Solo travel – the very idea strikes fear in some and exhilaration in others.
There is no doubt that solo travel is an increasing trend – some people just prefer their own company and others find themselves alone.
Whatever the reason, solo travel is worth considering and if the fancy grabs you, why not try it?
Travelling on your Pat Malone presents a few logistical issues but what about safety? Is it really safe to travel on your own? Well, it largely comes down to a few key considerations – where you are going and how you are going to travel.
We’ve put together our Top 10 Tips for Staying Safe while Travelling Solo.
1. Pre-travel research
Certain destinations are just more edgy than others. Here, we’re thinking of the difference between the relative safety of England and the wilds of Africa. Travel in and of itself takes you out of your comfort zone and only you know how far you want to push the boundaries. If you just don’t feel safe going to a country where you don’t speak the language, maybe focus on going somewhere where English is widely spoken. At least then, you can be sure you’ll understand and be understood.
Certain cities have a reputation for scams and if you’re a woman travelling solo, cultural differences may be an issue particularly in places where men are more forward than what you’re used to back home.
Think too about where you want to stay – how close is it to the main attractions you want to visit? Does the hostel / hotel have a good reputation – check online reviews of previous guests.
Do you know where the local hospital is in proximity to your accommodation? What about the police – do you know the emergency phone number? It may not be Triple-0, so best to check – just to be extra safe.
2. Have a loose (but not too loose) schedule
No one likes to run to a tight program on holiday but at the very least have a fair idea about when you are going to arrive and how you are going to get around. If possible, plan to arrive during daylight hours. This will make finding your accommodation a little easier and a bit safer with more people likely to be around during the day. Also, pre-book your accommodation. Having to find somewhere to stay after you arrive will just cause extra stress – particularly if you’re travelling in the high season and availability within your price range is tight.
Take care though not to over-schedule your trip. Don’t forget that you will have to do everything yourself – from lugging your bags to figuring out timetables and ordering dinner. You wont be able to share the load with anyone, so leave a bit of space in your itinerary to allow for this.
3. Mix it with the locals
It goes without saying that if you look like a tourist, you will stand out. Try not to draw unnecessary attention to the fact that you are travelling solo. There’s no point adding to temptation when it comes to thieves and scammers. Also, if you are a solo female traveller, standing out as a tourist may draw unwanted advances from local men.
4. Baggage Check
Got your suitcase? What about your backpack and souvenirs?
Remember, you are going to have to carry all of your luggage which can be a bit tricky if you are negotiating train platforms or bus stations. What about when you need to visit the loo? You’ll need to take it all with you. It’s not pretty nor is it easy to fit all your luggage into a toilet cubicle – but it is a must if you want to keep it safe. With lots of luggage, you’ll also be distracted and easy picking for thieves. Our advice – take only what you need and buy only what you can’t live without. You’ll be carrying it all and unless that souvenir is an absolute “must-have” then it may not be worth lugging it half way across the world.
5. To drink or not to drink
A tipple or two helps us relax but please drink to enjoy rather than get drunk. There is no doubt that a solo traveller is vulnerable to thieves and unwanted personal advances. If you’ve had one too many, you could come off second best and put yourself in unnecessary danger.
It’s just not worth it – have a good time but take care to make sure you are in control of your faculties at all times.
6. Emergency Plan
Your solo travel may go off without a hitch but what if something goes wrong? It’s important to have a Plan B. If you feel unsafe for any reason, what are you going to do? Where are you going to go and who are you going to call? Simple measures taken before you go like thinking through the scenarios might just make the difference if you have to abandon your plans and seek higher ground.
7. Check in
Yes, we’re talking Social Media here. Check in, let your friends and family know you’re OK, where you are and where you’re heading next. Be careful though that you don’t get slugged with excess data usage so best to delay posting ALL of your photos until you’re using wifi or even safely back home.
8. The Bare Essentials
There are certain things you should never travel without if you are heading off solo.
Make sure you have a well stocked first aid kit covering all the basic essentials. If you suffer a bout of gastro, you’ll be glad you’ve got anti-diarrheal medication and don’t have to find your way to an after hours pharmacy.
Also, if possible have a stash of hidden cash and access to two separate bank accounts / credit cards. If one of your cards gets swallowed by an ATM, at least then you have a back up.
All travellers regardless of gender should think about packing a plastic door stop. It doesn’t take up much room but if you’re staying somewhere where the security isn’t tip-top, wedging it under your door might just make you feel a little safer and delay any uninvited entry. Also, think about carrying a whistle, if you are in grave fear or danger, it will come in very handy for drawing attention to your situation.
9. Reality check
Before you go, have a good sit down with yourself and ask “is this the right type of trip for me”.
Can you cope? Do you have sufficient stamina and are you able-bodied enough to do what you’re planning? What about mental toughness? Are you emotionally stable and do you even like your own company? If you’re a newbie to solo travel, maybe think about a short trip by yourself close to home. That way, you will get a good idea if you like travelling on your own. If you don’t, a short trip close to home is easier, quicker and often cheaper to cut short and head home.
Once you know you like doing a spot of solo travel, planning a bigger adventure further afield wont seem so daunting.
10. Gut Instinct
We all have it but some of us choose to ignore it. Being on your own in unfamiliar environments and circumstances means you need to be extra vigilant. If it feels wrong, it most likely is and you’d be best to hightail it outta there. Don’t dismiss your intuition – it seldom steers you wrong and could make the difference when it comes to personal safety.
Solo travel is a great opportunity to see the world on your own terms at your own pace. Going it alone will force you a little further out of your comfort zone and help you build self reliance and gain a sense of achievement. What are you waiting for? There’s a world out there to explore – why not see what you want, when and how you want?