Traveling alone can be an entirely new experience. Not only are you free to do what you want to do, but you will not be distracted by a traveling partner when sightseeing. Of course, there are safety concerns when traveling solo, especially since you don’t have others to watch out for you and many con artists target those they believe are traveling alone.
With a little planning and some common sense, you will be able to enjoy a safe and memorable solo vacation. Plus, as a solo traveler, you are more likely to blend in and disappear into a crowd than an entire group of tourists traveling together could.
Derek E. Baron, aka Wandering Earl, has been traveling the world solo for the past 14 years. He enjoys traveling alone because it gives him more time to focus on the people and sites. Traveling alone is something he recommends everyone try. The biggest tip he offered about traveling alone is to use the same common sense you would if you were at home.
“In the 14 years of traveling all over the world,” Baron said, “I’ve had my wallet pick-pocketed once. That’s it. Nothing else has been stolen.” He continued to say that he has never been attacked and feels safe just about everywhere he has visited. “I really do think that using common sense helps turn most destinations into places that can be visited safely.”
Here are some other key tips to keep in mind when traveling alone.
Do your research while planning your upcoming solo vacation. Study the area, sites you want to see, transportation options and anything else that could have an impact on your safety. Baron suggests checking the U.S. State Department’s Travel Warnings page to see if anything major is taking place in a particular destination.
If you are looking for the crime rates of an area, he suggests checking the website Plansify.com, which offers reliable advice from experienced travelers who are experts in the destinations you plan to visit.
Know local customs and how the locals dress. This will help you fit in upon your arrival. It also helps to learn a few key phrases that will help you communicate with the locals.
How you pack could save you from the hassle of losing your identity and having all of your money go missing. Keep all of your identification documents in more than one location. Make copies of your passport, driver’s license and other travel documents to keep in your room. This will help you should your wallet be pick-pocketed while you are out.
Do the same thing with your money, traveler’s checks and credit cards. Keep some of these items in your room, so if your wallet is lost or stolen, you still have money to eat while you wait for the new credit card to arrive. Make copies of your traveler’s checks and credit cards and keep them in a separate place as reference.
Baron says that one of the best sources of information about where to go is the hotel staff. They are locals and know which areas of the town are safe and which areas should be avoided. Check maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel room. This will help you avoid having to ask questions or look like a tourist when you pull out the map.
When out and about, stay in open, public places, especially when exploring the area at night. Never go down a dark alley, into an empty building alone or with someone who asks you to come with them.
How you act can determine how you appear. If you walk and act confidently, others will see you as someone who knows where they are going. However, if you look confused or scared to be somewhere, you will stand out and could become a target.
“Don’t do anything that puts you at greater risk,” Baron said. “Try not to stand out too much.”
Act like you are a local. Do not wear tourist t-shirts or walk around with your head buried in a guide book. Dress normally and pay attention to your surroundings. Also, avoid dressing in flashy clothing or wearing expensive jewelry.
Tell little white lies to those you interact with. For example, when you want directions somewhere, ask “Can you please direct me to the park? I am meeting a friend there.” Or when checking into a hotel room, ask for two keys and say your friend is outside waiting for you.
While you want to be on your toes and pay attention to your surroundings, you also do not want to look like you do not trust anyone.
“Don’t think that every person you meet is trying to cheat, scam or steal something from you,” Baron added. “If you walk around a new destination looking like you fear everyone and everything, you’re much more of a target. Enjoy your travels and talk to those you meet, but just proceed with a hint of caution.” He continued to say that you should trust your instincts just as you would at home and if it does not feel right, get out of that situation.
When booking your accommodations request a room that is close to the concierge desk or near the elevators. If possible, avoid ground floor rooms, where outsiders have window entry access to your room.
Safety concerns should not be forgotten once you are back in your hotel room. Keep the door locked and use the security chain at all times. If you are not expecting anyone to come to your room, do not answer the door.
You may be traveling alone, but you should still keep in close contact with someone back home. Give a close friend or family member a copy of your itinerary so they know where you will be. Schedule times when you will call or Skype to check in with your person back home. Avoid sending text messages or emails as a method of checking in. You should personally check in so your family back home knows you are safe.
Consider taking some self-defense classes before leaving on vacation. Even if you never have to use these skills, it will give you peace of mind knowing you can defend yourself if the need arises.
Do not let fear of something bad happening get in the way of enjoying your vacation. “You want to be cautious, but not overly concerned to the point where it negatively effects your travels,” Baron said. In the end, your best safety tool when traveling alone is your gut. Use it. If it does not feel right, avoid it.