Solo travel has been gaining traction over the years, especially among women – it is the top travel trend of 2019! However, to be a solo traveller can be daunting, especially for those looking to do it for the very first time. And the reality is that there are several issues revolving around safety that both men (scary stuff happens to guys too!) and women should be aware of. As a group of nomads with tons of time spent on the road by ourselves, here our well-practised top tips for the solo traveller.
#1 Choose your destination wisely
For first-time solo travellers, there are a handful of destinations that are reasonably safe to head to. These places include cities like Bali, Rome, New York, Koh Samui, Seoul, Tokyo, Kyoto, Taipei Copenhagen, Queenstown and Hong Kong.
However, a general rule of thumb would be to opt for spots that are generally popular as a tourist destination. This ensures that you likely won’t run into a considerable language barrier (since most of the locals should be used to English speaking tourists). At the end of the day though, don’t be afraid to venture beyond the so-called safe locations as long as you are smart about it (e.g. don’t go prancing around Syria without taking every precaution).
#2 Pack light
You don’t need to pack your entire wardrobe. Bring only what you’re sure you’ll need and then take some out. You should make sure that you can comfortably carry your baggage on your own. There may be times when you’ll have to navigate tough situations, and you don’t want to struggle with your bags on your own.
#3 Make plans (and back up ones) in advance
Whether if it’s your first time travelling to a certain destination or your 100th, it’s always a good idea to make plans in advance. Make an itinerary of things to do and places you want to see to make the most of your trip (you might even be able to pre-book and save some cash!).
Importantly, have a back-up plan. Not all travel plans are perfect, so prepare yourself for the worst and have other options to fall back on. Bring along a little extra cash tucked away – just in case.
#4 Always stay connected
When you’re travelling alone, letting your friends and family know where you are and what you’re doing is of the utmost importance for your safety. With the power of the internet, keeping your loved ones updated on your whereabouts has never been easier. While abroad, make sure you always stay connected by hiring a WiFi router or by simply getting a SIM card.
#5 Be one with the locals
You know the saying: “When in Rome, do what the Romans do.” Being a tourist can, more often than not, make you a target. Avoid being the unwanted centre of attention by assimilating yourself in the local culture.
For example, an easy trick to blending into your surrounding is to dress like the locals. Avoid sticking out like a sore tourist thumb by doing a little background research ahead of time and assessing what is or isn’t appropriate local dress standards. Being mindful of the local customs will also allow you to experience a more authentic sense of what life is like wherever you are.
#6 Get familiar with where you are
Before you head out on your adventures each day, check a map. It’s best to know where you’re going in advance so you can avoid scams like taxis taking you round and round in circles when you’re really just going around the corner.
If you’re going to be using public transport, research how the system works before you head out – especially if you’re not in an English speaking country. Public systems, even in well-developed countries like Japan, can be overwhelming.
#7 Don’t be afraid to be rude (or to smile!)
Trust your instincts! If you feel something is wrong, don’t be afraid to high-tail it out of there, even if you think it might be the rude thing to do. It’s better to be safe and offend someone than end up in a bad situation.
On the flip side, don’t be afraid to smile and open up to people. If you’re lost, stop and ask someone. A smile is also an easy way to break the ice and make friends on your journey – just because you’re a solo traveller doesn’t mean you always have to be alone!
#8 Don’t take stupid risks
Be smart about what you’re doing and the situations you’re putting yourself in. For example, going drinking and getting black-out drunk with people you’ve only just met is probably not the best idea. They’ve only met you too and are likely not going to take care of you if you’re giving off the impression that you’re trouble.
It’s not just drinking either. It’s simple things like wearing appropriate safety equipment and practising good hygiene. If you’re a solo traveller, you won’t always have someone nearby to assist you.