Travelling solo is an immensely rewarding and enjoyable experience but it can be daunting to the uninitiated. You may be told that’s it’s too dangerous and irresponsible, or your overactive imagination may be picturing worst case scenarios. However, you already have the skills required to stay safe – they’re the same skills you use at home.
Remember most personal safety tips are common sense, but in an unfamiliar environment, it’s surprising what you can forget and how your judgement can lapse! Whether you’re travelling solo for a weekend or for six months, stay safe with the following tips.
No 1 – Trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is. Your gut feeling is your most reliable source of advice. Ignore at your peril.
No 2 – Try to arrive at your destination during the day to avoid travelling alone at night and also, so you have time to check out whether the area looks safe. This means if you don’t like the look of your accommodation you won’t have to wander the streets in the dark looking for an alternative.
No 3 – Know when to splurge and give yourself a financial cushion for safety – take taxis instead of walking alone at night or in areas you are unsure of. Uber is available in most major cities across the world and all journeys are tracked along with the driver’s details. Payment is made automatically by credit card so you don’t have to exchange money, or even talk to the driver if you don’t want to – your destination is already mapped out on the app when you request a taxi.
No 4 – Don’t be an obvious target – avoid wearing valuable jewellery (or convincing costume jewellery!), headphones or using your phone in public places.
No 5 – Always carry a business card or written note with your accommodation’s name, address and phone number. This is handy if you get lost and don’t speak the language. Just show it to a taxi driver and you’ll be home safe in no time.
No 6 – Carry a personal alarm in an easily accessible place. Hairspray is a good ‘weapon’ to carry too, as it will sting if sprayed into an attacker’s eyes.
No 7 – Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone and let them know if it changes. Also, try to check in with friends or family on a daily basis – even if it is just a Facebook or Instagram update. These digital ‘breadcrumbs’ help to put together a picture of your whereabouts.
No 8 – Exude confidence and walk purposefully with your head held high. Look as if you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. If you need to check a map, don’t do it in a public place where you’ll look like a helpless tourist – dive into a shop if you can.
No 9 – If you feel uncomfortable around someone, don’t be concerned about overreacting, being polite or making a scene – your safety is far more important than appearances. Be loud and firm, say no and use obvious body language to get your point across.
No 10 – If you’re single, sometimes wearing a fake wedding ring is enough to deter unwanted male attention in some countries. There’s no need to tell men you’re travelling alone, so feel free to invent a fake husband (and elaborate engagement/big day story, to help bore them to death).
No 11 – Take photos of all your ID, documents and reservations and keep a copy of them somewhere online (such as Dropbox) where you can access them in the event you lose your phone, tablet or laptop.
No 12 – Always carry a map of your destination – smartphones are great but you never know when your battery could die or worse, your phone could be lost or stolen.
No 13 – Pack light – this means you’re more mobile and have less to lose.
No 14 – Don’t automatically assume your hotel room is completely safe, no matter if it’s one star or five – always use the safe to store your valuables instead of leaving things lying around. Always use the safety chain on your door, and when you leave the room, put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door with the TV on. This makes it look as if someone’s inside and can deter thieves.
No 15 – Carry a decoy wallet with a few small notes and an expired card inside, ready to hand over to an attacker – who could potentially get angry and violent if you refuse to give them anything. Keep your real wallet (with at least 2 working cards) concealed under clothing or wear a money belt.