Always wanted to go backpacking around the world, but just can’t find a travel buddy to tag along with you? Cross it off your bucket list already and travel on your own. It can get scary and lonely, but for the most part, it is incredibly liberating. You get to be your own boss and you can do whatever you want.
Yet, the foremost concern of a lot of aspiring solo travelers is safety. Without a companion watching your back at all times, you just make yourself more vulnerable to crimes and scams. Not only do you become an easy target for con-artists and pickpockets, it’s hard to completely feel safe when you’re walking back to your hostel at night alone! Here are a few tips to keep you safe, as you go about traveling by your lonesome:
- Do your research on average cab fare prices
If you’re planning to take a cab to get from your airport to your hotel or the city center, it always helps to know the estimated fare before you even hop on the cab. Sometimes taxi drivers can take advantage of your naivety and hike up the prices, and you shouldn’t tolerate the highway robbery whether you’re alone or not. Even if it is common practice in your destination, just knowing the fair price can surely keep you from paying way too much.
- Avoid looking like a tourist.
You don’t want to brand yourself as a tourist while you’re traveling abroad – whether you’re alone or with the company of your friends and loved ones. That’s because you don’t want to attract the attention of locals who are out to do you harm. So, ditch your souvenir t-shirt and fanny pack while you’re traveling. And don’t blatantly carry around guidebooks or maps.
- Don’t draw attention to yourself by dressing ostentatiously
Even if you’re fashionable without really trying, it helps to dress down while you’re traveling. Avoid wearing flashy clothes or jewelry, as dressing ostentatiously only makes you an easy target for con-artists and pickpockets.
- Always know where you’re going
It is highly recommended that you check your maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hostel or any landmark. A solo traveler that’s constantly looking at maps can be a mark for malicious types, and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you are being followed or lured into a scam. If you absolutely have to ask for directions, it helps to lie a little and don’t give away a fact that you are alone. Say, “Which way is the museum? I have to meet a friend!” so they stay out of your way.
- Avoid shady neighborhoods and dark alleys especially at night
No matter how trained you are at defending yourself, it doesn’t make sense for any solo traveler to go out and about by your lonesome at night. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Yet, if you absolutely have to go out at nighttime, it is best to choose a route that allows you to pass by open and well-lit public places.
- Don’t get too intoxicated
Keeping a tab on your bar tab is the wisest thing you can do when you’re traveling alone. It doesn’t mean staying out of alcohol completely. It only means exercising restraint. If you are not in control of your facilities, you become an easy target for thieves and rapists, and with no one watching your back, you could easily get in trouble. Having a drink or two is absolutely fine, but getting hammered might not be your best option.
- Take enough cash with you
Running out of cash poses a challenging problem for any traveler, but even more so when you’re traveling solo. When you’re with a traveling buddy, it may not be as risky to ask strangers for help or sleep on a bench. However, if you’re alone, it’s not as safe to ask people for free rides and crash pads with no one to watch your back.
- Keep someone posted about your whereabouts
While the goal of solo traveling is to enjoy your independence at full force, it helps to leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home and keep them updated about your plans via phone, text, video chat or email. There are a lot of travelers that go missing while abroad, and you don’t want to worry the people you love with the thought that you’ve been kidnapped or had gotten into an accident.
Now that you know how to keep yourself safe, here are some tips to let you have the most fun in your solo vacation:
- Seek an expat bar
When you’re traveling abroad, it helps to get acquainted with fellow travelers and expatriates from your country. It’s an excellent way to meet new friends who speak your language and experience the nightlife of a city without having to dread sitting all alone.
- Check out Couchsurfing events
Couchsurfing is a very active community of travelers and open-minded people from all over the world. If you’re lucky, there might be events in your destination that will suit your fancy.
- Stay in a hostel
Hostels are a great way of meeting travelers from all over the world. This low-budget accommodation does not only provide you with a cheap bed for you to sleep in, the staff may sometimes organize potluck events or pub crawls that bring all their guests together.
- Make reservations for popular attractions
If you’re planning to check out a museum or join an afternoon boat tour, it’s important that you book your tickets in advance. Standing in long lines is dreadful enough as it is. How much more if you have to do it alone?
In the end, traveling alone allows you to see the world like you’ve never seen it before. You automatically become a more adventurous version of yourself, and you will make friends with a handful of travelers who have hundreds of interesting stories to tell. So, go out there and make the most out of your trip!