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As a regular solo traveller, I realise that Traveling Alone isn’t without its pitfalls. Your all alone in a strange land, where rules and regulations are sometimes, a world away from your own. Hurdles are put in your way regarding health & safety. My first solo journey was to Egypt 22 years ago and it was an eye opener. I can’t say I was terrified but there were definitely moments when I wondered what I was doing alone & vulnerable in this strange land. But after a few days, once you get used to the people and their ways, you realise that maybe travel is the best way all of us can come together for a unique experience called travel!
As a man, I have high regard for women who travel alone. I have seen lone women accosted and once or twice had to intervene, so I wanted to write this post with their safety in particularly in mind. During my travels I have met many lone travelling women and I’m always interested why they travel alone. Sometimes it’s a sort of epiphany, they just want to find themselves, leave their friends and family alone a while they find themselves. Their safety sometimes becomes secondary and I do get concerned for them sometimes.
Not as men are particularly safe either. Lone travel for a man can get quite troubling. I was mugged in Jamaica by gun point! Was it because I was on my own? I don’t know, but I do know it could have been a whole lot worse. Then again, should I have been on my own in a district I knew was a “bit rough”? Surely, that’s all part of the game!
Anyway, with some of these experiences and thoughts in my mind, I decided to write a blog post on safety tips for lone travellers. I hope you enjoy!
1. Buy Travel Insurance
Before you leave, please buy travel insurance. This will protect you should anything bad happen. I once broke my leg in Austria on a skiing trip and I can honestly say, if I had NOT purchased travel insurance, I would not have survived the whole process. It’s quite something just to try to sort out a minor problem whilst on your journey and many of you will have had to achieve this, but imagine what it’s like when you’re in a strange hospital, where hardly anyone speaks English, and they are trying to explain everything to you, sometimes using sign language. Then you have to be transported home to continue your treatment. It was a nightmare and I never want anyone to go through any of that without travel insurance. It would be unsurvivable!
2. Plan your trip
You’ve got to have some planning, OK, I know it takes away some of the fun, but you at least need to know where you will be staying the first night, how you will get there from the airport and the countries basic laws (can you wear shorts or a dress in public for example). Total planning takes away the fun I realise that, but just some planning will put you in good stead.
3. Study the Local Authorities before you leave
OK, what do I mean with this? Well, some of the Local Authorities in developing countries are, how can we say? Corrupt. Simple as. You may be asked to pay a bribe to get yourself out of a relatively minor situation. Guess what? If you don’t pay the bribe, you find yourself in even more trouble, eventually leading to jail maybe. So here’s a tip, in some countries there’s a separate “tourist police” who specialise in tourist’s problems. Before you leave, check if your destination as such a force. It may well come in very useful believe me!
4. Have a back up plan
It’s important to have back up plan should things go wrong. What will you do if your money gets stolen, or you lose your documents during your journey. Copy your documents and keep them safe by emailing them to yourself in a “cloud”, and keep some spare money tucked away. If you’re using a hotel, keep your valuables in the safe rather than in your bags. I know it’s all safe, but that’s how you want it!
5. Get serious about your valuables security
We just spoke about having a back up plan, but this is about how to keep your valuables secure. Try not to carry more cash than you need. Take out small amounts to get you through the day, not cash for the whole two weeks. Use a money belt to hide your cash under your clothing if you can. It’s a lot easier to pick your pockets than it is to pick under your clothing. For your credit/debit cards, buy a wallet, usually metal based, that stops thieves scanning your cards details as they sit or walk by you. Trust me, it happens a lot!
6. Use the internet for your safety
Keep in regular contact with friends & family, so they know your ok, and just as important, where you are & where your going tomorrow. Should anything happen, they can contact the hotel or the authorities on your behalf. Also, use Google to learn your surroundings & local people.
7. Learn the language
No, not the whole lot, just yes, no, do you speak English? and how much? Especially “no” just in case, you probably won’t need it, but just in case you do. Obviously it’s a lot easier if you bother to learn some of the language of the locals, they will see you as more open to hospitality than someone who can’t be bothered to learn, so helps with your general well-being!
8. Be careful when using the locals “horse & cart” taxi or tourist trips
Now, this is quite important, but I have heard many stories of people getting injured by using a “travel system” such as a horse driven cart or something similar. Their insurance wouldn’t pay out because it wasn’t a recognised form of travel for them and the traveller was left with £20,000 of medical bills. I don’t want to take away any fun you might be thinking of, but let’s have some common sense. Ask yourself, “does this look safe? & “will I be insured for this”.
