More people are traveling alone these days. In fact, numerous surveys report that solo travel for pleasure as well as business is becoming much more popular with Americans, both men and women. Traveling alone certainly has its advantages, especially for those people who would like the time for solitude and reflection or those more extroverted folks who really enjoy striking up conversations with new people and perhaps making some new friends in the bargain. But, among the concerns, safety is always an issue. If you are planning to travel alone, especially outside the U.S., here are a few thoughts about safety to keep in mind.
- Let others know where you are and when. This includes people both at home and where you are staying (hotel personnel, innkeepers, etc.) If you are going into a wilderness area for, say, a backpacking trip, let others (rangers as well as people back at home) know your exact route and day of return and stick to that route.
- Don’t announce that you are traveling alone. Certainly it’s good to tell your host, but you never know who else is listening in hotel lobbies, restaurants, in crowded museums, or on busy streets. Practice discretion.
- Travel with a mobile phone. Not only is this a good way to stay in touch with friends when you’re away, but this also keeps them up to date on where you are and what you are doing. If your phone’s roaming capabilities don’t extend to the area where you are staying, rent one. One recommendation is a smart phone with a GPS or online map app. These also come in very handy when you’re driving in unfamiliar territory.
- Keep money, payment cards, and your passport in separate places. Keep some money and credit cards in your wallet or purse. Then keep some more money and cards in a different place. The best place to keep your passport while at a destination is the safe at the hotel where you are staying. When sightseeing, just carry a copy of your passport’s data page. When you are traveling, keep your passport separate from money and payment cards.
- Stay safe in your lodging. Often we want quiet and seclusion at the places where we stay, but, when traveling alone, it sometimes makes better sense to get a room near busier spots such as the elevators or the concierge desk. Also, make sure your door is always locked, and never answer unless you are expecting someone.
- Be wary of overly friendly strangers. When you’re traveling, most people you meet are genuinely nice and helpful. But, especially for women, it’s good to be wary of strangers who are very friendly. At least at first, keep a little distance from them and avoid going to lonely places, sharing cabs, and other activities that could put you in a vulnerable position.
- Take precautions not to get sick. When traveling alone, you have no friend or loved one to take care of you if you come down with something. So, be serious about staying healthy by washing your hands frequently, carrying a hand sanitizer with you, drinking bottled water, checking sanitary conditions in restaurants, and so on. In wilderness areas, learn what the hazards may be (from mosquitoes to bears) and prepare for them in advance.
- Make sure you have medical insurance that will cover your needs when overseas. You might have wonderful health coverage in the US. But, most likely, it will not be honored in other countries. Remember, you’re on your own. So, make sure the coverage you get for your trip is comprehensive.
- Learn about your destination. As well as being mindful of safety concerns, consider the local customs, particularly how people dress or, if you’re a woman, whether or not harassment is an issue. When in doubt, dress on the conservative side. And get local police and paramedic numbers to call in case of an emergency.
- Stay on your toes. You’re on your own, so act like a scout and “be prepared” for anything that might come up.
If you have any tips or thoughts you’d like to add to this list, feel free to send us a comment. We’d love to hear what you would have to say.