In over a year of solo travelling, I definitely learned a thing or two about solo travel safety and how to feel confident on the road. Here are my best solo travel safety tips for solo female travellers, though they are worth bearing in mind for any new backpacker!
MY SOLO TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS…
When arriving in a new place for the first time, try and book your flight/transport to arrive before sunset.
This way you can make your way to your accommodation while it’s still sunlight!
If you do arrive after dark? Not to worry! -Budget travellers, message your hostel in advance and ask them the safest way to get there. This will help put your mind at rest. Staying in a hotel? Often you can arrange a pick up in advance from the airport.
Screenshot a MAP of your accommodation and the address in the local language
…so you can show it to your taxi or tuk-tuk driver and helpful locals if you get lost.
You can also take a business card from your accommodation which will have the address on it, should you need to show anyone.
I also use google maps to check we are going in the right direction in the taxi too!
Photocopy your passport / important documents and email yourself
Label the emails so you can easily find them, even if your phone gets stolen – but keep them in a folder on your phone so you can easily locate them too.
Take a personal alarm
I’d have rolled my eyes at this and thankfully never had to use the one my friend Pete gifted me before I left, but after staying in a couple of dodgy accommodations or having to walk alone after dark a few times, I found it was reassuring to have close to me. So, yeah, you’ll probably never have to use it, but it helps you feel safe.
Watch your drink!
Pretty predictable for a list of solo travel safety tips but worth mentioning nonetheless. Watch both the amount you drink (don’t get wasted eh?) and literally watch the drink itself! Spiking is incredibly nasty and sadly could really ruin your holiday or worse. Don’t let anyone short of your best mate/mom/pet unicorn keep an eye on your drink on your behalf while you go to the bathroom.
Plan ‘drinking nights’ properly
If you will be drinking, make sure you know how you are getting home after. Plan to leave with a group as this will be much safer. In a worst-case scenario when you get broken up from your new friends, have a backup plan in place (such as a taxi number or someone else you can contact).
Keep valuables in your carry-on / on your person
Airport staff have been known to chuck backpacks about the place and valuable items have been known to go missing from the luggage hold on nightbuses, so keep your valuables in a small bag which you keep with you at all times.
Get a secure day-to-day bag
I had a small, secure over the shoulder bag from Kathmandu. I’ve seen hi-tech ‘security’ bags but this 10$ version did me just fine.
Let someone know where you are
When I experienced my first earthquake at 11pm in Indonesia while sitting alone in a dark beach hut on a small island), I immediately found myself messaging my best friend and letting her know where I was – I’d not even told anyone I’d left Vietnam early, no one on Earth even knew what country I was in!
Although it’s unlikely you’ll experience an emergency situation on the road, don’t leave yourself wishing someone knew where you are! I’m not saying share your full itinerary and accommodation list – though that, of course, is the safest option of all – but do give someone a text a couple of days a week letting them know where you are.
Take a spare bank card.
In case yours stops working or goes missing… since I’m known for losing things, I took four hahaa! Ideally, take cards from different banks (such as a travel card as well as your normal bank account card).
Personally, I keep most cash in my backpack after withdrawing and only take what I need for each day out with me as well.
Consider carrying portable chargers and local sim cards
I travelled for two months solo without an international sim/data to save some dollar and having it didn’t necessarily make me feel safer but it WILL help massively in an emergency. For me, having data just makes everything go more swimmingly because I can check my terrible sense of direction better via google maps!
I don’t yet have a portable charger for my phone but it’s on my to-do list! This is more to help keep your mind at rest and, to be honest, the idea of my phone running out and not having music during a long travel day is annoying haha.
Research before you go
I personally research common scams, good places to stay (as in, safe areas as well as good hostels) as well as important details like travel vaccinations. I always research how to get around any given city/country though often find it’s easiest to work things out when I arrive.
Stay in helpful accommodations/hostels
Just check the reviews for friendly staff who speak your language. It’s HUGELY reassuring when you know where your saying is safe and staffed by people who can give you good advice about getting around safely (as well as telling you what cool local activities you don’t want to miss out on)!
Don’t walk through an area known for theft or poverty wearing a ton of expensive jewellery or wear booty shorts in a country where all the other women are wearing long skirts. Look up culturally appropriate clothing before you go. You’ll feel much safer blending in than you will standing out.
Pay extra and budget to FEEL SAFE
I’ve seen some terrible budget advice as far is safety is concerned, no you DON’T always need to take a local bus after dark if you feel safer spending more on a taxi. You SHOULD spend extra on the accommodation you feel safe in, or on a hotel instead of camping in an area which you don’t know very well.
Pay extra to go on a hike with a well-reviewed tour company or cheap local guide from your hostel rather than going up on a mountain on your own when you’re not an inexperienced hiker. I have got lost on a hike before – thankfully it was a crowded route and I found my way back to the main path or I wouldn’t have done it. That could be a recipe for disaster!
Solo travel is a hugely EMPOWERING experience and you will be amazed at how SELF-SUFFICIENT you are!
But it’s NOT a competitive sport to sound the bravest or most independent traveller out there. If you are the most sensible and safe solo traveller out there, what you’re doing is STILL extraordinary! So don’t cut any corners when it comes to self-preservation, yeah? You want to make sure you’re telling these stories for many years to come.
You’re in for a wild ride and you’re going to LOVE this part of your life! So make the most of it, say YES to new experiences and get yourself out there. The world has so much to show you. Good on ya for taking the leap!