Solo travel can be a life-affirming experience. Having the courage to venture forth on your own takes a good deal of spirit – some would even say courage. Of all the wonderful benefits it brings, you still have to do it safely and not be reckless with your own personal security. Do it right and solo travelling will be a true adventure.
Wherever you are going, there are some hard and fast rules of solo travel.
DO – Have an itinerary
Though freedom is a watchword of solo travel, it is essential that you have a plan. Even if you only loosely follow it – such as setting out each day’s location – it is important that you have a travel itinerary so there is a record of your intentions and where you have been and where you might be heading for next. No one likes to think about horrible scenarios, but you do have to be aware of them.
DON’T – Change your itinerary without letting key people know
Of course, your itinerary should be as fluid as you want it to be, and you don’t have to stick rigidly to it, but you should let someone know if you are making a major diversion. This may be a parent or friend – whoever you have entrusted with knowing where you are going. For example, if you are backpacking in Asia and decide to go to Vietnam when people think you were next off to Thailand.
Do – Pack essential safety equipment
You may only be taking a backpack, but there are some things you have to find room for.
You might be surprised by what can be termed safety equipment for solo travel. It ranges from items like anti-theft clothing and faux items to keep your valuables safe to practical gadgets like a whistle and taser flashlight. You might also consider an SOS talisman or a personal GPS tracker.
DO – Be mindful of your health
This means having the recommended vaccinations for each country you are travelling to or through.
In these post-COVID times, you also need to be aware of local regulations regarding the wearing of masks (and any other restrictions). If you have regular medication, ensure you have sufficient supply for your trip.
And, also under the issue of health, make sure you have adequate travel insurance that covers you for any activities you may wish to undertake (any extreme sports, for example).
DON’T – Forget your paperwork
This isn’t just your tickets and passport. Take a photocopy of your passport and tickets and make a note of your insurance policy and keep them in your luggage. You can also take pictures of same on your phone, but as mobile phones are among the most stolen items in the world, you should have a paper back up.
DON’T – Forget to inform your bank
Tell your bank you are travelling so they don’t stop your card(s) for suspicious activity. Make a note of your bank’s hotline for use when abroad too.
DO – Do your homework
Homework can be everything from deciding at which hostels or campsites you’ll bed down for the night to which hiking route and vital local information such as which language is spoken and what is the currency.
Also, make a note of local emergency numbers. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you’ll be to enjoy your chosen location.
With the ever-changing landscape of foreign travel, with green lists, amber lists etc., register with the federal website or app that will keep you up to date with the safety and restricted status of your destination(s).
DO – Book your first nights’ stay
It’s simple peace of mind to know exactly where you are going to spend your first couple of nights in a strange place. No matter how free to roam you want to be during your trip, book your hostel or campsite for at a minimum the first night. As well as the sense of security, you’ll know exactly where you are going when you arrive at the airport or train/bus station.
DON’T – Stray into areas you know have been deemed unsafe
It is wonderful to get up close and personal with the local culture but if there is any indication from your travel resources that an area may be unsafe or the people don’t take kindly to strangers, do not go there, certainly not alone.
DON’T – Travel at night
This is not about avoiding overnight train/bus trips but about moving around in your location after dark. Do not make yourself a target for crime by walking around at night on your own. If you are out and about, take a taxi. Even if you are travelling on a shoestring budget – do not compromise your safety for a few bucks.
DO – Dress appropriately
Being culturally sensitive means you will draw less attention to yourself. Understand local customs and behave accordingly. Heed clothing expectations particularly. It’s nice to wander around in a skimpy t-shirt and shorts in a very hot climate but don’t so if this will make you stand out. If you are going to visit local religious sights, know how to dress and how to behave as the rules will vary by country and religion.
DO – Be circumspect with strangers
Don’t immediately tell anyone you meet that you are travelling alone. Don’t meet up or go off with an individual you have just met. And also, don’t get drunk at places you’re unfamiliar with, with people you don’t know. Look after your drink, too.
These are basic safety tips you should follow at home so it shouldn’t be any different when you’re away from home.
DON’T – Be unprepared
The one thing more than any other that puts women off travelling solo is the perception of risk. It’s no wonder! If you search online for solo travel for women, the vast majority of results will focus on safety. This shouldn’t be underestimated but if you are prepared, they are risks, not realities. If you want to feel extra safe and in control, consider taking a self-defense course.
DO – Have the time of your life!
You’re travelling solo because you want the adventure and the wonderful benefits the experience brings.
Do your homework, do your prep, follow the safety rules, and have the trip of a lifetime!