Essential Tips For Traveling Alone
Get in gear for solo travel with these critical tips.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!