There are few experiences in life more rewarding, exciting, and nerve-wracking than solo travel. It’s an opportunity to develop independence, learn about yourself, explore a new place or culture, and grow in new, unexpected ways.
Despite all the benefits of solo travel, there are still dangers that can affect anyone traveling alone. And unfortunately, women may encounter unique risks that men typically don’t. Keep the following in mind and stay safe to make the most of your next solo adventure:
Do some heavy and thorough research while planning your trip, especially if you are unfamiliar with your destination. Try to answer a few key questions for each stop on your trip:
- What areas of the city or region are safe? What about at night?
- What type of transit is the safest? Bus? Taxi? Walking?
- Have previous solo travelers commented on the safety of that area? What did they say?
- Where are the closest emergency services?
Being prepared and aware can keep you from encountering any dangerous situations in the first place.
2. Find Trustworthy Accommodations
Be sure you feel safe and comfortable in your accommodations. If you choose to book your lodging in advance, look at online reviews to see what other guests have had to say. Even if you are looking to keep costs down, don’t just book the cheapest places. Double-check that they are in a safe neighborhood and that previous guests felt comfortable there. Even millennials and young travelers, notorious for preferring less expensive AirBnBs or dormitory-style hostel rooms to save money, will still book a hotel room for nicer amenities, more privacy, and better safety. Remember, risking your safety is not worth saving money!
3. Pack Smart
Traveling carry-on only is becoming an increasingly popular way to travel. Not only is it easier, less expensive, and more convenient than hauling around several large bags, packing lightly can help keep you safe while you travel. People may think you have a lot of money or valuables if you have a lot of luggage, which makes you an easy target for those who would take advantage of you. If you’re lugging around a ton of your stuff, it’s much more difficult to be aware of your surroundings or get yourself out of a tricky situation. However, don’t just senselessly cram everything into your bag — take some time to pack smart:
- Think carefully about what you want to bring. Make a packing list, do laundry before you start packing, and only bring what you will use and wear.
- Wear your bulkiest, heaviest clothing on the plane. You can always wear and remove layers after you get off the plane, and this will leave more of room in your suitcase for the rest of your belongings (and maybe some souvenirs too!).
- Touch base with your accommodations. See what amenities they offer before you start packing. Even if they only provide basic toiletries or a hairdryer, it can free up a lot of space in your bag.
- Limit the amount of toiletries you bring, particularly if they are liquid. The TSA still has strict restrictions on liquids in place and while some things, such as your contact lens solution or toothpaste, are a necessity, you don’t want to take up precious space with things you may not use.
4. Limit Valuables
An easy way to keep your bags light? Leave your valuables at home. While some items may be a necessity for traveling, like your laptop or nice digital camera, most other electronics, expensive pieces of jewelry, and other valuables can stay behind. By bringing them along, you only increase the risk of losing them or having them stolen. While pickpocketing is not a big threat in the United States, it is still prevalent in other parts of the world. To limit the chance that something is lost or stolen, be sure to keep these items in your room or a locked bag.
5. Be Careful on Social Media
Think twice before posting that Instagram or Snapchat story, especially if your accounts aren’t private. People may see where you are and either attempt to follow you or go back to your accommodations to try to rob you. It sounds far-fetched, but between others being able to see your location and GPS maps that track your location, the risk of social media use is very real. Sites and apps usually have an option to turn off location tracking and GPS tags, but they aren’t always easy to find so proceed with caution. Of course, you should still share your where you go on your adventures with friends, family, and followers if you want to! Just save it for after you’re back home.
6. Stay Healthy
Be sure to do your best to maintain your health while you travel. Between delicious food, hectic travel plans, and late-night drinks, it’s easy to fall behind. And when you feel sick, sluggish, and exhausted, you are more vulnerable to trouble. Health experts at the University of Southern California recommend the following to stay as healthy and safe as possible while traveling:
- Consult with your doctor before you leave to ensure all your medications are in order and that you’ve had any necessary vaccinations.
- Try to move around as much as possible on long train, plane, or bus rides.
- In addition to your prescriptions and other necessary health items, be sure to pack a first-aid kit in your luggage.
Do your best to stay on top of your health needs while enjoying your trip. Accidents and illness can happen anywhere in the world, but if you are alert and prepared, you can avoid many of them.
7. Make Copies of Everything
One of the best ways to protect yourself while you travel is to make copies of all your important documents, including passports, credit cards, driver’s licenses. Leave a copy of the front and backs of everything with someone you trust at home just in case. Put at least one copy in each of your bags with a little bit of cash. Never take the original documents out with you, unless you’re traveling from one destination to the next. When out sightseeing, leave the originals locked in the hotel safe or in your bag.
8. Blend In
Do your best to blend in with the locals. Abandon the classic tourist uniform of cargo pants, sandals, and a t-shirt for something similar to the local dress. Swindlers, pickpockets, and other troublemakers will take advantage of clueless tourists over locals or savvy travelers. Locals will also appreciate that you’re trying to be a polite guest in their city or country.
9. Make Friends
Whether you feel unsafe or lonely, do your best to make friends when you travel. After all, solo traveling doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself! Reach out to locals, go on a group tour of a city, or connect with other travelers. Don’t be too trusting too quickly; keep your private information, like where you’re staying, to yourself. While meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling, these people are still strangers and you need to protect yourself. So share, laugh, and get to know each other — but do so with caution.
10. Trust Your Instincts
Always listen to your gut. If you have a weird feeling that a situation isn’t safe or something doesn’t make you feel comfortable, get out of there as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid of being rude; protecting yourself is far more important. You don’t need a reason or to justify your feeling; all you need to do is listen, because your intuition always knows best.
Traveling is a beautiful experience, and most people you meet while traveling will not try to do you any harm. However, those who would can turn a wonderful trip into a downright unpleasant one. Do your best to protect yourself and have the solo adventure of a lifetime!
Madison Ann Baker is a writer, Netflix-binger, and pop culture enthusiast who lives in Idaho. Literature and linguistics are her two passions, both of which she studied in college. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dog and binge-reading fantasy novels.