Be confident! Traveling solo does not have to be scary and is very fun. What tips do you have for staying safe while traveling? Share with us in the comments.
Stay tuned for next month’s Traveling Fearlessly post on the last Friday of the month. What do you want to read about?