Our Top Safety Tips for Solo Travellers (Women & Men)
A common question that I get asked by friends and family is “Is solo travel safe?”
There’s no doubt that travelling alone can be daunting, especially when peers and family can’t help themselves from reminding you that:
- solo travel isn’t safe
- you’re being irresponsible by travelling alone
- being alone will make you a target for crime and kidnapping
- they knew a “friend’s friend” who got robbed when they were travelling solo, and it could happen to you to.
Their comments naturally fill your head with a whole load of added anxiety and hallucinations of worst-case scenarios.
So, let’s take a moment to address that.
Is Solo Travel Actually Safe?
Of course, travelling solo does require some special attention when it comes to safety.
You must anticipate and prevent problems from arising and consider how you’ll respond when sh** hits the fan.
As a general statement, I believe that solo travel is as safe as any other form of travel. But, it does depend on where you’re planning to travel to.
Travelling solo as a woman in Saudi Arabia or Syria for example, would not be a good idea.
Solo travel also provides many benefits because it causes you to:
- take greater precautions
- be less naive
- make better decisions
- be more alert as you travel
- be more assertive and direct with people that hassle you and
- feel more confident about stepping outside of your comfort zones
Personally, I think that travelling solo has actually helped me be SAFER when I travel.
When I’m on my own, I rely more on my intuition and gut feel compared to when I’m travelling with others. I also take more time to be aware of my surroundings and care less about what others think.
Therefore, I’m naturally more likely to speak my mind and assert myself if I feel a need to.
In my opinion, you can put yourself at risk ANYWHERE when you don’t know what you’re doing. Even when exploring somewhere new in your local city.
- “Solo travel” doesn’t mean that you have to be one your own ALL THE TIME. You can also travel solo on an organised group tour.
- Doing so can be a great way to meet new people and allows you to travel safely in in locations where it’s not safe to go alone
Now, I’m going to share 6 Safety tips for solo travellers (applicable to both women and men).
They will help you to stay safe when travelling solo.
Tip #1: How to Plan Ahead to Be “Solo Travel” Safe
1) Safety begins before you leave
Before you arrive at your travel destination, ensure to research, research & RESEARCH.
Here’s a great checklist to refer to before you go: Smart Traveller Before Your Go Checklist
2) Check your government’s travel and safety warnings before you travel
For Aussies, this is the Smart Traveller Website.
This will allow you to feel more confident about where you’re travelling to and be alert of potential risks and dangers that you wouldn’t know otherwise.
3) Choose your destination safely
Make sure it is a place where solo travel is relatively common or where it’s known to be relatively safe.
You can check out some of the countries I’ve been to throughout my solo travel journey on this map: Travel Destinations for Solo Travellers
It’s also important to read reviews when booking local transport and accommodation.
- How to Book Cheap Accomodation for Solo Travellers (Coming soon)
- How to Book Cheap Transport when Travelling Solo (Coming soon)
4) Buy Travel Insurance
No matter how long you’re travelling for, if you’re travelling overseas or going to a foreign country, I always recommend buying travel insurance.
To learn more about Travel Insurance, including my recommendations on some good options to check out, check out the article below.
5) Familiarise yourself with common tourist scams and cons
It’s good to know what you’re up against.
- Is corruption a regular thing?
- What cons do locals regularly try on tourists?
- Is haggling at markets expected?
- Are there any places that you should avoid?
- Do you need any vaccinations before you go?
- Do you need a visa?
All of these things are important to know before you travel anywhere, whether solo or not.
6) If going on a big trip, register your details with your government
That way if something goes wrong, they’ll be able to track down your movements and know where you are.
7) If going to a less safe destination, see if any of your friends or family have connections there.
That way you can meet up with them for some company or contact if in trouble.
8) Know your strengths and weaknesses.
If a problem situation arises, what will be your best way to respond?
- Are you a fast runner, able to make it to a public place quickly?
- Are you a calm talker, able to diffuse a situation and negotiate?
- Do you have mixed martial arts experience or defence training?
Whatever it is, have a plan for what you’d do if in a threatening situation.
