I am a woman and I've spent the past year traveling alone. It's been the most enriching experience of my life so far — but it certainly hasn't been a walk in the park. There is a lot of romanticizing when it comes to solo travel these days. It can be incredibly fun and life-changing, but it also calls for a bit more precaution than a family vacation does. While traveling alone grants you unmatched freedom, it also requires you to be incredibly cautious. Whenever you are alone (traveling abroad or in the U.S.), there's always the potential to be pick-pocketed, followed, or taken advantage of. When it comes to how I stayed safe while traveling solo, the key is to remember that you're the only person who's got your back. Sure, you'll meet a lot of amazing new people along your journeys, but don't ever let safety fall by the wayside.
When you've just landed in a new city without knowing a single soul, the struggle can be all too real. For this reason alone, solo travel can be a great tool for self-development. It has changed my life in more ways that I can ever explain. Since taking on this journey a year ago, I've grown to be a more confident, resilient, and empathetic woman. Naturally, I get a bit nervous before any big solo trip — but I also know that the benefits far outweigh any negatives.
I recently shared my solo travel safety tips on Twitter, and many women admitted that they wanted to take the journey themselves one day. I also spoke with Julie Hall, AAA spokesperson and public relations manager, in an interview for Elite Daily about the steps that women can take to stay safe while traveling alone. For women who hold this desire but also have reservations, here are some tips on how to stay safe while traveling throughout the world solo.
1. Be Aware Of What's Going On Around You
Solo travel has made me hyper-aware of my surroundings. With no distractions, I have the ability to notice the smallest details in my immediate environment. I am able to absorb more, which is great for both safety and full immersion in a new place.
Hall tells me that part of the AAA travel tips states,
Everyone should stay informed and remain vigilant when traveling. AAA recommends travelers to work on exercising their peripheral vision and always remain alert in their surroundings.
Scan your surroundings as you walk down the street. Does someone appear to be watching you? Did that car just pull beside you and slow down? Try to be fully aware of what's happening around you at all times.
2. Do Your Research Beforehand
Do as much research as possible before visiting a new place. It's crucial to find out information regarding cultural customs, appropriate dress, common scams, natural disasters, and the current political climate. Instead of relying on information from people who have never been to the place you're headed, check out blogs written by other solo female travelers or join Facebook groups for female travelers, like Solo Female Traveler Network.
3. Be Smart On Your Social Media
We all want to do it for the 'Gram, especially on vacation — but try to avoid posting in real time if you're traveling alone. Use your common sense. You may want to hold off on Geo-tagging a hotel if you're staying there by yourself, and it might be best to nix checking into that trendy restaurant on Facebook for this trip. It may seem fun and harmless, but you never know who might be lurking.
4. Reach Out To Other Women
I've been pleased to find that women around the world really tend to look out for each other. You can opt for all-female hostel rooms, look for reviews written by women before booking a place to stay, and ask women for help. You can even use women-only transportation in places such as the UK, Mexico, India, and even here in the U.S., according to Makers.com. Of course, never forget that it's necessary to be cautious when it comes to trusting anyone you just meet.
5. Think About Your Car Service Options
There are so many car services to consider besides using a taxi. For one example, you can review any Uber driver's information beforehand, track the route as you ride alone, and send your trip details to family and friends. According to HyreCar.com, Uber administers annual background checks on drivers — but still, always use caution.
As stated before, you can also consider women-transportation services such as SheRides and Pink Ladies, if that makes you more comfortable while journeying solo. Other popular car services include Lyft, Gett, and Via.
6. Travel Light
I think we've all been guilty of over-packing. Before you head on your next solo trip, you should seriously consider ditching any extras.
Carry only the cash and the valuables that you need when you leave your hotel, especially if you're going out at night. Keep all of your valuables close in large crowds, and it's always a good idea to split your cards and cash into different bags, according to AARP.
Hall tells Elite Daily another AAA travel safety tip,
[Travelers should] carry an additional form of identification such as an International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be obtained at AAA branch offices. Make two photocopies of all travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from the originals in case of loss or theft. Keep passports locked up with other valuables while touring, but always carry some form of I.D.
7. Carry On With Confidence
It's natural to be a bit intimidated or confused when you visit a new place for the very first time. Try your best not to let it show on your face. It's unfortunate, but according to BodyLanguageExpert.co, predators keep an eye out for people who look scared or lost. Instead of having your head buried into your map or phone, walk with a sense of confidence like you were born in this place.
8. Always Trust Your Gut
You know that feeling you get when something seems a bit off? It usually doesn't steer us wrong.
Since you'll be relying on yourself, you must learn to trust your intuition, according to MedicalDaily.com. If a situation or place doesn't feel right, it may be best to avoid it completely. If a person seems like they have ulterior motives, it may be wise to steer clear of them. There's nothing wrong with standing your ground to keep yourself safe.
9. Know Your Limits
Without the safety that comes with numbers, you'll want to avoid putting yourself in any kind of vulnerable position. For example, don't be embarrassed about wearing a life vest if you know you're not the best swimmer, or being the last person on a hike if you know that your body can't move any faster. Sure, it's great to step outside of your comfort zone in a new environment, but you should always be aware of your physical limits.
As far as if and when you decide to hit up a bar, Hall reveals as part of the AAA tips,
If you choose to drink alcohol, follow State Department recommendations, which caution travelers to do so in moderation and to seek medical attention if they begin to feel ill.
10. Enroll In STEP
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free program that lets you link your vacation up with the closest U.S. Embassy in the country you'll be visiting. If you enroll, you'll obtain safety information in case of an emergency, and the embassy will contact you with any updates. It will also make things easier if your loved ones need to contact you.
11. Get Travel Insurance
The unfortunate reality of travel is that anything could go wrong at any time. You may get food poisoning or the airline may lose your luggage. Instead of avoiding travel completely, you can do your best to prepare for these unforeseen circumstances. Consider looking into companies such as John Hancock, Travelx, or American Express for insurance. Travel insurance might be another costly part of your vacation, but it could save you a lot in the long run.
Travel is perfect for anyone who is ready to take on the world, with or without someone by their side. With a little bit of preparation and awareness, you'll return from your solo trip safely with a lifetime of memories.