Traveling solo is experiencing a revival in our hyper connected world. To swallow new surroundings unfiltered by the predilections of a traveling companion can be some seriously enlightening stuff.
But single travel has its perils too. Safety concerns plague most travelers before their first solo trip, but quickly evaporate, overshadowed by the innumerable benefits. Anyone who travels alone is interested in its singular rewards, but such rewards can be blunted if you fail to make personal safety a priority.
Of course—traveling alone doesn't mean cowering in a hotel room; venturing into unknown territory is one of the many delights of travel. But don't let yourself get so preoccupied by sights and sounds (or recording the perfect Snapstory) that you let your guard down.
A little groundwork and common sense can get you through the uglier side of solo traveling. Gabrielle Rubin, founder and owner of Female Awareness Self Defense, offered us her top tips on how to venture successfully. Ready to make the most of your first solitary outing? Read on for 8 safety tips every globetrotter should heed while traveling the world.
1) Dress to impress, but also to be safe.
We get it—you need to look fabulous when strutting those streets. However, your fashion can play a huge hand in your safety when traveling, and there are some precautions you should heed before you leave the door in the morning to start your adventure. For starters, wear your bag on your less dominant shoulder so your dominant hand is free should you need it to defend yourself. Keep backpacks in front of you when taking public transit as pickpockets can easily access your belongings when you aren’t looking.
Rubin also tells us not to advertise purchases. “You just hit the Chanel store in Paris? Maybe put that store bag inside a local pharmacy store bag instead," she said.
You can even look at your wardrobe as good safety weapons. A chunky bangle or spiky cocktail ring can be a used with a swift swing to a bony area on a bad guy. Heels (particularly those killer stilettos) would really hurt him if you stomp on the bridge of his foot and heavy handbags with good hardware would definitely damage when aggressively swung.
Female Awareness Self Defense sells an alarm that goes around your wrist and drops into your bag. If your bag gets ripped off, it will lose its connection with you and the alarm will sound.
2) Study maps and familiarize yourself with the area around where you are visiting, along with the best routes between where you are staying and going.
Utilize street smarts. Be self-reliant and well prepared with a map, guidebook, or phrase book. If you get lost in an inauspicious neighborhood, be savvy about whom you ask for help. Seek out a family, or go into a store or restaurant to consult the ever-handy Google Maps.
Rubin says, “Walk like a supermodel. Confidence is a big deterrent in any city. Walk tall with good posture, look straight ahead, not down, good pace.”
You should also be sure to study up on the culture of your destination. Be aware of local customs and etiquette, especially with regard to dress. Although being submerged in a culture is the best way to learn what is appropriate, try to research some of the biggest faux-pas you want to avoid. Talk to locals about dodgy neighborhoods to circumvent, especially after dark. Be aware of the local numbers to call for emergencies.
3) Keep others apprised of your daily itinerary.
Someone close to you should always be aware of your whereabouts when you are traveling away from home. Habitually notify people where you're going—whether they are friends and family back home or your hotel concierge. When trekking the wilderness, always tell someone when you expect to return as well as your exact route—and then stick to it.
A good idea is to compile your entire itinerary into a single document for close family and friends to have at their fingertips. Although it can be tedious, it will make you feel significantly more at ease. No need to call and check in every day, but try to post updates to social media sites or send quick emails so that everyone knows you are safe.
4) Don't make it obvious you are traveling alone.
Travelling alone can seem quite daunting away the familiar bubble of home. While personal safety apps such as bSafe can set up fake phone calls to get you out of sticky situations, even a non-functioning phone can be a safety device. No one can tell there is no one on the line with you when you fake a phone call in the lobby of the hotel or taxi. Go with something like, "Hi babe, yes I'm downstairs, I'll be up in a moment.”
Rubin also advises registering two people for the hotel room. “Put two people on the reservation and ask for two keys upon arrival. It doesn't cost any more.”
5) Back up all your info on a cloud server—ticket, passport, credit cards, hotel info, etc. Pictures of these items on your server help too!
Making copies of all important documents is vital. If something happens to your passport or other documents while you are out of the country, it could take weeks for a new one to arrive. Consider downloading a scanning app, like TurboScan, to keep your important documents organized and safe in the cloud.
Before your trip, also remember to call your credit card company beforehand and explain where you are going/for how long in order to avoid a freeze on your account.
6) Don't look like a tourist. That means no hats, backpacks, and sweatshirts with logos from home.
Tourists can be spotted from a mile away. From the big fancy cameras that we lug around to the colossal maps that we peer over with perplexed expressions, we just aren’t that hard to spot. Don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself. The last thing you want to do is show up in a new country with your largest pieces of expensive jewelry. The easiest way to not attract unwanted attention is to leave those items back home.
Rubin tells us, “It's never a good idea (or look) to hang a camera around your neck. Don't wear anything with the city name on it (also not a good look) and nothing that identifies you as a tourist—an American flag patch on your backpack, a Yankees hat, a Vote for Hillary t-shirt.”
7) Keep money separated. Stash money, credit cards, and passport in separate places and be discreet about them.
Do not keep your credit cards and cash in the same place. Keep some cash in your wallet, and leave some in a zippered pocket in your luggage or another safe location. In addition, store credit cards in a separate pocket of your purse from your carry-around cash.
According to Rubin, “Neck wallets, waist wallets, hidden belt pockets, even underwear have pockets now! Keep in mind if you are in a café, you have to dig in to get your money, so go to the restroom and collect your card or cash and then return to pay with those items in your pocket.”
When using cash machines, withdraw cash during the day on a busy street, not at night when it's dark with few people around.
Rubin tells us, “Travelers checks and credit cards are best. I always take a couple hundred dollars (before you arrive) and get small bills. You will use this for taxis, tips, coffee, etc. Leave half in the safe at your hotel and have some cash on you when out and about. Take enough to get back to your hotel or wherever you are staying.”
8) If traveling where they speak another language, learn a few key phrases.
Make the effort to learn a few words and phrases before you go travelling. Just knowing how to introduce yourself, start a basic conversation, order a beer, hail a taxi, and count from 1–10 makes all the difference. People love to know you’re making an effort and doing your best to interact, even if it may come out sounding like rubbish.