Personally, I suggest getting yourself out of the situation ASAP, rather than trying to stick around to talk your way out of it.
8) Familiarise yourself with the destination.
Before you leave your accommodation to go exploring, some smart things to do are:
9) Memorise the local map
That way you’ll have a general idea of where things are without having to repeatedly refer to a map whilst in public (eg. main landmarks and buildings)
10) Check local transport options that are safe and convenient to use
11) Ask accomodation staff if there are any areas you should avoid
12) Ask accomodation staff if there are any customs or local events that you should be mindful of
13) Grab a business card from your accommodation with their details
That way if you have trouble speaking the local language, you can present this card to your taxi driver and get home safely with minimal communication and confusion.
You can also call them if you get into trouble.
14) Arrive to a new destination while it’s daylight
Finding your way in a new place that you’ve never been to before is daunting enough during the day, let alone at night.
Do your best to arrive during daylight hours and work in with the check in and checkout times of your accommodation.
I recall a time when…
I found myself feeling devastated and a touch frightened after arriving to a new city in the early hours of the morning.
Upon walking to my hostel, I learned that I’d got the check in times wrong and the hostel wasn’t open. The only way to get inside was with a code….which I didn’t have.
There I was… sitting stranded, locked outside and alone on the gutter of a main street with all my luggage.
I didn’t feel safe so after some time, I decided to find the closest bar and stayed there until check in opened.
It was an awkward experience, but I definitely learned from it.
15) Know how you’re going to get to and from your accommodation
It’s good to know how you’re going to get to your accommodation upon arrival at your destination.
Whether it’s by taxi, uber, train or walking.
16) Start your stay with a walking tour.
In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to learn more about the destination after arriving.
You become more familiar with the layout of a city whilst in the company of other tourists and also learn about cool local places to check out and places to steer away from.
In some cities, they have free or “tippable” city tours available.
Tip #2: How to Stay Safe When Exploring on Your Own
So, remember how your parents taught you a list of safety tips as a kid? Yep. Well now is the perfect time to use them. The only childhood rule I would challenge is “Don’t talk to strangers.”
When travelling, talking to strangers can be the most educational, enlightening and cool experience of your trip.
You can learn a lot about the local culture, hear some incredible stories and even find yourself in situations you never thought would happen (Eg. being invited over to experience a home cooked meal).
Talking to strangers can also be helpful if you get lost or are in dire need of help.
For my experience, most people are GOOD people. It’s only a few bad eggs that unfortunately taint our perception of “strangers” in general.
1) Be alert of strangers when walking alone
2) Be aware of your surroundings at all times
3) Observe people’s behaviour and respond accordingly
4) Trust your gut and intuition
5) Don’t tell anyone where you live.
Your accommodation should be your safe haven and the only person who should know the details is yourself, your family and your driver (taxi / uber).
6) Walk with confidence.
Strut your stuff, even if you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. It’s much better to appear confident than appear timid and lost.
7) Be more direct with saying NO.
Being kind and polite as you travel is important. However, knowing when to say no and assert yourself is even more important when your safety is at risk.
Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself if the context demands it.
Women tend to let kindness override gut instinct because we’re afraid that we’ll be labelled as rude or told we’re “overreacting.” But I always recommend that you trust your intuition. Stop worrying about what others think.
Instead, be kind when it’s warranted and choose safety when something doesn’t feel right.
8) Keep your friends and family updated with your trip.
Share your itinerary with them (if you have one) so they can follow your journey. You can also share regular updates on social media so that they can feel confident that you’re safe.
It’s also helpful for them to know where you are in the event that something goes wrong.
9) Avoid traveling by local transport at night where possible.
Not only will you feel more at ease and be able to be more aware of your surroundings but there will also be more people around, giving you a more secure feeling.
10) Use Uber if safe to do so.
I personally prefer Uber over Taxi’s because the trip is tracked and the money is exchanged over the app automatically.
That way you don’t have to worry about the driver overcharging or trying to up the price when you get to your destination.
You can also report the driver’s details if they try to do any funny business.
