Solo Travel: 5 Essential Tips for Staying Safe by Mikkel Paige of Sometimes Home travel blog for The Department of Wandering.

Want to go travelling but don’t have anyone to go with? There’s no reason to forego a trip if family, friends or your partner can’t join you. I’ve found solo travel to be one of the most gratifying ways to experience new places. There is, however, a need to be more cautious when you travel alone. If you don’t have a buddy to look out for you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are our essential tips for staying safe when travelling solo.

Solo travel: 5 essential tips for staying safe abroad:

1. Be in touch with family and friends

People seem to go one of two ways when they travel alone. Either they love disconnecting and being ‘away from it all’ or they are constantly on their phone keeping up with people back home. When you’re travelling solo, make sure you touch base with your loved ones regularly. This is how I stay in touch on solo trips:

  • I do my best to get on Wi-Fi at the airport when I land. I’ll send a quick text or email to give a shoutout, even if it’s late back home and I know they’re not awake. If the situation were reversed I’d want to make sure my loved one arrived safely and will often wake up at 2:00am, for instance, wondering. I try my best to return the favour!
  • Every couple of days I’ll email my family, partner and best friends regarding my whereabouts. They surely have my itinerary ahead of time but I’ll simply share one fun thing I’ve done on vacation, like visiting a cool temple in Kamakura, Japan with a lush green bamboo forest (see image below). Staying in touch regularly can serve to alert them of something being wrong if they don’t hear from me in a while. It doesn’t take too long on my end to send one photo and a few sentences either. Also, people love living vicariously through the travel schedules of their friends when they’re stuck at home!
  • I contact the same people before I leave my last destination to travel back home as a last checkpoint.

It’s a great idea to create a document to share with the same core group of people that outlines your travel plans. I create a one in Google Docs that has info about where I’m staying, whether a hotel, Airbnb, VRBO or other. It’ll have information for the excursions or tours I’ve booked and travel tickets (like train confirmations) too. It not only serves as a useful document to them but a tidy place for me to refer to all pertinent trip info.

2. Copy your passport

Ensure that you have a copy of your passport uploaded online in a secure, password protected place. Do NOT carry a photocopy around with you. Simply worry about your physical passport on your trip as your one piece of international identification that matters.

Make sure someone you trust – whether it be a family member or partner/spouse – knows where the copy is uploaded or stored back at home. The number one reason for this is just in case your passport is lost or stolen. If this happens, you’ll need to know your passport info to alert your country’s embassy in order to get a replacement to travel home with.

3. Pay attention to your surroundings

Be aware of your surroundings at all times and pay attention with your head help up (not down to the ground) as you explore. Don’t be the person with your head in your cell phone or roaming around unfamiliar territory with headphones on. You want to be alert and equipped with all your senses in a new place, especially your hearing, sight and smell. Not only will your alertness ward off pickpockets and suspicious people with ulterior motives, but it’ll also ensure you’re truly in the moment experiencing the place you’re visiting.

4. Trust your gut

Your intuition is rarely wrong. Don’t lose touch with your instincts while you travel abroad or domestically. Trust that little voice inside, your inner Jiminy Cricket. If a situation seems ‘off’ it probably is. It’s also a good idea to ask the front desk at your hotel or your Airbnb host about the safety of the area. If it’s not safe to be out alone at night don’t test the city’s security. Don’t be a hero – be smart and you’ll come home safe and sound.

Also, if you choose to go on a date with a stranger abroad, in case you’re inclined to meet people on an app like Tinder, be sure to share the information of your date with someone you trust, even if it’s a friend back home. Sure, it may turn out to be the romance of a lifetime but just in case it doesn’t, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

5. Know yourself

Since there’s no one looking out for you when you travel solo, it’s extra important to look our for yourself. Be mindful of how the decisions you make might affect you abroad. Listen to your body. While vacation is a wonderful time to try new things, do so with the base knowledge of who you already are. Keep in mind the following:

  • Food: If you know spicy food doesn’t agree with you then perhaps stay away from it during a solo trip even if a curious dish is famous among locals. Bring medicine like Imodium or Pepto Bismol pills just in case and carry them in your daypack. Falling ill when you’re in alone can put you in a very vulnerable position.
  • Drinks: Do you get dehydrated easily? If so, carry water around at all times. Or do you know you can only have two glasses of wine before you start to get a headache? Then don’t have three, especially in unfamiliar territory.
  • Clothing: Always dress appropriately for the area you’re in (for instance, I had to cover my shoulders and knees in Thailand’s temples). You don’t want to draw unwanted attention to yourself if you can avoid it. Also, stay true to yourself in terms of footwear and clothing in general. You’ll be more comfortable and confident this way.


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