Is Solo Travel Safe?

Is Solo Travel Safe?
Is Solo Travel Safe?

One of the big road blocks to taking off on solo travels is safety. If you don’t feel safe travelling solo, then you’re probably not likely to ‘go it alone’. So, how can you know if your destination is safe, or can you ever really know?

It’s not possible to cover safety for all the 100’s if not 1000’s of travelling scenarios encountered by solo travellers, across all the countless destinations but it is easy to follow some straight forwards tips and guidelines that can better your chances of staying as safe as possible.

The fact is, there are no hard and fast guarantees about safety when travelling solo, but neither are there when you’re with a friend or partner. Preparation and being aware of our surroundings are the best options for staying safe. For a solo female traveller it can be even more paramount. 

There are some easy travel tips for when you’re on location and it doesn’t take long before they become second nature. 

BEFORE YOU SET OUT
A few simple tips before you head out for your day out on your own


#1 Take The Hotel Card with You
Or, take a photo of it on your phone


#2 Get International Mobile Phone Roaming
If you’re not in your home country, it’s well worth it to have international roaming on your mobile phone. Most countries have reasonable plans for international roaming on call and/or data. You’ll always have a google map on hand and a way to call anyone if you need assistance. 
Compare Australian Mobile Phone Plans for Travelling Overseas
Compare USA Cell Phone Plans for Traveling Overseas

#3 Work Out Your Transport Options
Read up about the public transport networks, are they safe to use, and particularly at night is it a safe option?


KEEPING MONEY SAFE
If you’re the victim of a pick pocketer it’s likely to rattle you and you’re going to feel exploited and unsafe.  Wallets popping out of back pockets and bags hanging open, while paying little attention to their surroundings will make you an easy target.

Stay on guard and aware of your surroundings.

#4 The Inside Pocket
For women, the ‘secret inside pocket’ of your bra is a great place to stash some cash.  For men, or anyone else who prefers not to stuff money down the front, a handy pouch that swings around your neck and tucks under your clothes is just as convenient.

#5 Using the ATM

  • Use ATMs in the day and avoid the evening.
  • Think ahead; is it going to be easy to get cash out at your next few destinations?
  • Don’t use ATMs in quiet/desolate places.
  • Protect your PIN. Stand close to the ATM and mask your PIN entry with your other hand.
  • Take care with other valuables at the machine. You could be concentrating on getting money out while Mr or Mrs Light Fingers is helping themself to something else of yours.
  • Look around before you take money out. Is there anyone around that makes you feel uneasy? If your answer is ‘yes’, then pick another time and/or place. 

OUT & ABOUT SOLO
It’s all about knowing your surroundings and being prepared.

# 6 Get to know your destination
Being informed is your best chance of avoiding any possible security risks.  In a group you can expect your tour guide is going to tell you about what to watch out for but if you’re travelling on your own, ask hotel personnel about safety in the area, and do some ‘googling’ about your destination.

#7 Gut Feeling
One of your most valuable assets when you travel is your  ‘gut instinct’.  Listen to your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel right it’s probably not, even if you can’t rationalise the feeling. And so what if you were wrong? It’s better to be safe than sorry.

#8 Don’t Make It Obvious
For places that have petty crime, you want to be the one that blends in – walk with confidence, and avoid map gazing without paying attention to your surroundings.   Do your planning and map reading at the hotel or in a café.

#9 Keep Valuables Close

  • The closer your valuables are to you, the more difficult it is for them to get snatched. Keep your bags and any accessories close to your body; handbags on long straps swinging around, zippers open and cameras slung over your shoulder or around your neck scream ‘come and get me’ to the watchful eye of a petty thief.
  • Keep your arm across handbags, purses and/or any bag, that contains items of value, as slash and grab crime is a favourite of petty thieves in many places.
  • Going back to my tip about using hotel safes – don’t carry lots of cash, credit cards and valuable documents when you are sightseeing if there’s the option to leave them in your hotel safe. 

#10 Unexpected Unease
One moment you feel safe, then the next moment you turn the corner and get an unexpected sense of unease. Maybe the light in the street has gone dim or the people around have dwindled to a few. Whatever it is, something feels off.

Never feel uncomfortable about making a quick change of course to find somewhere that makes you feel less conspicuous or safer. It’s funny how we can worry about looking silly, or we second guess ourselves and think we’re overreacting. You know when something feels wrong – don’t ignore it. 

#11 To Be Friendly Or Not?
A friendly smile goes a long way when you travel. But sometimes you could face an uncomfortable, unwelcome or potentially dangerous situation, and unwanted attention where you don’t have to be friendly. Rather, you need to be bold say, “no thank you”, or be rude, and walk away.  Let them know you are not interested and make a beeline to get away from them. In these circumstances, don’t worry about offending someone or hurting their feelings – stand your ground, be direct and move on. 

A SERIOUS THREAT

Do you ever wonder how you’d respond in a hold up situation where a perpetrator is threatening you with a gun or dangerous weapon?

#12  Don’t Fight With A Gun  
Never, ever argue with any person threatening you with a gun, knife or any other dangerous weapon. There’s only one situation you can’t get out of and that’s when you’ve been fatally wounded.  Give Them Whatever They Want. Please, No Heroes! 


DRINKING
You are on holidays and, for the most part, you’re going to let your hair down and enjoy some drinks. Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you not to drink but do drink in moderation. Don’t be drunk and on your own.

#13 Make a Drinking Plan
If you are out for a night on the town, you need to have a safe plan for getting back to your hotel. You need to know if it’s safe to use the local public transport later at night, and you should know your options for hailing a taxi. 

WHO KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE?

It is a smart plan to let someone know where you are, or where you expect to be. A few scenarios to think about:

  • Are you in a group tour where passengers are accounted for regularly?
  • Are you in a destination considered safe or otherwise?
  • Are you staying in boutique accommodation where management gets to know their guests? Or, are you staying in a big hotel that wouldn’t raise alarm bells if you didn’t return unless it was time to check out?
  • Do you have a mobile with you? Are you somewhere with mobile reception?
  • Are you in a big city with easy access to assistance, or are you heading out into nature with just your walking boots and a back pack?

#14 Share Your Travel Plans
Email or make a copy of your tour itinerary and leave it with a family member or friends.   Also give them the hotel list for the tour. Aside from the fact that they will know where you are, family or friends can contact you in the event of an emergency back home. 

#15 Keep In Touch With Home
It’s so easy to stay in touch with family and friends back home, especially with the ease of the internet and social media.

If things go pear shaped, family and friends back home will be the ones looking out for your welfare. Let them know where you are as you move around and touch base regularly. It’s good in case of an emergency, but also it’s comforting to the folks back home when you check in with them. 

#16 Register Your Travel Plans
If you have the option, register your travel plans with a government authority in your country. In the event of a disaster, political or civil disturbances in the destination that you are travelling in or for a   family emergency, your government can assist in finding you and providing assistance.

Australia : Smart Traveller www.smartraveller.gov.au 
New Zealand: Safe Travel www.safetravel.govt.nz/ USA:  Smart Traveller Enrollment Program

Nations like Australia, New Zealand, Canada,  the United States of America and the United Kingdom have government embassies or consulates in many destinations around the world. If your country does not have an embassy at your travel destination, find out if allied countries can offer assistance for any serious matters.

About the author

Justine Waddington

Justine Waddington is the founder and director of Encounter Travel, a company that creates holiday groups exclusively for solo travellers. As a solo traveller with 57 countries under her belt and 12 years of leading travel groups, Justine is in the unique position of being able to offer tips and advice from the perspective of an experienced solo traveller and also that of a travel agent.

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