11) Don’t wear expensive clothing, jewellery or brands.
The worst thing you can do when travelling solo is to flash your wealth.
Not a smart move. The only person you’re impressing is the pickpocket who’s preparing to steal your watch.
12) Blend in as much as possible. Avoid looking like a tourist.
This is a big one in my opinion. The more that you look like a tourist, the more you’ll be targeted by local conmen and pickpockets.
You can avoid this by:
- being discreet when checking maps in public
- dressing appropriately to match the culture and customs
- walking confidently through town and
- making eye contact with people as they pass by to show them you know what’s down, even if you don’t
Try to blend into the local culture as much as you can.
13) Take breaks.
Solo travel can be tiring and tedious, especially when you’re moving to a new location every couple of days or feel like you need to be on your guard most of the time.
It’s ok to take a break if you need it. Rest up in your accommodation, allow your brain to rest and get a good night’s sleep.
That way you’ll feel bright and alert the following day.
14) Put the “do not disturb” sign on your door.
I did this quite regularly when I was travelling to protect my space and valuables.
I liked to reduce the frequency of room service and having people coming into my room unnecessarily and also keep people unsure of whether I was there or not.
If I wanted room service, I’d request it at a time that suited me.
15) Leave a TV or light on in your room.
Some travellers suggest doing this so that strangers won’t know if you’re in your room or not.
Personally, I didn’t do this strategy because I felt that it was disrespectful to the accommodation / a wasteful use of electricity.
Especially in poorer countries where electricity is a luxury.
16) Avoid listening to loud music with earbuds in whilst exploring a city.
For one, it distracts you making you less reactive to your surroundings.
Secondly, it signifies to a possible pickpocket that you have a smart phone in your pocket.
17) Keep your luggage with you when in a Taxi/ Uber.
I suggest that you keep your bags with you in the back seat as it gives you greater control in the event that you need to jump out quickly.
This can prove beneficial if running late at the airport or if your driver seems sketchy or makes you uncomfortable.
18) Make things inconvenient for pickpockets.
If you don’t want to get robbed, the best thing you can do is make yourself as inconvenient as possible to rob.
I did this by having locks on all of my bags and luggage, holding my backpack towards my front, not having anything in my clothes pockets and being alert as I walked.
That way you tend to get put in the “too hard” basket.
If you’d like to equip yourself with some good locks and gear, check out my list of travel gear that I recommend for solo travellers.
19) Carrying pepper spray is illegal in many countries.
Some consider it to be a concealed weapon. If you feel more comfortable travelling around with something like that, other alternatives to check out are miniature insect sprays and hairspray.
Both of those things FREAKING STING when they get into your eyes and can be a sneaky replacement.
Tip #3: How to Stay Safe When Out at Night
1) Ask your accommodation for tips on the safe zones and where to avoid at night
2) Plan how you’re going to get home
(eg. From the Bar or Nightclub)
3) Go out with a group.
Hostel pub crawls are great for this.
4) Carry as little as possible with you when you hit the town
5) Stash money in more than one place
Your bra, socks or money belt can be good options.
6) Stay in public as much as possible.
Don’t walk down secret alleyways alone or with ANYONE you don’t know well.
7) Don’t walk alone at night.
If you have to get home at night, try to walk with a buddy or get an uber/taxi.
8) If walking home at night, try to find other people to walk close to.
Whenever I find myself walking back to my accommodation at night, I’ll often look around to see if there’s any “safe” looking people that I could walk alongside (eg. a Couple or family).
Just be friendly and smile if they look at you, so they can feel comfortable that you’re not a stalker. The reality is that you’re less of a target when walking with other people.
9) Stay sober
So many people get “white girl wasted” when they travel but this really isn’t a good idea, especially when travelling on your own.
Having a few drinks is ok, but getting paralytic drunk or taking drugs in a foreign country could put you at unnecessary risk.
When you drink or take drugs, your judgement becomes impaired and you make bad decisions…Decisions that you wouldn’t normally make when sober.
This puts you in danger – especially when in a foreign or unknown place that you don’t know you’re way around.
