Travelling alone as a woman can be a really fun and liberating experience. After all, you’re in control of where you go, what you do and who you spend your time with. Having time to yourself is a great way to clear your head, leave home worries and daily routines and enjoy the great wide world on your own terms. While going it alone is a rewarding experience, I believe it’s important to keep yourself safe, just as you would at home.
According to ABTA, the trend for solo travels has been growing in recent years with the number of people taking solo holidays up three-fold since 2011. So here are some of my top tips for travel safety.
1. Do your research and plan your trip carefully.
Research begins at home. So while you’re planning your trip and booking a place to stay, find out everything you can about the area. It’s worth checking with forums and fellow travellers for tips of places to avoid and the safest places to be. But your research doesn’t end there. When you get to your location, seek out locals and other travellers and build up as much knowledge as you can.
Book flights making sure you don’t arrive in the dark. It’s sometimes tempting to go for cheaper flights that land in the night, but arriving in an unfamiliar place in the dark can be disorienting. If you must go for a night flight, book your transport from the airport to your accommodation in advance, if possible, and always use a reputable firm to take you to your hotel. Trying to haggle for a cheap cab could end badly. Before you get in, take a photo of the vehicle registration, as this shows you’re wary of danger and this can deter anyone who was planning something nefarious.
2. Make sure someone knows where you are.
Leave an itinerary with friends and family. Arrange times and dates to check in. Not making contact when you say you will is going to make people worry, which is a good thing if you’re in trouble. If you’re travelling in a remote area or trekking away from the crowds, leave your itinerary and contact details to your home country’s embassy or your consulate.
When you arrive at your hotel or hostel ask the staff to write down the name, address and number of the place. Take a photo of the outside building to show your taxi driver when back to the hotel. This is really important in countries where you don’t know the language and the alphabet is totally foreign to you. If you’ve got this info written down you can show it to taxi drivers or the police should you get lost.
3. Keep your documents and money safe.
Make copies of your passport, visas, tickets, insurance and medical notes. Upload them to secure cloud storage and give copies to a friend or family member. That way, if you lose your luggage or your bag is stolen you still have access to these vital pieces of paper. If your accommodation or travel agency has lockable, secure storage keep the original documents there, or carry them with you. Don’t trust people you have just met to look after your stuff while you go to the bar or the toilet – they might turn out to be trustworthy but not very vigilant! Hide emergency cash in a secret compartment in your luggage or, if you’re a solo female traveller in a tampon wrapper.
4. Dress and behave like a local.
Looking like a tourist puts you at risk of pickpockets and muggers. So try to blend in. In some countries you need to be culturally sensitive with what you wear so as not to cause offence or get in trouble with local law enforcement. And pace yourself if you’re out drinking.
Don’t carry any valuables with you and don’t take anything with you that you couldn’t bear to lose, including sentimental and expensive items. I usually carry a decoy wallet which I can hand over if mugged. Mine always contains non-essential items and a few dollar bills while keeping my actual cash stashed away in a money belt or inside my boots.
Learn a few words in the local language, and make friends on your first day in the country. Keep your camera tucked away of view and leave the guidebook or physical map into your backpack. Not to mention to respect religious beliefs, local customs and to stay polite at all times – whatever annoying a situation can become. When I travel to Nepal, there’s no better way to discover the chaotic streets of Kathmandu than in a tuk-tuk to get a feel of the city – read on my 5 powerful benefits of travelling.
5. Book with travel agencies specialised in solo travel.
Travelling solo does not necessarily mean planning every aspect of your trip yourself. In fact, there is a growing number of tour operator that specialises in arranging escorted trips for solo travellers. And more and more local destinations are adapting to the new trend. So, your solo journey can now be tailored to your test without having to pay the single room supplements or this extra cash for meals. Consider these two tour specialists when planning your solo trip. The offer a great selection of solo trip ideas that may become a transforming experience.