Though it can be a bit scary at first, traveling alone is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable ways to see the world. Having no travel companions means no complicated plans—you get the chance to do exactly what you want when you want, whether it’s dining at that particularly expensive restaurant or spending way too much time in a certain store. But traveling alone does expose you to a few risks you may not otherwise face, so it’s vital that you’re prepared and stay as safe as possible. Here are a few safety precautions to take the next time you jet off on your own.
- Don’t Let Your Guard Down – The No. 1 most important rule for any kind of traveler—whether alone or in a group—is to never let your guard down. You are in a foreign place surrounded by strangers, and awareness is your best defense against any kind of incident. Similarly, always trust your intuition. If a person or a situation seems off to you, there’s probably something to it. Never talk yourself out of feeling leery or unsafe, especially when traveling alone.
- Send Friends and Family Your Itinerary – Send two or three of your closest friends and family members your itinerary, down to the exact flight numbers, the addresses where you’ll be staying, and what you plan to do during the day. Establish check-in times each day and have a code word so your check-in buddy knows it’s really you. This way, in the unlikely event that something does happen, it will be on your family’s radar quickly.
- Travel with a Non-Lethal Weapon – Though unlikely, as a tourist, you may be an obvious target for predators, pickpockets, and To protect yourself from physical attack, consider carrying a travel-friendly non-lethal weapon. Even if you never have to use it, it will definitely make you feel safe knowing you have pepper spray or a sharp keychain within reach to intimidate and, if needed, ward off potential attackers.
- Secure Your Belongings – Depending on where you travel, you may be at a heightened risk of being robbed. Pickpockets are particularly predatory in large European cities, with high instances in Barcelona, Prague, Rome, and other popular tourist destinations. Among the best ways to deter pickpockets is to secure your belongings on your person, such as with a special money belt or neck stash, and to leave any flashy valuables at home.
- When in Doubt, Read (Some) Reviews Online – If you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been before, it can be tough to know how safe a specific neighborhood may be. When booking your accommodations, make sure you do a fair amount of digging to make sure nothing’s sketchy. Remember that hotel reviews are notoriously biased (TripAdvisor is historically jam-packed with fake reviews, allegedly), so do your best to find real, trusted reports before booking.
- Don’t Be Too Trusting – As solo travelers, one of our biggest thrills is finding fun travel buddies to explore with, dine with, and exchange ideas with. Just remember that you may be a prime target for predators simply because you’re by yourself, so don’t immediately trust everyone you meet.
- Never Lose Control of Yourself – When you lose control of yourself, whether because you drank too much or because you haven’t gotten enough sleep hopping from city to city, you risk unintentionally letting your guard down and losing your sense of awareness that surrounds you and keeps you safe. As tempting as it is to let loose, give yourself limits so you don’t find yourself in risky situations.
- Research Local Scams – Throughout the world, there are known scams that tend to proliferate throughout a certain region. From the smooth pappagallo predators of Rome to the aggressive, fake monks of New York City, there are crafty scammers looking for easy targets in just about every corner of the world. Before you leave, read up on the region-specific scams so you’re hyper-aware of what to look for.
- Try Not to Stand Out – Foreigners, people who don’t speak the language, and visitors who are easily lost are obvious targets for pickpockets and scam artists, which is why it’s always a good idea to try your best to look like a local. That means not wearing anything too flashy—yes, you’re going to want to leave your American flag t-shirt at home when traveling abroad, sadly—as well as conducting yourself with an air of confidence that indicates that you know where you are and what you’re doing at all times, even if you’re completely lost.
- Have Non-Digital Backups – Why would you ever carry your boarding passes, maps, or itinerary when you’ve got it all on your phone? Of course, it’s nearly impossible not to rely on our digital devices when we head out of town. In fact, it’s probably your No. 1 most-used travel tool, but your cell phone is also a big-time pickpocket target, and it tends to break, die, and get lost, too. If it’s something super-important, make sure you have it offline, too!
Safety Starts with Good Planning
While you get the chance to be freer than usual with your plans, solo travel does require a bit less spontaneity than traveling in a group. Regularly checking in with people back home, staying on your toes, and doing some pre-departure research will help ensure that you’re not caught off guard or exploited when visiting a new place. In turn, you’ll get the unparalleled experience of seeing a place exactly how you want to, and it will, no doubt, end up being the trip of a lifetime.