Solo travel: 12 tips on staying safe
So, you’re about to embark on one of your biggest adventures to date. You’ve taken the leap and pushed all fear aside. You have your bags packed, flights booked and a countdown timer set on your phone for your epic solo trip. You’re checked in and the pre-travel jitters are setting in with that one thing niggling in the back of your mind… staying safe.
Travelling the world alone can open up some of the most magical and memorable experiences. It pushes you outside your comfort zone to do things you would have never thought of doing if you were with a group of friends.
Of course, it can be a little daunting at first, but everything you do for the first time is daunting. All the way from your first day at school to your very first driving lesson. Overcoming this fear leads you to gain new and valuable experiences.
If you think about it, most of the things we fear never actually happen.
So why let the fear of safety when solo travelling stop you? As long as you’re sensible, you will be fine.
I recently sat on a panel to discuss my experiences and thoughts on solo travelling, and one of the main questions I get asked on my socials is “how do you stay safe while solo travelling?”
I thought it would be the perfect time to open the floor to the WMGT family to discuss.
The thought of solo travelling in a foreign country can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are…
12 tips and tricks for staying safe when solo travelling…
First and foremost you need to research the area in which you intend on staying in. Read blogs, watch YouTube videos and ask friends/family for advice if they have visited before. Try and find accommodation that is close to local transport lines and not too far out the way. If an area is notorious for being sketchy, avoid it.
Check your accommodation’s check in times so that you don’t have to spend time waiting around in an area you’d rather not.
Make sure you’re aware of how much you should be paying for things while you’re out and about, so you can’t get ripped off.
Research any good apps that are going to make your life easier while you travel, for example a good weather app to check you are prepared for any climate, public transport maps, and a map app you can use offline (maps.me is great!)
2. Make copies of important documents.
It is super important that you keep both physical and online copies of important documents like your passport, insurance, itineraries and flight confirmations. Leave one copy at home with a family member or friend, bring one copy with you and have one copy saved in an email folder. A paper copy can be particularly handy for when technology fails you!
Never give your passport to anyone. Some places require you to give your passport as a form of a “deposit” e.g renting a scooter. If that is the case, then find a different rental where you can leave a cash deposit instead of your passport. Remember: you need it to get home!
3. Let people know where you are.
Keeping your parents, family and friends updated on your whereabouts is peace of mind for both you and them.
Tell them about your itinerary before you go and email them a copy of your plan. Update them if things change, and call them regularly (ok, not every five minutes, but regularly enough!) Get your friends or family to use the “find my friends” feature on your iPhone or share WhatsApp’s live location to keep them up to date on your journey as you’re travelling from one place to another.
4. Get travel insurance.
This is a must! Whether you are backpacking for 6 months around Australia or taking a weekend trip with your friends, getting travel insurance before you travel is super important. It helps protect both you and your belongings. You don’t want to leave a country with some hefty medical bills in your back pocket!
5. Buy a local sim card with data.
Maybe not applicable if you’re travelling within the EU, but for further afield travel, tis is the cheapest way to make sure you can stay in contact with people and make any calls you need. Before you go, research shops, costs and best value data plans. Once you jump off the plane, head straight to a phone shop in the airport and pick a data plan.
Remember – many places have WiFi now, so consider that when you decide how much to spend on data.
6. Buy a good quality safety lock.
If you are staying in a hostel then you will be leaving the majority of your things there as you spend the day exploring. One thing that I always try to remember is a safety lock for your belongings. Most hostels have lockers for your things but just remember to bring along a lock. If you have forgotten a lock, most hostels provide them at reception. Just try not to lose the key or forget your code! You can also get smaller locks for day bags – particularly good if you like snoozing on train and bus rides!
7. Blend in with the locals.
The less likely you are to stick out, the less vulnerable you are. Walk with confidence! Try and avoid attracting to much attention. When paying for things, don’t get the wad of cash out that you just withdrew from the bank machine. Plan your route from A to B before you leave, and try not to look too lost. Avoid having your expensive camera equipment hanging over your shoulder loosely. Get yourself a good backpack that locks where you can pack everything away. GoPros are small and lightweight and can easily be stored in your belt bag.
8. Be wary when posting your location to social media.
We all love to keep our friends and families updated on our whereabouts, but just be mindful of putting your exact location on your social media accounts. Make sure your privacy settings are secure (e.g. Facebook friends only). Try and wait an hour or two (or as long as possible) from when you leave to pop it up – just to keep your location safe. It’s for your own safety and privacy, and also the safety of your belongings. If you’ve just checked into a hotel, and then posted that you’re setting off on a day trip, everyone’s aware that your hotel room is empty (of people) now.
9. Pack wisely on your day trips.
The night before a long adventure day out ensure you charge all your different devices like your phone and a power bank. Having a power bank can be essential if you won’t be close to a power outlet on a long trip. Using Google Maps for a long period of time can drain your battery quickly so having a power bank is important! Invested in a good and durable power bank means you can use google maps for as long as you need to get you to your destination safely. Also check that you’ve got any documents, medication and keys that you need, as well as the main essential: water.
10. Be party savvy.
Being in a new environment with new friends is alway exciting. But when it comes to alcohol, it’s important to make your staying safe a number priority. Before you start consuming your favourite beer or heading back to the table with a round of shots for your new mates, be aware of the size of the measurements of alcohol they use- some countries may use larger quantities than what you are used to. Make sure you see the bartender make your drink or open the bottle in front of you, and if drinking from a bottle, keep your thumb over the opening. If you want to take that extra step to ensure your safety- purchase a sippy cup with a lid. That way nothing can be put in your drink. Where you can, try to walk home with company.
11. Be aware.
Get to know your surroundings as soon as you can. If you like walking with music, try and have one headphone out so you can hear what’s happening around you.
12. Trust your gut instinct.
If something doesn’t feel right, often it isn’t! Don’t be afraid to leave uncomfortable situations.
Make the most of every moment on your solo adventure, but remember that staying safe is a priority for all of us.
Thank you WMGT family for all of your ideas!
Keep an eye on the Facebook group for the next WMGT Hot Topic!
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Have you been solo travelling?
What are your top tips for staying safe? I’d love to know!
Love as always + happy adventuring,
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I can’t do this without you.
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