Solo travelling is without doubt gaining momentum and popularity. That said, it’s an approach that does require an extra layer of thought and planning. With over 50% of women revealing they would be concerned about their safety when travelling solo, there are, fortunately, some ways to stay safer while travelling abroad.
From ensuring you thoroughly research your destination and, especially, the area you intend on staying, to making sure your valuables and cash are kept safe, the below tips can help solo travellers feel increased peace of mind while abroad.
Read Reviews Scrupulously
Read the reviews of hotels or b&bs you are considering scrupulously to ensure the location is safe and near amenities such as public transport. If you are travelling on a budget, it can be easy to ignore reviews in favour of saving money, however you must ensure there are plenty of reviews available, as this will give you a better understanding of where you will be staying.
If you are a social person, then staying in a shared room in a hostel is a great way to make new friends while still maintaining your solo traveller independence. Many hostels offer female only dorms, offered for the solo traveller and girl group in mind, so it is advisable to seek out places that offer this.
Keep Valuables Locked Up
Nothing dampens the holiday spirit like having your valuables stolen, so be vigilant and keep your luggage safe. If you are staying in a hotel room, keep your valuables locked in the safe to give you an extra blanket of security and peace of mind. If you are staying in a shared room in a hostel, most provide lockers, so ensure you travel with a padlock and keep the key on you at all times.
Hotels aren’t generally responsible for items in your room, so if you do have anything particularly valuable, then it is advisable to leave it with the front desk. A reputable hotel will give you a written receipt that you have left your goods with them, meaning if they do get lost, then the hotel is liable for this.
Let Loved Ones Know Your Plans
Give your friends, family and yourself some peace of mind and let them know a rough itinerary of your holiday before you go, so if they don’t hear from you then they will know where they should contact.
If you intend on going with the flow and don’t have a specific plan in place, then at least give loved ones a rough idea of where you will be staying.
While thousands of women travel alone every year without incident, unfortunately, there are lots of reports of harrowing experiences of female solo travellers getting into danger. While these reports should not deter you from travelling, it is nessecary to take precautions.
We are all guilty of not sending the necessary “I’m home” text, so avoid causing unnecessary stress and allow a trust family member to track your location.
You could even consider using a GPS tracker; there are numerous apps – Bsafe and NOONLIGHT are two popular ones – which allow loved ones to know your activity, offering them peace of mind that you are safe. If, in an emergency, they can’t locate you, then they will be able to alert the necessary authorities.
Hide In Plain Sight
To avoid drawing attention to the fact you are a solo traveller, avoid dressing like a tell-tale tourist and, instead, dress as simply as you can. In fact, you should take note of how locals are dressed to help you curate your outfits. If you notice locals covering certain parts of their body, for example, then you should do the same. Not only will this help you blend in, but it also means you don’t risk appearing (or, frankly, being) disrespectful.
In order to blend in, you must also avoid having anything too valuable out and about. A pickpocket will spot your fancy camera or your new smartphone and instantly see you as a target. While travelling with a phone or a camera can be unavoidable, there are ways you can conceal these high value items. Avoid storing your camera in a dedicated camera bag and instead keep it in a simple and inconspicuous bag.
Give Yourself A Backup
Travelling solo means you have to not only be hyper-aware of your surroundings but also allow yourself a backup. In the event you become embroiled in a situation while out and about, you might want to carry a dummy wallet on you to hand over, keeping the main bulk of your cash hidden on your person.
Flat money belts which are strapped underneath your clothes can store cash, cards and any valuables, or for a budget method you can get creative. You could even use a tampon applicator as a makeshift wallet to keep cash hidden – it is exceptionally unlikely a robber will be looking to steal a tampon.
Buy a Local SIM
As of 31st December 2020, the EU rules on roaming charges no longer apply in the UK, meaning the amount your phone operator can charge you to use your phone in EU countries is no longer capped, resulting in potentially exceptionally high bills. As each mobile operator has a different cost for roaming charges, you must check before travelling to see how much using your phone on holiday could cost.
Being too concerned about using your phone, in case of high bill prices, means you are putting yourself in danger as you are unable to contact anyone if you feel unsafe.
So, when you first arrive, consider investing in a local PAYG SIM card to use while abroad and make a note of loved one’s numbers and the emergency numbers of your destination. If you intend on doing a lot of travelling this year, then you should consider upgrading your current phone tariff to allow data roaming, as this will save you more money down the line.
Let Your Bank Know
If your bank notices a seemingly random payment from a local bar in Spain or Vietnam, for instance, then they may flag this as suspicious activity and freeze your card.
In an increasingly cashless society, having your card and account frozen is possibly the worst thing that can happen while on the first day of your holiday, and can leave you in a vulnerable position. With this in mind, make sure you bring enough cash to keep you going in case your card gets frozen, lost or stolen, and keep the cash hidden to avoid losing this too.
Let your bank know prior to going abroad to avoid any misunderstandings and having to call up your bank while on holiday. This can be done by calling them up or many banks allow you to set a holiday on your account online.
Book A Tour
Even solo travellers want to travel with people sometimes, especially with people you have something in common with.
Booking a tour, whether it is a walking tour of the city or an excursion to a nearby hotspot, is one of the easiest and safest ways to explore a new destination. Reputable operators will provide you with specific itineraries, meaning you can keep loved ones back home in the loop, and will usually be hosted by locals, offering you a true insight.
Booking tours or excursions as a solo traveller also allows you the opportunity to meet other solo travellers. We’re huge fans of Airbnb Experiences, which is a great way to meet like-minded people and engage with fellow sightseers and travellers. Moreover, gaining firsthand knowledge from experienced locals on all manner of subjects is a wonderful opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
If your’e on a budget, many places, especially popular cities, have free walking tours dotted along the city centre, giving tourists a local’s insight of the area. While they are free, it is sometimes expected to tip your guide, so ensure you have a bit of cash on you before you set off.
Choose Your Destination With Intent
The beauty of solo travelling is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to be totally selfish! We have all had to compromise while on a group holiday and do something we perhaps wouldn’t have chosen to do ourselves but didn’t want to seem like a party-pooper.
Now is your time to make all the important calls yourself! Think about what you look for in a holiday; do you enjoy long hikes or exploring a bustling city, or perhaps you just want to lay on a beach and finally read that book. Wherever you choose, make sure you’re choosing it with your interests in mind.
The Bottom Line
Solo travelling is one of the most gratifying things you can do. While you must ensure you take the necessary steps to stay safe while abroad, you should also take steps to ensure you make the most of your holiday. Bon Voyage!