Safety First! Tips for Female Solo Travellers
In recent years the trend of travelling solo has been growing so rapidly that nowadays I rarely hear somebody utter the weathered words ‘I could never travel on my own’. In fact, as of 2018 one in four people say that they plan to head out into the wider world with nothing but their suitcase in hand.
I’ve personally been travelling solo for over four years, during which time I’ve experienced both the good and the bad. Based on everything I’ve expereinced first hand, these are my top tips to stay safe while travelling alone.
While I love winging it as much as the next person, a bit of preparation is best to avoid compromising on personal safety.
Simple things like telling someone where you’re going, or how long you expect to be offline for, reading advice to travellers on your government’s website, or, taking a look at relevant and recent travellers blogs are all excellent ways to prepare yourself.
Also, check out your accommodation options in advance. There’s no need to make a booking if you don’t want to, just make sure that there are safe places to stay and have an address written down before you travel to your next destination.
If you’re arriving at night, it might be wisest to book in advance to save you roaming the streets with your backpack in the dark. Remember to tuck a Plan B up your sleeve, too.
You may have no idea which way the Colosseum is, but there’s no need for anybody else to know that. Walking about with your eyes glued to Google Maps or with your head hidden behind a city map screams ‘tourist’.
Walking with confidence, on the other hand, implies that you know where you’re going and what you’re looking for. I now find that I frequently get asked for directions, even by locals, no matter which country I’m in and I rarely get hassled by tourist touts. People judge you on your body language, so learn to act like you feel right at home.
Checking your route in advance is half of this. The other half is following your own sense of direction, which for a lot of people is a bit underdeveloped these days as GPS tends to do it all for them. Be willing to take a wrong turn and prepared to double back if you’ve got it wrong. You never know what you might discover when you’re ‘lost’!
Learn A Bit Of the Language
Knowing a few basic phrases in the country you’re visiting can go a long way. For example, asking directions, asking for help, or knowing how to politely and firmly say no.
When you don’t speak a word of the local language you’re completely dependent on the people around you being able to speak your language or communicate in English.
It can sometimes be a fun challenge to figure things out despite a language barrier, but it can also lead to uncomfortable situations.
Know Where To Get Help
Every city has a local police number and many cities will have an English-speaking tourist helpline. Learn the number, save it to your phone or, better still, write it down in advance. Better safe than sorry, and all that jazz.
If you’ve got a long wait in a bus station, places where pickpockets sometimes operate, then familiarise yourself with where the security and the tourist information offices are. If there’s neither, then talk to a member of staff. This is where learning some of the local language comes in handy yet again.
Tell A Few White Lies
These days around 85% of solo travellers are female and, unfortunately, there are certain occasions when a small fib can save you a lot of hassle.
So, instead of proudly announcing that you’re completely alone to the slightly creepy man sitting next to you on the bus, it’s safer to say ‘I’m meeting my friend’ in this location or that ‘my husband is waiting’ in that location.
In certain places, single women find that wearing a fake wedding ring can save them an awful lot of bother. Much as that might go against your principles, something as simple as a ring could make your life a whole lot easier.
It’s difficult to be aware of what’s going on around you and respond to things quickly when you’ve got a bag hanging off each finger and the kitchen sink tucked under your arm.
It’s exhausting, and it also makes you an easy target, as you’re very obvious and slow-moving. Try to minimise your luggage to just one suitcase or large backpack and carry a neat little travel purse or backpack so you can be a bit more mobile.
Wear A Bum-Bag or Fanny Pack
It’s not the most glamorous accessory in the world, I grant you, but a small bag which can be safely hidden underneath your clothes is very useful, especially if you mostly plan to travel by public transport or on foot.
There are plenty of stylish bum bags out there designed to be worn outside your clothes which are also great for travelling, but here we’re talking about specifically-designed money belts that you wear against your skin.
If you’re travelling in a warm climate try and wear loose clothes that won’t make it obvious you’ve got something hidden under there.
Keep your passport, a spare credit card and any extra cash you’ve got inside it. Don’t use it as a travel wallet, keeping your main credit card and your money for the day in a normal wallet. The idea is that your back up stash should remain hidden to everyone except you.
Dress Like A Local
Standing out from the crowd can be great at times, but, unless there’s only one seat left on the last bus of the day, it’s best to avoid drawing attention to the fact that you’re on your own.
Now, I’m not implying that if you’re travelling in India, for example, you should put on a sari, but certain dress codes should be noted, particularly for women.
Just remember that, while a woman can blend into a crowd in Brazil by wearing a pair of denim shorts and a tank top, the same outfit would mark you out as a foreigner in Iran, even if your hair or skin colour hasn’t already done the job for you!
Talk To Trustworthy People
When you’re travelling alone take the time to locate people who know the area and have your best interests at heart and ask for their advice for things to do, but also ways to stay safe.
This could be your hotel or hostel receptionist, it could be the local mountaineering office for the national park you want to visit, it could be your couch surfing host, or it could be another solo traveller. No amount of research beats first hand and up to date experiences.
Also, always remember that just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean you actually have to be alone all that much. There are so many solo travellers out there in exactly the same boat as you that you’re bound to meet people you can join forces with, whether just for an evening out, a day trip or even a week travelling together.
Stay open to new experiences and meeting new people, and you’ll rarely actually be alone unless you really want to be!