When it comes to traveling alone, safety is the biggest concern. When you travel with a group, you are much less likely to get into any trouble because you have other people who can keep you safe, or get you out of trouble when you need it. But when you travel alone you have to take care of yourself. Everything is your responsibility, including your safety. One of the most common questions that I hear people ask when they are thinking about doing a solo trip is: is solo travel safe?
Solo travel is as safe as group travel as long as you take precautions and listen to your gut. If a situation or locale feels off, then it’s better to be safe than sorry. The majority of the time, solo travel is a safe, vivid, and rewarding experience.
Safety was one of my biggest concerns when I started my first solo trip. I couldn’t help but worry if I would be mugged, stolen from, or taken advantage of. Because of these concerns, I took every precaution necessary to ensure that my trip was as safe as possible. Below, I’ll share with you some tips to make your solo trip as safe as possible, and debunk some of the common misconceptions about the safety of traveling alone.
Trust Your Gut
You can plan your trip for as long as you want. You could have every destination and activity planned out, but you can never plan for the unexpected. During your trip, situations will crop up that require you to think on the fly. Some of these can include delayed flights, money shortages or unsatisfactory lodging. While these circumstances will require you to make a snap decision, they don’t necessarily have an immediate impact on your well-being.
Unfortunately, there may come a time where an unexpected situation causes you to feel unsafe. Like I said before, you can’t plan for these situations so it’s important to follow your gut. During one of my solo trips, I was invited to a party by a group of strangers I met at a club. While it sounded fun, and I would’ve loved nothing more than to go to a house party with some rowdy locals, the situation just didn’t feel safe. I decided not to go, and there were a few reasons I made that decision.
The first was that I was outnumbered. There was about five of them and only one of me, so it would’ve been impossible to defend myself if I needed to. The second was that I simply hadn’t known them for long enough. If I had met them a few days prior and we had built up enough trust, then I would have obliged to the invitation. But the reality of the situation is that I met the group at a nightclub two hours earlier and didn’t know enough about them to feel comfortable.
I heard a story from a fellow traveler I met in Paris, who encountered a similar situation. He met a group of locals at a bar and decided to go back to their apartment for an after party. Instead of going back to the apartment, the group tried to mug him, and he was forced to run to safety.
The key to being safe while travelling is to trust people, but not too much. Often times, the folks you meet in hostels can be more trustworthy than people you meet while you’re on the town. People who stay in hostels understand your situation and there will be an unspoken agreement that trust and safety is paramount. They will be sympathetic to your concerns, and will typically understand when a situation has become unsafe.
You are likely to encounter unsafe situations when you are on a solo trip. You just have to follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Trust the friends you make, but be skeptical at first. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, remove yourself from it immediately.
Don’t Act Like a Tourist
This is a tip that not a lot of people think about, but it’s one that really makes a difference. There are certain places in the world (Europe in particular) where locals make a business out of scamming or stealing from locals. In Barcelona, the pick pockets are so skilled that some generate a full time income from slyly stealing the belongings of travelers. In Paris, scammers regularly approach tourists asking for a donation to a fake charity, or will pose as a homeless person asking for money. Ignorant tourists are the prime targets for these kinds of people, so it’s best you don’t act like one.
The easiest way to combat this is to pretend you’re a local, not a tourist. Scammers view tourists as easy targets since they aren’t familiar with the area and are often too enamored with their surroundings to be focused on what’s happening near them. If you are walking around a new city with your head up, basking in your new environment, and snapping pictures of your surroundings, then you are easy prey for a scammer. You probably wouldn’t even know that a pickpocket stole your wallet, or that you just donated to a fake charity.
So, what’s the best way to combat this? The first is to dress like a normal human. Leave the Hawaiian shirt and fedora at home, and opt for an inconspicuous outfit instead. A dark colored t-shirt and some pants will help you blend into the crowd. The next best thing to do is be aware of your surroundings. Walk at a brisk pace with your eyes pointed directly forward and your shoulders tilted back. Be confident and aware. Don’t be so focused on a particular attraction that you aren’t looking out for pick pockets. Dressing and acting like a tourist will make you a target for scammers and thieves, so just pretend to be a local!
Stay Away From Large Crowds
Being in the middle of a large crowd is surprisingly one of the most dangerous places to be. Popular tourist attractions are where pickpockets love to strike. At places like the Notre Dame Cathedral and La Sagrada Familia, there can be thousands of people concentrated in one spot. This makes it easy for scammers to hide in the crowd and carefully pick their targets; and it makes it harder for you to notice them. It’s better to stand back, away from the crowd. This will pull you away from potential pickpockets and means you will be less likely to be approached by a scammer.
Often times, you will have no choice but to enter a large crowd. Whether it’s a crowded subway or simply a busy street, sometimes these crowds are inevitable. So, it’s important to make sure your belongings are are located in a safe spot. Always keep your wallet or cell phone in your front pocket, and make sure any bags or purses are zipped shut and held close. If you have to sit down, keep your bag or suitcase below your feet or under a chair. This will deter a thief from grabbing your bag or reaching into it to steal something.
Keep Valuables Locked Away
When you’re on a solo trip, it’s likely that you will be staying in your fair share of hostels. While hostels are great places to meet other travelers, they also leave you susceptible to being stolen from. Simply keeping your bag under your bed won’t do anything to deter a thief, and it definitely won’t help you stay organized.
Most hostels will have lockers that are located in your room or in the hallway outside of your room. This is the best way to keep your items safe. It’s important to remember to bring a lock so that you can use these lockers. Typically, hostels will not provide you with a lock, and most will charge you a fee if you would like to use one of theirs.
Leave your valuables in the lockers when you are out sightseeing. Don’t bring all of your money with you either, only enough to get you through the day and to get you into some museums/paid attractions. Leaving valuable items at the hostel or hotel means that a thief won’t be able to steal some of your more important items. There is no reason to bring your passport with you unless you are traveling to a new country. Sometimes I would even leave my credit card back at the hostel, and take out just enough cash from the ATM to get me through the day.
Solo travel is a safe and rewarding experience. If safety remains your top priority, then you shouldn’t have any issues remaining safe during your trip. Remain skeptical of the people you meet, trust your instincts, and learn how to outsmart scammers.
I have never had any issues with safety during a solo trip. I can assure you, if you take precautions then your solo trip will be just as safe as a group trip.