Earlier this week I posted 10 Tips for Safe Solo Travel (Part one!) with a promise to follow up in a few days. So here it is, ladies and gents–the rest of my safety tips for traveling on your own.
As before, please comment if you have any to add, or if you disagree with any of these!
Learn key phrases
If you are visiting a country where English is not the first language, memorize important phrases beforehand. If you find yourself lost or in trouble, you need to be able to ask for help. I found “I’m lost” and “Do you speak english, please?” to be extremely helpful. To my experience, almost everyone I approached was patient and willing to assist me, even with the language barrier. When possible, step into a touristy looking store to ask, as they will most likely speak english, and have probably heard your question a million times.
Have a Backup Accommodation
This is huge if you are relying on couchsurfing for any of your stays. Be sure you have the funds to cover a hostel, hotel, or airbnb if someone falls through. It does happen. I had multiple hosts cancel last minute, or start giving off a “creepy” vibe shortly before I was set to arrive in their city. I found the HostelWorld app to be exceedingly useful for this. The last thing you want is to end up in a new city with nowhere to stay. Talk about scary and unsafe!
Trust your Intuition when Couchsurfing
Don’t be afraid to walk away. If the host you have met with seems off, weird, or gives you any uncomfortable feeling, leave. Explain that you have had a change of plans. While they may think you are being rude, ALWAYS trust your gut because it is rarely wrong, and staying in a place you are uncomfortable will absolutely ruin your experience there even if nothing happens. Especially for solo female travelers, this is exceedingly important to keep in mind.
Memorize Important Locations
If you get lost, it is very important to be able to communicate where you need to get to. I discovered this my very first day in Dublin! My hostel was near the General Post Office, a well-known landmark building, so when I ended up completely lost, with a dead cellphone, I was able to use the GPO as a directional point when I stopped strangers. The River Liffey and Ha’penny Bridge were also helpful directional points in Dublin for me. You also want to memorize the closest subway stop and which line it is on, or the bus route if that is your method of getting around.
Lock it Up
While I tried to bring mostly things I didn’t worry over losing, I did have my Canon Rebel t2i with me, my phone, and my Kindle Fire. Some of the hostels I stayed in didn’t have locked storage, in which case I slept with my entire bag on the bed with me, against the wall. In these cases, when I was out exploring the city, I made sure to lock the zippers on my bag, and took all my valuable items with me. If my clothes went missing, I could buy new ones, but losing my phone or passport would have been quite a headache. Thankfully I did not have anything stolen while staying in hostels, apart from a loaf of bread that disappeared from the kitchen (Looking at you, Iceland =P ) but I know that it does unfortunately happen. So read reviews, and try to stay in hostels that have in-room lockers for your things.
Don’t Drink Alone
Okay, this seems like common sense, but I came across more than one young traveler who was not taking this advice, so I felt it pertinent to add. Some cities are just teeming with wild and fun nightlife, and as a solo traveler, you need to take some extra precautions before going out. If you’re staying in hostels, find someone who also wants to go for drinks, dancing, et cetera. Exchange contact details, and then when you go out, keep an eye on each other. I made quite a few good friends this way, doing bar crawls together and then splitting an Uber back to the hostel, or navigating our wobbly steps back. The bigger the group, the better, but even one trustworthy person is better than going out alone. I feel like this rule applies at home as well as traveling to be honest, and should really not even need to be said! On that note, let someone at home know that you’re going out that night. When I was on barcrawls (I did 3) I would regularly check in with my Dad or my best friend, even if they were sleeping due to the time difference I would send them a photo or a quick note on Facebook every other hour or so. You can never ever be too careful guys.
Lastly, but NOT Least Important–DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Look at you, already taking my advice by reading this fancy post!
Seriously though, research the place you are going to extensively before you leave. Learn about local customs and things to avoid, what constitutes as flirting (in some areas of Southern Europe, meeting a man’s gaze and smiling is considered an invitation) and what sort of crime is prevalent in the city. Know the laws, especially if they pertain to you. In some countries, being transgender is illegal, or being openly gay, or any number of laws that may seem absurd to you depending on your cultural background. Keeping these in mind before you book your trip can save you a world of trouble! This research should also include financial things–will your cards work overseas? Does your bank charge huge fees for international usage or withdrawals? These are important things to look into beforehand!
So, I know that many people swear by travel insurance, and this list would be incomplete if I didn’t add it. However, I will admit that I have not used travel insurance. It is often advocated for by other travelers however, and I intend to look into it for my next extended trip abroad. While I cannot say from my experience, I can imagine it would be very handy if you were to get hurt, sick, or stolen from.
Am I missing any super important tips? Let me know in the comments!