Travelling solo is going to be one of the scariest but most rewarding adventures you will ever experience.
But no matter where in the world you are, there will always be risks.
Staying safe on solo travel trips is one of the most important lessons to learn and below are 40 tips every explorer should know before they embark on this epic journey.
This article is not to scare you, but to encourage you to be brave, prepared and ready to face the challenges of travelling alone.
Is it safe to go solo travelling?
Absolutely! But you need to keep your wits about you and listen to your gut. If a situation doesn’t feel right, get out of there.
This article will deep dive into how to stay safe in different countries and how to make you less of a target.
Is it better to travel alone or with someone?
This question really depends on you as a person. If you feel like it will make you more comfortable, then it’s better to travel with a companion.
However, being in a couple/with a friend doesn’t always guarantee your safety.
I personally love travelling solo because it gets you out of your comfort zone, you meet new people, and you only need to look after 1 person.
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40 ways to stay safe on solo travel trips
1. Emergency credit card
Having an emergency fund is vital for the survival of travelling. Even if you only manage to get a credit card of $500.
The purpose of this card is for emergencies only!
Like if you need to get a flight home in a hurry (like a pandemic starting), or you need an emergency dental procedure and your travel insurance doesn’t cover it.
Paying a credit card off whilst travelling is hard, so make sure you only use it when it is absolutely necessary.
2. Having essential documents printed
While it may seem “old school” to print, having hard copies of your essential travel documents can save your bacon on multiple occasions.
ALWAYS HAVE A PRINTED VERSION OF YOUR VISA FOR THE COUNTRY YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO.
If the airport has no Wi-Fi, you forgot to screenshot the page and the poster states you need documents printed, then you will have saved yourself stress.
3. Learning some basic words/phrases in a country’s language
Whenever visiting a new country, it is always good manners to learn a few basic phrases. By trying to speak the language, it shows you aren’t an ignorant tourist and can go a long way in the eyes of the locals.
The normal words I would try and remember are:
- Thank you
- How Much
- Check Please
4. Have hiding spots for your money
A really good way to stay safe on solo travel trips is hiding your money in different spots.
Very rarely will I store all my money in one place. I like to always have my emergency credit card with my passport and cash dotted around in different places.
Some good hiding spots are: a dirty laundry bag, an empty shampoo bottle or toiletry container, a secret pocket in your backpack, an unused tampon applicator and a pack of cards. Basically somewhere mundane.
5. Learn the local police numbers
Before travelling to a new country, have the local police, ambulance and fire numbers. Usually the information is the same for all 3 but it is important to check.
If anything were to go wrong, you want to be able to have quick access to those details.
6. Travel Insurance
It goes without saying, but ALWAYS have travel insurance. I highly recommend Alpha Travel insurance. They are affordable and cater for long and short term trips. They also don’t sting you if you are intending to do multiple trips.
7. Buy a local sim card
Buying a local sim card is good for many reasons. It is important to stay connected to your family and your friends. By telling your loved ones where you are staying/your plans for the coming weeks will help keep them up to date if anything was to go wrong.
Having a local sim card will also allow you to use maps and translator apps when you are exploring in case you get lost.
8. Buy a padlock
Staying in a hostel for the first time can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. If you buy a padlock, you can keep your valuables safe by using the lockers on the premises. All good hostels will have a place to store small personal items.
9. Don’t parade your valuables around
A solo travel safety tip that is good practice in general, is to not parade your valuables. If you are walking down a street in a developing country, do not have your phone on constant show. By all means, take a quick picture or check the map, but do not keep it out.
The same principle goes for the hostel. Do not leave a brand new Macbook on your bed unattended for 8 hours. Lock it in a locker and only charge it when you are there.
10. Investing in a Power Bank
Before purchasing a power bank, do some research. It is important to look at banks that power 15,000mAh and above.
For example, a Samsung S21 Ultra has 5,000 mAh, meaning I could charge my device 3 times with a 15,000mAh bank. An iPhone 13 pro max is 4352 mAh so you will get 3 and a bit charges. I am currently using the Bextoo power bank with 30,000 mAh.
I think this is one of the most important items you need in order to stay safe whilst travelling solo.
11. Don’t get drunk
Now I do not want to sound like your mother, but, do not make yourself a target and get drunk. If you are a solo female traveller, this is extremely important. I am all for getting tipsy and having fun but keep your wits about you.
Make sure you always leave a pub or a club with a friend, or an acquaintance from the hostel.
12. Trust your gut
Trusting your gut is probably one of the biggest solo travel safety tips out there.
In the words of Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (my favourite murder podcast), F*ck politeness. If someone feels dodgy, get out! Do not hesitate.
We have an instinct for a reason. Please listen to it. No matter how silly you feel, just act on it.
