It doesn’t matter whether you are traveling with a group or alone, safety is always the top priority. However, safety is even more important for the solo traveler and especially solo female travelers. And while no one’s safety is ever 100% guaranteed, there are a few basic travel safety tips that you can implement to up the odds in your favor. Here’s some things you can do to stay safe when you travel.
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Table of Contents
- Have a Travel Plan
- Use a Location Sharing App
- Enroll in STEP
- Don’t Tell Strangers You Are Traveling Solo
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Have Extra Copies of Important Documents
- Don’t Share Your Location On Social Media
- Know About Dangerous Areas
- Blend In As Much As Possible
- Learn the Language
- Use Safe Transportation
- Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
- Don’t Have Your Phone Out All the Time
- Book Reputable Tours
- Travel Insurance
- Travel Safety Tips for Everyone
Have a Travel Plan
Whatever mode of travel you use, be it by car, bus, plane or train, having a travel plan can help you stay safe. This doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous or add something unexpected to your itinerary. It also doesn’t mean you need to have your entire trip planned out if you’re traveling long term. It just means being a little more prepared.
Having a plan and researching a destination before you get there allows you to research if it’s safe. For international travel, use the U.S. Department of State’s website to investigate if the country you plan on visiting is having any concerning issues that might affect your safety. Civil unrest, protests, bad weather and natural disasters are all things to avoid. Even things such as transportation strikes have the potential to interrupt your travels and create unsafe situations.
If you are traveling domestically in the United States, check the local news and weather of your destination before you get there, to help avoid any unsafe situations.
Use a Location Sharing App
Once you have a travel plan, share that plan with someone. You might be a very independent traveler and it may sound like a hassle to share you plans. Especially if you are the kind of person that likes to wing it and never knows where you might be on a particular day. However, to keep it from feeling like a burden and to make it easier, you could use a location sharing app. Apps like Google Maps and WhatsApp make it fairly simple to share your location without having to invest a lot of time.
To share your location on Google Maps, go into the home screen and tap your profile picture to open the menu. Select location sharing and approve sharing. After that, you can select who you want to share location with and for how long. You can share with any email address. It doesn’t have to be a Google email.
In WhatsApp, open a chat with the contact you choose. Then, in the chat box, there’s a paperclip symbol for attaching a file. Tap it to open . Location is one of them. Tap it and it opens several ways to share. “Live location” allows you to share for 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours. You can also include a comment. You can always stop sharing at any time you want. You can also you select “send your current location, it immediately sends your location to the person you are chatting with just like a dropped pin.
Enroll in STEP
Another way to stay safe when you travel is by taking advantage of programs designed to give you – and those that care about you – peace of mind while in another country. The U.S. Department of State has a program called STEP on their website. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan. This program is a free service that allows United States citizens and nationals, traveling and living abroad, to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. What are the benefits of STEP?
Once you enroll you’ll:
- receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. This helps you make informed decisions about your plans.
- help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
- help family and friends get in touch with you in case of an emergency.
Don’t Tell Strangers You Are Traveling Solo
Humans are naturally curious and at times, even a bit nosey. When you travel, it’s perfectly normal for people to strike up conversations and make small talk. The problem is – part of that small talk might include asking about your travels and the dreaded question: are you traveling by yourself? The first time I traveled solo, I was surprised how many times I was asked if I was alone. That and a few other things that no one told me about traveling solo would have been nice to have been prepared for the first time I was a solo traveler.
So what do you say if someone asks you who you are with? It might be hard not to blurt out that you’re traveling solo, but for your safety, this just isn’t a good idea. To avoid spilling the beans the best way to deal with this scenario is to anticipate it happening and be prepared. If you know that there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere will ask you about who you’re with, just have a good response ready.
I’m not one to lie but since staying safe is the priority – do what ever you need to do. Your reply doesn’t have to be complicated. For example you could say that you’re visiting or meeting friends that live there or you’re with your husband on a business trip and he’s working. The important thing is to say whatever feels most natural to you. The more natural you seem, the more believable it will be.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Being situationally aware of your surroundings is one of the most simple travel safety tips there is. Being aware of what’s going on doesn’t mean you have to walk around like a crazy, paranoid person. It just means paying a bit more attention to what you are doing and what’s around you.
It’s easy to get complacent when you travel. Especially if you are traveling a place you’ve been before or if you’ve been in your location for awhile. The tendency is to get comfortable and less diligent. Don’t.
Even smaller towns and cities aren’t exempt from petty crime. Especially if they are touristy. So be vigilant. Go with your gut and pay attention to everything. Don’t feel like there’s less of a threat just just because you might be in a national park or a place you feel or think is safe.
Have Extra Copies of Important Documents
It might not keep you safe but having copies or even photos of your important documents, like your passport and visa can save you a lot of time if you were to have your belongings or a bag with your documents stolen. You’ll be one step ahead if the documents need to be replaced in an emergency. Make sure that if you do carry copies they aren’t in the same bag as your originals. Spread them around and even consider leaving them in your room safe if there is one.
Don’t Share Your Location On Social Media
Social media is such a part of our lives now. With selfies, stories and videos advertising where you are and what you’re doing – it’s easy to forget that information is traceable. Hopefully, you don’t have someone paying that kind of attention to what your whereabouts but even so, don’t make it any easy for anyone to figure out where you are.
One way to stay safe when you travel is by not posting on social media in real time. Delay your live stories so that no one knows where you are and if they do figure it out, you’ve already moved on. If for some reason you must post in real time, then don’t tag the location. You can always fo back and add it later on when you are out of the area.
