Traveling solo can be an empowering experience, providing you with the freedom to explore new places at your own pace. However, you do have to prioritize your personal safety when you’re alone. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk through some important tips and precautions to ensure a secure and worry-free solo travel experience.
Hotels over Airbnbs
Look, I love Airbnbs. But if I’m traveling solo, I don’t want to be in an unfamiliar house all alone. Most hotels also have built in safety protocols like doormen or security cameras. And on top of that, most hotel rooms only have one point of entry for you to secure, while an Airbnb may have a large number.
Book hotel room for two
When making hotel reservations, consider booking a room for two people, even if you’re traveling alone. This creates the impression that you’re not alone. That’s right, I don’t even let the hotel staff know I’m traveling alone.
Ask for two hotel keys
With that same thought in mind, I always ask for two hotel keys when I’m checking in, and drop a line like “my boyfriend is just grabbing our luggage” or something like that.
When checking in, ask them NOT say your room number out loud
Most hotels do this by default these days, but not all. One time I was checking into a hotel alone, and there was a group of probably ten men in line right behind me—and I didn’t want them knowing my room number. So I just asked the person checking me in to write down my room number, and she slid it to me face down.
Be sure nobody is too close when entering your room
Once I was going back to my hotel room, and there was only one other person in the hallway. Presumably, also going to his room. But he was about 10 feet behind me, and I don’t like to take chances. So when I got to my room, I kept on walking. I circled the hallway and went in once I was the only one in the hallway. If he was a little further behind me, I probably would not have made the same choice. But he was close enough to me where if he wanted to force his way into my room, he easily could have.
Do a room sweep
Whenever I enter a hotel room, the first thing I do is check the shower, behind curtains, under beds—anywhere there might be someone hiding. Only then do I secure my door.
Personal security locks for your hotel room
Add an extra layer of security to your hotel room by using portable door security devices, such as a door wedge or a doorstop alarm. These tools can reinforce the existing locks and provide an additional sense of security when you’re inside the room.
Outside the Hotel (other safety tips!)
Share your itinerary with someone you trust
Before you leave, make sure someone you trust knows where you are. Which days will you be in which city, what hotels are you staying at, when are you expected back, what is your flight number. Keep them updated regularly during your trip. This way, if anything happens, someone will know.
Have “find my friends” connected
By sharing your location with trusted friends or family members, solo travelers can ensure that someone is aware of their whereabouts at all times.
Once you arrive, don’t tell anyone you’re traveling alone
Every time I have traveled alone, I always have someone asking me “so are you traveling alone?”. It’s almost always a cab driver or something, and my answer is always the same: “No I’m meeting the rest of my group there.” Always some version of ‘while I may be alone at this exact moment, my group is expecting me somewhere soon.’
Always make sure your phone is charged
When you head out, make sure your phone has a full charge. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re in an unfamiliar city, alone, with no way to call a taxi or an Uber—or God forbid, call for help.
Know the local emergency number
There was a long time where I thought 911 was the universal emergency number. WRONG! Each country has their own, so make sure you know the correct emergency number of wherever you are traveling, just in case. Here is a list you can save and reference.
Know how your phone’s “Emergency SOS” works
If you have a smart phone, there’s a good chance your phone has some type of emergency alert system. I am an iPhone user, and I know that with a simple press of a button, the Emergency SOS feature will not only contacts emergency services but also shares my location information. And if you have any emergency contacts listed in your phone, it will send them your location as well. This life-saving feature on the iPhone serves as a vital lifeline during an emergency.
Here is a Google article on how to set up your Android for emergencies.
Never post photos same-day
While it’s tempting to share real-time updates of your adventures on social media, refrain from posting same-day photos or status updates. Broadcasting your location in real-time can compromise your safety and attract unwanted attention. Wait until you’ve moved on to a new location before sharing your travel experiences online.
Be aware of the local scams
The free necklace, the “I bet I can guess where you got your shoes”, the currency exchange scam—I could write an entire article on allllll the scams I’ve seen over the years. Some are more common in certain cities than others. So before you leave, do a quick Google of “[CITY NAME] scams” and know what to look out for.
When in doubt, keep your back to a wall
If you’re in a crowded environments and feeling overwhelmed or unsafe, try to position yourself with your back against a wall or a solid structure. This tactic reduces the vulnerability of being approached from behind and provides a better view of your surroundings.
Triple check your Ubers
If you are taking an Uber, Google what the car looks like, check that the license plate matches before you get in, and ask them to confirm who they are picking up for. Uber also now has a Safety Toolkit where you can share your trip status, call 911 and more.
Avoid walking alone at night
If you can avoid walking alone at night, just do it. You are at your most vulnerable alone and in the dark. If you choose to walk alone, be smart—take main roads and not dark side streets, be alert and aware of your surroundings. Hell, if there’s no traffic, I will walk in the middle of the street depending where I am.
Secure your valuables
Don’t make it easy for the criminals. Your purse should always be cross-body and in front of you. I also love my PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It is slash-proof fabric, has locking zippers, and one of the straps detaches so you can secure it to your train seat, cafe table, etc.
Use indoor ATMs
While outdoor ATMs may seem more convenient and readily available, they can also leave you really vulnerable if you don’t have someone to watch your back. Look for indoor ATMs at local banks or hotel lobbies for a more controlled and monitored environment.
I’m obviously not saying to not drink at all if you’re traveling solo. But if you are alone, you’re an easier target. So I always make sure I see the drink being made start to finish until it is in my hands. Sitting at the bar makes this much easier! Never accept a drink from a stranger unless you see it being made. And NEVER leave your drink unattended. I have seen a lot of people start using drink covers like these as an extra step of precaution as well.
Trust your instincts
Listen to your gut feelings and intuition. If a situation or person makes you uncomfortable, remove yourself from it. Screw being polite, literally just walk away without saying anything. Your safety is paramount, and your gut is almost always right.
Learn basic self-defense
Consider taking self-defense classes before your trip to boost your confidence and equip yourself with essential skills to protect yourself if needed.
Know when to “fight” and when to “flight”
I have take a number of self-defense classes over the years, and I have heard the same thing from every one of them—only fight back their target is YOU and NOT your stuff. If you are being robbed, give them your stuff. It’s not worth your safety and well-being. You can get a new camera, new jewelry, hell you can even get a new passport if you need to. The moment you start fighting is when their target is YOU.
Traveling alone can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and I want this post to empower travelers to travel solo, not scare them in any way. I mean, it’s horrible that we even have to think about things like these, but unfortunately that is the world we live in. But by following these essential tips, you can travel safely and confidently.