Solo traveler safety is always my #1 priority when I travel. While I think solo travel is generally very safe, I also think that travelers need to follow certain steps to ensure their own safety.
It's always a question I get asked in some form: How do you stay safe as a female traveling alone? Is traveling solo safe at all? What's the deal with solo traveler safety?
I truly think the answer is a resounding yes: traveling alone is safe! But have there been times when I felt like I was potentially in danger? Also yes. Traveling requires a certain safety protocol that you don't normally have to keep in mind when you're down the block from your home.
Here are the basics to staying safe when you're a solo traveler.
1. Avoid traveling alone at night
Sometimes, the midnight bus may be the cheaper option. But that also means that if you take it, you'll be standing alone at an empty bus station at midnight. I try to avoid traveling alone at night at all costs. This means being aware of when the sun sets, because it can quickly get dark. This also means you shouldn't arrive at a place in the middle of the night / when it's still dark in the morning. I once did a border crossing to Nepal while it was pitch black at 4 a.m., and while I was traveling with someone, it was still a sketchy experience.
2. Don't look like a target
I always love to **stand out** in my home life, but on the road standing out can make you a target. I hide my valuable-looking things such as jewelry, I don't walk around waving my iPhone, and I keep cash and credit cards concealed in a fanny pack under my clothing.
3. Be hyper-aware of your surroundings
Don't let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security and walk at night with headphones in. You need to be hyper-aware of your surroundings at all times when you're traveling alone. This means don't walk with headphones in, or while sending text messages. Keep your head up, look confident, and observe what's going on around you.
4. Connect with other travelers
Ya'll know I love staying at hostels for many reasons, but one of them is safety. Yes, despite the horror movies, I actually feel safest staying at hostels, because they're full of travelers like myself. This means I can usually find a buddy if I'm looking for someone to do an activity with. Plus, the staff members are super knowledgable. Literally, taking care of solo travelers is basically their job. Ask them where to go, but also where you should avoid.
5. Be careful what you consume
Even if you're a regular drinker or smoker at home, approach these activities with more caution when you're on the road. You should always be fully aware of what's going on around you. You don't want to become lost, defenseless, or disoriented.
6. Bring a luggage lock
When you do stay at hostels, or travel on long buses/trains, you'll want to lock up your stuff for safe-keeping. Keeping a small travel lock is a great investment. If you sleep on a bus, sleep with your backpack as a pillow, and keep your most valuable tings (passport, money, etc.) on your person while in transit, in case something happens to your backpack.
7. Do your research
Before you arrive at a place, make sure you know the lay of the land. Do your research to find out what's been happening in the news there, and if there are any areas you should avoid.
8. Know your destination
Before I arrive somewhere, I make sure I have my travel route planned out. This means knowing the name of the hostel, and hopefully how I'm getting there from the airport, for example. I don't always have every step planned out, but it's helpful to know your travel route as much as possible. When you land at an airport or arrive at a bus station looking lost, you'll stand out.
9. Don't be cheap when it comes to safety
While budget traveling is my jam, I will pay up to be safe. For example, I'll stay in a nicer hostel instead of a "seedier" on that's cheaper, I'll pay a little more for an all-female dorm, and I'll take a bus during the daytime, so it's light out. There are ways to save money that don't compromise safety.
10. Get travel health insurance
Travel health insurance is a must. While hopefully you'll never need it, it'll cover you if you get sick and need medical care, if you get hurt, or even if a flight is canceled or you use your luggage. I use World Nomads - I'm an affiliate. I also like Allianz.
11. Trust your gut
Seriously, your gut instinct will go a long way on the road. If something doesn't feel good, remove yourself from the situation. Don't every worry about appearing "rude" or not wanting to leave somewhere because it's "awkward." If you feel unsafe, remove yourself from a situation.
12. Make copies of everything
Bring copies of your passport, driver's license, medical records/insurance, and phone numbers for you bank. Think of things you would need in an emergency if you wallet or backpack was stolen, for example. Also, don't keep all of those items in one place. I keep my license and my passport in separate places, for example, in case one were to get stolen.
The bottom line is that while traveling is safe, the world is still the way it is. Travel smart, and take steps to ensure your own safety.