Know About Dangerous Areas
Just about every city or town has a less than desirable, non-touristy area or areas, not really meant for travelers. A tourist in Puerto Rico was recently killed after making a drug purchase and trying to take photos in a questionable neighborhood on the island. So, before you go wandering around and get caught in a dangerous place, do your research and know what neighborhoods it’s best to avoid.
If you are staying in a hotel, ask the concierge or someone else that works there if there are any unsafe areas to avoid. You can also always check with the police. If you are in a touristy town, many places have tourist or safety police to help with things such as this.
Blend In As Much As Possible
In many places and when traveling internationally, it’s probably pretty obvious you aren’t from the place you’re visiting. Unfortunately, there’s not too much you can do about the way you look. But since many popular destinations are home to digital nomads and have expat communities, you may not look like you’re from there but you can at least act like it.
Before you visit a location, do a little research. Learn the customs. Knowing how they dress and how they do things are helpful. Adopt a few of those practices as best as you can. The easiest way you can do that is by the way you dress. There’s nothing that makes you stick out more than showing up somewhere in a bikini or shorts, when that’s not something a local would do. No one needs to call undue attention to themselves when traveling solo.
Learn the Language
Learning a few words of the language of the country you are visiting to might not keep you safe but it does make you a courteous traveler and courtesy goes a long way. There’s nothing better than knowing how to say hello, thank you and please in the native language of the country you are in. It may not seem like much but it shows you care enough about the local community to try.
In addition to knowing a few words, know where you are. This may sound odd but I’ve seen numerous posts and heard stories where people don’t even know the name of the town they’re in. This could be easy to do if you are traveling from city to city or moving around a lot. Besides just knowing the name, know how to spell it and the address of where you are staying.
Use Safe Transportation
Another good travel safety tip to consider is planning your transportation ahead of time. For example: if you are flying into your destination, how will you get to your hotel from the airport? Will you be using taxis, public transportation or maybe even renting a car? If you are arriving late – and maybe tired – it’s smart to already have a plan for getting to your hotel.
If you are staying at a hotel that offers a shuttle, take advantage of that to travel to your hotel. Not only will it save you money but most shuttle waiting areas are in well lit, highly visible areas at the airport. The people driving the shuttle are easily identifiable and have badges.
When there’s no shuttle available, then Uber is an excellent alternative for getting around safely. To make customers more comfortable, the app provides you the make, model and license plate of the vehicle coming to pick you up. If a vehicle shows up that doesn’t match the description, then decline the ride and report it right away.
Another safe choice is traveling by taxi. If you do choose this mode of transportation, then make sure to use a real taxi. Most airports and bus stations have taxi stands where official and licensed taxis are allowed. Besides staying safe, one of the other advantages is that there’s ususally a set price based on miles traveled. So you don’t have to worry about negotiating or being taken advantage of.
Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
You can learn a lot about the culture of a destination by it’s food and drink. If you enjoy alcohol, then going out and having a cocktail or a glass of wine in a destination is just part of travel. Experiencing nightlife in a destination is a great way to get a taste of local vibe and even meet people. The problem is, enjoying the night life when you are traveling solo is a bit harder, especially for females.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and have fun but it does mean you need to be situationally aware at all times. To do that, you need a clear head. Having a clear head means not indulging in too much alcohol or other intoxicants. Drinking too much lower inhibitions and makes it harder to recognize danger.
I’m by no means excusing poor behavior or victim shaming. I’m only saying as females, we have to do whatever we can to stay safe at all times. That includes never leaving your drink unattended or accepting drinks from strangers.
Don’t Have Your Phone Out All the Time
I think by now, most people have learned that it’s best to leave the flashy jewelry behind when you travel. However, I’m in several travel groups on Facebook and almost weekly someone posts about having their phone stolen. Why? Because phone snatching in common in many places and we have them in our hands just about all the time!
The best way to avoid this is keep your phone in your bag. It’s one thing to take it out for photos or to use it but having it out at all times just makes you a target. There’s a good chance you could get distracted and next thing you know your phone is gone. Have you ever tried to get a replacement phone in another country? It’s not fun.
Book Reputable Tours
Safe solo travel means doing your due diligence when it comes to booking tours and activities. One travel safety tip is to always check out the reviews on websites such as Google, Tripadvisor and Yelp. You can even Google them to see if they have been in the news or if they have had any accidents.
Same goes for choosing a cheap quote for a service or tour. Everyone wants to save money when they travel but putting yourself into sketchy or unsafe situation on tours to spend less is not the way to do it. Make sure the tour operators have the proper equipment and licenses.
Also, be careful booking tours and services through third parties and if you do, verify it’s a reliable third party like Viator or Get Your Guide.
One of the smartest – and safest – things you can do before you travel is purchase travel insurance. Recently, there’s been reports in news about tourists being held “hostage” or being required to pay large amounts before they were allowed to leave the hospital after a medical emergency.
Travel insurance isn’t anticipating that something bad is going to happen. On the contrary, you are being proactive about staying safe by protecting yourself if something does go wrong on your trip.
Many travel insurance companies will even make the arrangements with hospitals and deal with the staff in their own language. If you need to be flown out of the country for better care – something that can cost thousands of dollars, travel insurance will help with that too.
Travel Safety Tips for Everyone
Everyone has their own way of traveling and doing thing. What works for one person might not work for another. These tips are just a few of the travel safety tips I’ve learned from traveling. How do you stay safe when you travel? Let me know what I missed in the comments.
Planning to travel soon? Here’s a few of the websites I find helpful when I’m researching a trip.
- Flight info and airplane tickets – Skyscanner
- To book a package all at once – Expedia
- Hotels and hostels – Booking.com
- Home stays – VRBO.com
- Vehicle rentals – Rentalcars.com
- Check reviews and what other travelers are saying – Tripadvisor.com
- Browse a variety of travel insurance plans – TravelInsurance.com