I have been to quite a few countries where I have travelled solo such as Madeira, Montenegro, the Philippines and even China (solo to a certain extent!).
There have recently been stories in the headlines where solo travellers or small groups of travellers have experienced situations that have made their safety, high risk whilst abroad and in extreme cases have led to very unfortunate conclusions.
This hasn’t deterred me from travelling solo however it has encouraged me to do a blog post with ways that I like to stay safe when I go abroad solo.
Do your research before you do anything
I am easily inspired by magazine Instagram posts of places to stay or (recently) have been doing my own research to find beautiful places that no one is currently going to so that I can have a luxurious mega cheap holiday ahead of the mainstream trend tourist crowd (lol). But I digress, I like to look at travel forums and YouTube tends to be a good source to find out people’s personal experiences. I also search the news to see the country’s political party and their stance on immigrants, how women are viewed in society and as and Gabonese / Ghanaian British person – I tend to investigate racism. It is also important to see if it is safe to go in terms of politics, disease and even terrorism.
One thing I would add is that people can be very bias. Before going to the Philippines, I heard a vlogger complain that they were racist via a 30-minute video rant – however, I did not receive an ounce of racism whilst out there myself. Sometimes situations can stem from luck but at other times it is all about perception.
- I search hashtags of places I want to visit on Instagram
- I check out TripAdvisor and Google travel forums to see what people say about their hotels and amusements. I usually search the Country / City Name followed by the area I want to research (i.e. Women’s rights, laws, political party, racism etc)
- The British Government have a Foreign Travel page that you can click here and check every country to see what you need in terms of vaccinations through to the political stability of a place
- YouTube to see what other travel vloggers had to say about the place – avoid beautifully done videography with music overlay and look for ones for more commentary (unless you are seeking inspiration)
Have an entrance and exit strategy
Before I go anywhere, the two things I like to do is know how I am getting in the country and how I am getting out the country. This is easy for me as I am a young professional with restrictions on holiday leave so unless I have a moment and decide I want to quit my entire life… I must get back home.
At first, this may not appeal to the backpacking traveller type that wants to moonlight across the world but these two details stop you from hitchhiking or being conned by locals that lack good intention – which I personally believe are not ideal situations to be in as a solo traveller. This also doesn’t mean that you can’t stay at a location for a bit longer (or as long as your visa allows lol) … just make sure that you have an exit strategy if your plan changes and you want to shorten/extend your stay.
Keep someone at home informed
I am fortunate to have someone at home that tends to be informed on all my key details. My flight number, my transfers, my hotel address and my travel insurance details are always passed on should anything happen. I know that can be extreme but I am a super planner for these types of things. I never like focusing on the worst thing that could happen but what if you were in a foreign hospital and had injured yourself so badly that you wouldn’t be able to say you have travel insurance – it is only the person at home that you could rely on.
For those of you that aren’t planners like me – it is usually good having a 5-minute check in with your best friend or another family member so that they know you are okay. This doesn’t have to be every day as admittedly I sometimes go away to get away from everyone but it does mean that you are having check-ins with someone close.
- Use an inexpensive method to make contact such as video or voice calls using the hotels’ wi-fi on WhatsApp, Facetime or Skype etc
Choose your accommodation wisely
UNPOPULAR OPINION – I am not a fan of Airbnb as a solo traveller. I have used it before for large group bookings but I just don’t recommend it when you alone. I think there is a risk because you are putting yourself in a high-risk situation on the rare occasion that your host isn’t great and I believe that it is a scenario that should be avoided altogether.
Whilst on my solo trips I like to book minimum 4* hotels. I know I always think of it in the worst case scenario but usually, this means that they have highly trained staff that is professional If anything were to happen they would be more likely be honest and would be able to recall the last approximate time they saw you or what you were wearing etc. I also think that since you are by yourself you need a high level of comfort. I once went to Amsterdam with a friend and our accommodation was kind of grim but because we had each other and were rarely in the hotel it was fine… this outlook completely changes when you are alone.
I can already see the budget travellers squinting at their screens. The great thing with backpacker destinations is that there are a wide range of hostels that are available. If it is essential, for your budget to stay at a hostel make sure that you research the best ones and leave plenty of time before your trip as the best ones tends to book up fast.
Keep personal information…personal
As a solo traveller people are naturally going to want to make conversation with you (so I have found). During the early stages, you get the usual “where are you from”, “how long are you here for” questions but sometimes it can get into much more personal territory.
Please note that I don’t think everyone is evil, but you just don’t know people and their intentions so there are certain things I keep private such as:
“What hotel are you staying at?” – this is usually innocent but if you are by yourself and don’t need a creep of some sort rocking up to your hotel you can respond with “Oh, just a little boutique one in the X area”. This is a good level of conversation but be on the look out to see if they push trying to find out your EXACT hotel – as that is strange.
“Where is your boyfriend/husband?” – this question is likely to be asked dependent on the location that you visit ad if you are female. This one is usually a case of personal judgement. If a guy is hitting on me and I want nothing to do with it I usually say “Oh, he is back at the hotel and feeling a bit ill – I’m just out for a bit of a walk because it was boring indoors”
“Where are you from?” – a very innocent question that I always answer but be wary if you have a passport with a lot of country power and people start asking to see it, your passport is your personal property and needn’t be shared with anyone else.
Other information, I try not to share are in-depth flight and airport details – these just need to be kept to yourself.
The best benefit about going solo is that you can do whatever you want – whenever you want. I won’t tell you how to go about it as we are all so different but don’t let all these safety tips be a drag. They are based on all the maybes that we think about when we go abroad. The most memorable memory that you have on a holiday will be centred around all the fun that you have had.
Let me know in the comments, your thoughts on my tips above – do you agree? Let’s start a thread on other safety tips that you would recommend.