Do you thrive on a nonstop flow of new people and settings? Traveling solo is the ideal way to indulge those passions, but it’s more challenging, too. You won’t get the “safety in numbers” feeling that a group travel experience represents. Going it alone also leaves you more vulnerable to con artists, muggers, pickpockets and other local bad guys, not to mention sudden climate or security changes that can make your stay downright hazardous.
When you hit the international road by yourself, it pays to bring your A game. However, if you don’t check common sense at the hotel room door, you’re more likely to stay safe. Here’s some tips to help you come out on top:
Don’t advertise your solo status
Instead of asking strangers for directions, work out your daily itineraries in advance. If you need help with anything, Reader’s Digest advises going to a local business. Asking authority figures like cops also works, too. Whatever happens, you don’t want anyone knowing you’re a tourist.
Don’t share personal information
Telling hotel concierges or the folks back home of where you’re going, when you’ll return and the route you’re taking is appropriate, especially if you’re heading into wilderness areas, the AARP suggests. Avoid dropping details that compromise safety, like any concerns you have about protecting it.
Don’t stick valuables in one place
Keep passports separated from money and credit cards. Get a money belt or jacket with hidden pockets that you can zip up to create an extra hiding place. Leave flashy jewelry and large purses at home, which only offers a tempting target for thieves.
Double-check security features
Avoid ground floor hotel rooms that present easy entry for burglars, New Zealand Herald columnist Paula Froelich suggests. The same rule goes for rooms that share an entrance door. Once you settle in, check bars, closets, locks and less obvious places, like under the bed.
Know before you go
In this era of online overload, there’s no excuse for not researching your destination. This is crucial, for instance, if you visit nations that expect women to cover up publicly, Froelich notes. You’ll also need to learn about hazards that could crimp your enjoyment, like poisonous spiders and snakes.
Never feel guilty about saying no
Don’t allow strangers to touch or hug you, which could offer an opening for a hostile encounter. If you feel uncomfortable, get up and leave as soon as you can. What seems like friendly behavior back home may translate into something that you don’t want to confront abroad.
Stay alert to your surroundings
Keep a keen eye on bags or wallets, and carry a can of mace to discourage strangers’ come-ons. Note exit locations when you eat out. Learn local emergency numbers and places to go, like embassy offices or police stations, if you run into trouble.
Stay connected at all times
Your trip will naturally stir interest among family and friends. If roaming costs are too steep, or incompatible for your phone, buy or rent one locally to keep in touch, the AARP recommends. Otherwise, buy phone cards if the deal seems right.
Stick to a strict day schedule
Limit car and foot travel by night, when robberies or assaults are more likely, says Froelich. If you must venture out, stick with well-lit, well-traveled areas, and try to take someone along. Ask the locals about potential trouble spots. Also, avoid public transit until you familiarize yourself with the area where you’re staying.