10) Make friends with the bartenders
Some travellers suggest that it’s a good idea to befriend the server or bartender at a bar or club.
That way if someone starts harassing you, you can reach out to them for help.
11) Hold your thumb over the top of your drink.
When out at a bar or nightclub, place your finger over the top of your drink (if the drink comes in a bottle).
This reduces the ability for someone to slip a pill into it unknowingly.
If your drink doesn’t come in a glass bottle, keep it in your hand at all times and watch it. Again, this makes it more difficult for someone to spike your drink without your knowledge.
Treat your drink like it is your life…as in some ways, it is.
12) Women are not necessarily safer than men.
Sometimes travellers assume that local women are safer than men. This is not always true.
There have been instances where devious couples or gangs use women to lure people into a compromised position, due to the naturally tendency to trust a woman on her own.
Be wary of anyone whose behaviour seems off.
13) Again, don’t tell anyone where you’re staying.
Even if they have good intentions, you want to be able to go home without any fear of being followed or stalked.
14) Dress appropriately
…I’d even ere more on the side of caution and modesty. Be aware and sensitive of cultural norms and customs.
You really don’t want to draw unwanted attention to yourself.
15) Know how to get help if needed
If you carry a phone, it can be a good idea to save the local emergency number into your phone.
16) If you ever feel like you’re being followed, get to a public place straight away
I usually duck into the nearest restaurant or hotel.
These places usually have someone who speaks English, have wi-fi access and they can offer you temporary protection.
Tip #4: Available Technology to Help You Stay Safe
1) Buy a sim card as a backup.
In places that don’t have frequent access to wifi, it may be a good idea to get yourself a sim card as a backup.
That way if you find yourself in an emergency with no access to wifi, you can simply switch the settings on your phone and make a call.
2) Get yourself some RFID protectors.
These babies prevent your credit and debit cards from being scanned by scammers to gain access to your personal details.
3) Have a digital map on hand.
I personally love the app called Maps.me. You can download this digital map app to your phone.
It even works without wi-fi which is great when exploring a new city (as long as you’ve downloaded the relevant maps you need before you go out).
You can even have a backup physical map in your bag too, if that makes you feel more comfortable.
4) Put important numbers into your phone.
Truth be told, I didn’t do this but I probably should have.
Having local emergency numbers in your phone can prove useful if in an emergency situation because often you don’t have a lot of time to think, let alone jump on Google to research.
5) Use a VPN
Another thing that I didn’t do, but probably should have.
VPN’s allow you to access the internet through a secure connection rather than through public wi-fi which may not have the best data security.
6) You may also like to download the following apps to your phone.
They can prove useful in varying situations:
- Flashlight / Torch App
- Weather App
- Find your phone App
- Uber App
If you’d like to learn more about what apps are great for solo travellers, ensure to check out my article the Best Travel Apps for Solo Travellers.
Tip #5: How to Keep Your Money Safe & Secure as You Travel
1) Split your money across different sources.
When you travel, always carry a variety of cash and card.
You may even like to carry a couple of different currencies – for example, your home currency, US currency and also the local currency. I also carried a travel cash card, travel credit card and other debit cards that had low international transaction fees.
- Best Travel Money Cards for Solo Travellers (Coming Soon!)
2) Split your money across different locations.
When travelling between destinations, I always recommend for solo travellers to appropriately split money between their:
- Money belt
- Clothing (eg. Socks and Bra) and a
- Hidden location (eg. an unused tampon applicator (women).
That way if you get mugged or robbed, they will only get one money source.
You can even carry a decoy dummy wallet in your bag containing fake card cut outs a small sum of cash to throw at someone if you feel like you’re under threat and they could be violent.
3) Take money out of ATM’s rather than exchanging cash.
Obviously, this does depend on where you travel. However, doing so can save you money on conversion fees.
Especially if you have a travel card that reimburses you for any ATM fees as you travel.
- Always check the ATM for anything suspicious before you use it.
- Look for any weird modifications to the camera, screen or card insertion area. If something looks weird, don’t use it.