This also applies to activities Make sure that “high wire trip over the river” is actually covered by your travel insurance. If not, don’t do it, you won’t be covered should you get injured!
9. Pack light
If your off on an excursion, try not to take the whole wardrobe with you, just enough for the day, unless your going for longer of course. You don’t want to knacker yourself out by carrying extra gear you don’t need for your trip.
10. Trust your instincts
Don’t get paralysed with fear. Of course it can be frightening, especially when your alone, but I would say, trust your instincts, as they are usually right. If your gut tells you you’re in a difficult situation, then get out ASAP.
11. Find other solo travellers before you leave
Facebook has a number of solo travelling groups where you can reach out to other solo travellers. You can meet up during your journey with singles or small groups, which might help keeping you safe. Many groups such as Girls LOVE travel, cater especially for female solo travellers. You can also use others for information on where not to go or what not to do during your journey!
12. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks without adequate protection
Busy Cafes, Hotel lobbies and various other potentially busy area are a haven for cyber criminals all looking for an easy target. Once you connect to an unscure Wi-Fi, they simply connect to your phone, thereby potentially getting your bank details including passwords or any other personal information such as where your staying and where your going. Everything is on your phone or tablet they need!
You could buy a VPN before you go, as I have heard they protect your privacy, but I don’t know enough about them myself, so you would need to investigate this way of protection.
13. Avoid Hitchhiking
I know this is obvious, but it’s dangerous enough in your own country, never mind somewhere thousands of miles from home, where they know you’re a lone tourist!. Yes, it might be cheaper than paid travel, but seriously? You can’t expect to remain safe if you are even considering hitchhiking. Please don’t do it, especially alone!
14. Always take a door-wedge with you
Many cheaper Hotels & Hostels just have a flimsy door lock and can also be a haven for all sorts of nasty criminals. If you wedge the door, at least you have some warning before they can get into your room. It may not stop them completely, but you may have time to get to another room, or maybe out the window onto the fire escape and then onto another rooms balcony. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but you don’t want to confront a burglar do you? It also gives you piece of mind while sleeping.
15. Plan your escape route once arrived
I always plan an escape route once I have arrived at my lodgings. If there is a fire (and it has happened) which is the best way for me to get out of the building? For the example above, with burglars, how would I get out of the room before they get in, that sort of thing. I mean don’t constantly worry about it, as that will spoil your journey, but think about it now and then.
16. Never share your location or contact information
A friend told me of a good trick. She goes to a nearby Hotel/Hostel and takes one of their cards (with the address on) and hands them to the driver of taxis should she be using one to get back to her hotel. The taxi driver drops her at the nearby hotel none the wiser as to her own location, then she walks the small journey to her own hotel. It’s safe, especially when she’s on her own.
It can be very hard not to share your details especially when you don’t speak their language, but you have to try to resist, especially social media information where the criminals can find out literally everything about you.
17. Ladies should book “ladies only” Hostel rooms or floors
I really don’t like lone women staying in mixed hostels. Here’s a scenario why-
You’ve arrived at your hostel to find yourself surrounded by eight men, some of them travelling together! No, not a good situation is it? This could have been avoided by simply booking a hostel with “Ladies only” rooms or floors. Not all hostels have them, but some do, so it’s a great way of staying safe.
18. Respect the local culture
These can be very confusing so try to be careful as offending the locals can lead to jail!
In Thailand for example, if you visit a Temple or Holy site, you will be expected to wear clothing down to your ankles, but everywhere else, shorts or skirts are fine. Another anomaly of Traveling Alone!
19. Be careful using public transport or Taxis
It’s important to know which form of travel is safest. Ask Hostel staff which is the most reliable and safe form of travel. Bare in mind unlicensed taxis or buses aren’t bound by local transport laws and are also notorious for price hiking (saying the price is a lot more once you have arrived) and worse, confidence schemes or muggings.
If your on a tight budget and have to take local transport, make sure people know what time you intend to go, or take down the registration number of the vehicle, or get the driver’s name etc, anything that keeps you safe basically!
20. Be confident
As in life, if you act confident and look like you know what you’re doing, people will generally leave you alone. However, if you look lost and unsure, it seems to attract the attention of the darker side of society, so always try to look like you know what you’re doing in a strange place, at least until you can find someone who will help.
Although this post is generally with women in mind, it of course, also applies to male travellers. I have found myself in lots of these situations, and sometimes only my guile and experience got me through safely.
I have no intention of trying to spoil your journey, I just want everyone to be safe, so if just some of this helps, I will be happy. Thank You
You may also like my post “Top 5 tips on staying healthy during your trip“