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Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

Get in gear for solo travel with these critical tips.

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Being a woman who thrives on independence and reckless acts of adventure, traveling alone is just something I do. I like to create my own agenda, go where I want to go, and do it all when I want to do it. Sure, it’s nice to have company, but only if you want to resign every decision to a group vote. And someone always gets screwed on the team vote – that someone typically turning out to be me.

Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

Traveling alone is not for the faint of heart – particularly if you’re already averse to eating alone in your own neighborhood, or making small talk with friendly strangers. If that’s the case, you may want to brush up on your people skills before you embark on a solo journey. Otherwise, you might find yourself locked up in your hotel for days, ordering room service and watching UK Law and Order because you’re too afraid to treat yourself to tea and crumpets at the corner café. Not only does that sound epically boring, but it would be a colossal waste of your money and time. After all, why “get out” if you’re not going to, well, get out?

For most would-be travelers, it’s the fear of “being alone” that holds them back – the fear of being in “unsafe” situations, or being “that creep who hangs out at the restaurant alone.” Really the only way to conquer this fear is to experience solo travel yourself. You’ll soon realize that most places aren’t as dangerous as you thought (if you’re smart about where and how you go), and that all those foreigners you think are judging you could really care less.

Traveling alone doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming; there are plenty of ways to reduce your chances of being mugged or kidnapped.

If and when you decide you’re up for the challenge, here are some tips to keep in the back of your mind:

Take baby steps.

For your first trip, go to a destination where most people speak your language. Traveling solo becomes far riskier when you’re heading to a place that you’ve never been, not to mention a country where you don’t speak the local language. If nothing else, at least drive to a neighboring state to “practice” getting around alone.

Language matters.

If you insist on traveling alone to a strange land where English isn’t the primary language, at least make sure you know a few basic phrases in the native tongue. It’s also a good idea to memorize or write down emergency phone numbers, as well as addresses and areas where English is spoken, like the local US Embassy.

Don’t forget to use your greatest asset –  common sense.

Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

Don’t look like a tourist.

Pulling out a guidebook in public is a great way of announcing you have no idea where you’re going, and a surefire way to increase your chances of getting mugged. Instead, tuck your map into a book or magazine, or, better yet, download maps to your smartphone ahead of time for quick and easy consultation.

Check in at a large, reputable hotel.

While booking a room at the Four Seasons won’t completely guarantee your safety, you will at least benefit from the increased on-site security, as well as the complimentary WiFi.

Don’t get hammered

…At least not outside the confines of your hotel room. Sure, we all like a cocktail here and there, but it isn’t the brightest idea to be strolling around the dark streets of Amsterdam alone, incoherent and unaware. Plus, if you make a new friend, it’s nice to be able to remember them the next morning.

Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

Stay alert at all times, or: constant vigilance!

This doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid; there’s no fun in traveling if you’re always looking over your shoulder for potential predators. Just try to exude an air of confidence while walking around so you don’t look like a lost puppy.

Study your surroundings.

Research your destination and where you’ll be staying weeks before the trip. That way, you’ll feel right at home and know just what to expect when you actually arrive there. “Winging it” or “faking” your way around town can be a little more challenging than you might anticipate.

Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

Don’t forget about home.

Seriously. You may be traveling alone, but tell at least one person at home about your plans (and no, your dog doesn’t count). If you get lost or if an emergency arises, it’s good to know that someone else has a handle on where you are. Plus, you don’t need the local police knocking on your door because you forgot to tell mom you landed safely.

Beware of creepy parking lots.

If your hotel has no valet service, make sure you park in a very well-lit and secure lot. If no such space is on hand, choose another hotel. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Send the right message.

When you leave your room, hang the Do Not Disturb Sign to give the impression that somebody is inside, or that you’re not traveling alone. And dress conservatively. I hate to say this, because women should be able to dress however they want, but… don’t wear your sexy miniskirt or cleavage-baring tops when you’re traveling alone. Wear practical clothing that doesn’t show off your sexy bits so you’re less likely to get unwanted admirers following you.

Essential Tips For Traveling Alone

While none of these tips can guarantee you won’t get a hangnail or lose your passport in the airport bathroom, hopefully they’ll help you remember the importance of using common sense. You can be just as social, fun and charming as you always are – just stay smart. And remember, this trip is all about you; don’t ever feel pressured to do something you think is unsafe. Just do what makes you happy!

Want more? Here are 50 Travel Safety Tips!

Sarah enlightens us on a daily basis with the newest trends as (and often before) they transpire. She is the consummate globe trotter. Having traveled to over 70 countries, she earns her living writing, blogging (InsiderDiva.com) and modeling while on the road. In her spare time she gets manicures, suntans on yachts in Greece, shops for even more shoes, and lives in the limelight. She loves photography, elephants, sailboats, bangles and ballet flats.

Reader Discussion: 122 Comments

  1. Charley Giron

    This is such a useful and informative article. A friend of mine just shared this article with me because he knows how crazy I am about traveling alone. More people need the encouragement to travel solo. it’s such an amazing experience. It really is one of the best ways to see the world.

  2. Carl McQueen

    I am traveling alone for the first time outside my country. I’m honestly scared and excited. I am only 19. But I will be traveling to the place which was my childhood dream “UK”. And thank you for the article it helped!!

  3. Christine Tammaro

    OMG!! thank you for this!! I think I’m going to a cruise to the Bahamas this month because I had plans to go with my cousin and he ditched me up and I still want to go and I think I’m still going by myself.

  4. Adam Daughtry

    Love the tips, traveling internationally for the first time by myself. Will keep these in mind.

  5. Charlize Coates

    Felt like you just saved my life. These are really helpful tips. I am scared to travel alone, but I need to do that really soon.

  6. Karen Greenfield

    Great tips! Solo travel is my favorite way to travel, you get to experience things in a very different way and you’re never actually alone.

  7. Lynda Bradt

    I spent a month traveling Australia alone. I met amazing people that I know I would never have spoken to had I been with someone. I recommend it to everyone.

  8. Jane Mullinax

    Have traveled a couple times alone out of necessity but honestly. I could never vacation by myself. Just the thought of seeing and doing things that I couldn’t experience with someone else,then at the end of the day sit down for dinner or a drink and want to talk about the day we had and what we want to talk about the day we had and what we want to do tomorrow, and just see an empty chair across from me, would be a shallow feeling. If you can do it, great for you.

  9. Sandra Grijalva

    We have to allow ourselves to get lost and find our own way. We have to allow ourselves to visit a country whose mother language is not the same as yours. It can be scary, but in the end, there are lots of people doing the same thing. As a traveler, whenever I have any problem, I would always turn to another traveler in the hostel, and they would help me. In May I’m going To Poland for a Week. I don’t know how to speak in their language, but hey, I’m ready to outgrow myself on every trip. Not only do I have fun and explore new places, but I also end up learning more about me. I have to put up with me, and if one is not ready to put yo with themselves, traveling solo may be quite hard.

  10. Claudie Emerson

    I liked the tips and I so want to go on a solo trip, but the problem is my Mama will then ask me ” Who are you traveling with?” and when I’ll say no one, she’ll be worried for me like checking on me every minute.

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