- Also ensure to cover the keypads as you enter your pin code. Some con artists are experts in gaining access to your card details and your pin code from ATMs.
4) Take out smaller amounts more frequently.
This is usually better than carrying around large sums of cash. However, it does again depend on where you’re travelling. Some countries don’t have frequent access to ATMs, or if they do, they’re very unreliable or have atrocious ATM fees.
Tip #6: How to Protect Your Luggage & Valuables When Travelling Solo
1) Never keep your wallet in your back pocket.
Although a common male trait, it can leave you open to pickpockets.
Instead, carry a small backpack with you that will make it much more difficult for you to be a target.
2) Keep your valuables to a minimum.
Personally, there were only three valuable things that I would carry with me at all times – my phone, my wallet and my passport. However, sometimes it was only two as I’d lock my passport in the room safe.
Having only a few things to be mindful of at all times makes it much easier to keep track.
I even got into the habit of checking that all three items were in my bag each time I left a destination.
That way if something was missing, I could pinpoint where I lost / left it.
3) Keep other valuables in a safe.
Most hotels and hostels provide guests with a safe/secure box in their room. If they don’t, I’d suggest booking alternative accommodation that does.
Having access to a safe when travelling is very handy.
Especially, when it comes to keeping things safe that you wouldn’t usually take with you when out and about but don’t want to leave them zipped in your main backpack either.
- Your Passport
- A Laptop
- Other tech devices (GoPros, Small Camera Equipment, Chargers, Hard drives etc)
- Extra Cash
- Your Trip Itinerary etc.
4) Lock your bags with a padlock.
Whether left unattended in my accommodation or on my back as I explored a new city, I always have padlocks on my bag.
For my main backpack, I’d use a standard lock and key style. For my day pack, I’d use combination locks for quicker access. Although this may seem a bit “extra” or paranoid, I wasn’t pickpocketed once throughout my travels, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence.
Here are some options you can check out:
5) Rest your hand on your bag as you walk.
As you explore a new place, get into the habit of resting one hand on your handbag/backpack. I even liked to face my backpack towards the front by having only one shoulder through the shoulder strap.
That way I could see my bag at all times to detract pickpockets. I would also be able to feel if someone was trying to unzip my bag.
6) Avoid giving your camera or phone to strangers to take photos.
Although pretty self-explanatory, you’d be surprised how often this happens to tourists.
They simply ask and trust a local to take a photo of them, but are left gasping and shocked when the person runs off with their expensive tech.
7) Don’t leave your bags unattended in public.
Never ever leave your bag/ backpack on the back of a chair, on the floor or sitting on a table whilst at a restaurant.
In Australia, we tend to get slack with our things around, as we’re generally pretty trusting. BUT, in foreign countries, it’s a different story.
Keep your bag safe by resting it on your lap as you eat.
You can also pop it by your feet under the table but put your leg/foot through the strap so that you’ll be alerted if someone tries to take it.
8) Pack as light as possible.
That way if you’re in an unsafe situation you can get away with most of your gear. It’s never an ideal situation if the only way you can get to safety is by leaving all your gear behind.
9) Personalise your luggage with something you’ll recognise.
It could be a ribbon, a tag, or a certain marking on the bag. This will help to prevent someone taking your bag accidentally.
You can also include your name, phone number and email address on the luggage tag so that you can be contacted if you lose or misplace your baggage.
10) Keep your check in luggage receipt / sticker with your boarding pass.
That way you can easily provide the details of your luggage if it gets lost or is missing at the airport.
Is Solo Travel Safe?
Based on my personal experience, I’d say yes, as long as you do your research, choose your travel destination wisely, make good decisions and take the right precautions.
There will always be some risks associated with overseas travel but this will be the case regardless of whether travelling solo or in a group.
6 Safety Tips for Solo Travellers (Women & Men)
- How to Plan Ahead to be Solo Travel Safe
- Staying Safe When Travelling Solo
- How to Stay Safe When Out at Night
- Available Technology to Help You Stay Safe
- How to Keep Your Money Safe & Secure as You Travel
- How to Protect your Luggage and Valuables When Travelling Solo