Safety Tips for the Solo Traveler

Being raised to be extra cautious has made me a bit of a control freak. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like being able to control when, where and how I go places. I also like being able to control what happens to my body and specifically what doesn’t happen to my body. When I travel, people always ask me “Are you traveling by yourself?” and when I respond “yes” their faces drop and I usually get a response like “Wow, you’re brave for being in this city all by yourself. It’s scary/dangerous/sketchy/violent in this country. Be safe!” I get the feeling they don’t actually believe me when I say “I am”. Even my family emails me every day to make sure I’m still alive. (Not that I don’t love your emails Adam, Mom and Dad)

Well not to freak you out about traveling abroad because believe it or not, traveling alone IS safe. I KNOW! IT’S AN AMAZING CONCEPT! If you practice extra caution and use common sense, you’re destined to stay alive. Hopefully this list will provide you with extra tips on how to stay safe in the jungle we call life.

CHECK

  • Check for adequately working door locks in hotel rooms, car doors and restrooms.
  • Check your room for secret cameras, microphones and peep holes.

– Check your surroundings. Don’t keep your eyes locked to your phone, computer or camera.

  • Stay alert. Distracted and tired looking travelers look vulnerable.
  • If you have a rental car, lock the car doors right as you get in.
  • If you’re in someone else’s vehicle, keep the window down in case the doors only open from the outside and you need to jump out.
  • Always know the local emergency number in the country you’re visiting. Check here for a quick reference.

CONNECT 

  • Send your itinerary and travel information to at least 2 people.
  • Social media: check in on Facebook, post pictures of locations, tweet about your experience. Stay on the grid and pave a trail of your locations.
  • Create an emergency word that can be used in every day sentences if you feel you’re in danger in someone’s company.

*Asking a vegetarian “How did you make that chicken piccatta again?”

*Or use a phrase of a food you would never eat. I hate olives so I would say “I’m craving some olives right now. How about you?”

Making up codes sounds silly but it’s gotten me and friends out of potentially dangerous situations. Make sure to agree on these with people you trust beforehand. This also works from abroad. I called my mom one night when I was really scared in Germany and used the code word we had set up nearly 10 years beforehand. Thank god she remembered it.

  • Pretend you’re with a group. This is a surprisingly easy way to get people to back off. Walk fairly close behind a group of people and it looks like you’re with them.

PROTECT

  • Always layer your clothes and use a belt on your pants. This is more so for women but men can take cautionary procedures too. Sexual assault happens to both genders.
  • Wear your hair down and unwrap your scarf. This decreases the opportunity for someone to grab you by your hair or strangle you via cashmere scarf.
  • Keep flashy things hidden like jewelry and technology. Robberies can quickly escalate to more dangerous scenarios.
  • Always have a person (real or fake) that you’re planning to meet up with later. If no one is expecting you, no one will realize you’ve gone missing. If I’m obviously by myself, I will say “My friend decided to stay at the hotel. I’m meeting her for lunch later.”
  • Walk with confidence and strength. Never appear to be the weakest link even when you feel like it.
  • Never allow yourself to be in a corner. Stand near the exit and always map out possible running routes for a quick escape.
  • Keep your bags close to your body. Flailing around trying to coordinate your bags makes an easy and distracted target.

ACT

  • Use your car keys or house keys as weapons if necessary.
  • Use your camera’s tri-pod or Go-Pro attachment stick as a weapon.
  • If someone is bothering you, at first be polite not to agitate them, if they continue harassing you, be more stern, ask for help and then leave the situation immediately. Be prepared to run.
  • Always ask for help if you feel unsafe. Your best bet will be police officers, tour guides, and shop owners. Try to go somewhere where security cameras are present.
  • When all else fails, scream, kick, punch, and draw as much public attention to yourself as possible. Even if no one rushes to your aid (they’re D-bags if they don’t), someone may call the police, witness the crime or the attacker may get scared off.

Now that you are fully equipped with traveling safety tips, book your ticket to that place everyone says you shouldn’t go to. Always stay on your toes, keep your eyes open and trust your gut. Your gut becomes that little voice when your mind is too fogged to panic.

Happy travels!