13. Research the destination
I would always research a destination to check if the climate is safe. Is there a war going on? Are there riots? How are female tourists treated? It is important to know what kind of country you are visiting and what precautions you need to take to stay safe.
If the country has a strict “no skin on show” policy, then stick to that rule to make yourself less of a target.
14. Arrange your first couple of nights
I am a huge promoter of spontaneity but I would never land in a country blind.
It is always a good idea to book at least the first 3 nights. And plan your route from the airport to your accommodation. I would recommend landing in the day to have daylight hours and more options on transport.
After the first 3 nights, when you have settled down and met people, then I would have a loose plan and go with the flow.
15. Read accommodation reviews
Before booking a hostel or hotel, read the accommodation reviews. Are there any concerns in the comments about safety? Is there a high number of items going missing? Is the owner inappropriate?
Reading reviews from fellow travellers will give you so much insight into the place you are about to book.
If the recent reviews are all negative and highlight the same issue, it might be worth looking elsewhere. If the reviews are old and outdated, then they might have improved.
16. Use registered taxi services
Personally, if I need to book a taxi, I will only ever use services like Uber, Grab, Didi, Ola or the country’s equivalent.
Being a solo female traveller comes with many risks, one of them being in a situation where you can not escape.
Taxi services with Apps allow you to calculate the price of the journey before even disembarking. Paying in advance means you don’t have the awkward conversation of “can I have change please”.
And most of those services track your location, so if anything was to go pear shaped there is a record.
Also, always either put your luggage in the back yourself or watch the person put it in and shut the boot.
REMEMBER TO ALWAYS check if the registration number matches the one on your booking.
We had a driver pull up to us in Bangkok and, luckily, I asked my friend as she was approaching the car if that was the right number and it wasn’t. I am sure it would have been fine, but it is not worth the risk.
17. Do not tell people you are travelling alone.
If you start chatting to someone on the street (no matter how cute they are) do not tell them you are travelling alone. Make up a partner, a friend, a relative, someone who “knows your whereabouts”.
This is one way of staying safe whilst solo travelling. You have no idea what people’s intention is with that information.
Again, do not tell people where you are staying, just be vague with your answer.
When you are in the hostel socializing and interacting, then you don’t need a fake partner!
18. Ask the hostel for a local map
To avoid relying on Google maps, ask the hostel for a local map.
When you are in your hotel or hostel, ask the reception staff what are the best areas to explore and the places to avoid.
Using local knowledge can keep you safe. However, don’t have your map on display all the time as it can make you stand out to local pick pockets.
Make sure you already have a vague idea of where you are walking to and walk with purpose.
19. Bum bags and Rucksacks
I love a bum bag! I recommend them to anyone travelling. They give you easy access to your items, they are harder to steal and they usually have lots of pockets.
I usually couple it with my rucksack which holds my water bottle and tripod.
If you are taking a regular handbag, then I recommend wearing it across your body rather than hanging off your shoulder. You should also have the opening facing your body rather than the outside world.
I also always put my purse in the pocket inside the bag, so if anyone were to try and do a quick pick pocket, they would need to go through two zips instead of one.
20. Don’t bring anything you will be upset about losing
Sometimes items go missing and it isn’t always because someone poached your stuff. I highly recommend not bringing things that would really upset you to lose.
When it comes to bigger items like phones/laptops/go pros, I would get insurance for them and make sure everything is backed up.
21. Download Maps and Translating apps
I encourage you to always have a downloaded, offline copy of maps. This is so that if you are in an area without a signal you can still use it to get to your destination.
If Waze is available in your country/the country you are visiting, then I highly recommend you use this map app. Not only is it super accurate, it also has cool voice overs like Christina Agulera and Masterchief and has download offline maps available.
An amazing safety app I highly recommend is What 3 Words. This app is insanely clever, and if used correctly, can save your life. This map has put the world in and divided it up into little squares all with random words.
If you were lost in the forest or trapped with your phone, you can call the authorities and tell them your exact location.
The UK police force are currently using this technology along with other countries. As it is still a fairly new app, it is worth researching before you rely on it.
Getting a translator app is always a handy tool to have when the conversation goes further than the basics.
22. Do not look lost.
Like I touched on previously, try to walk with purpose and not look lost.
If you are constantly on your phone or looking at a map, you will give off tourist vibes and potentially attract unwanted attention.
If you feel like you really need to study the route as you are lost. Go into a cafe, get a coffee and try to figure out where you went wrong. Then you will be around people and not exposed on the street.
This is a rule we should all follow, regardless of if we are travelling or not. However, so many of us, myself included, post in real time.
We have no idea who is watching our stories or lurking behind the scenes. It is best to post the location after you have been there, or the hostel name after you have checked out to avoid any problems.
24. Dating in a foreign country
Without sounding like your mum again! If you are going to date in any country, make sure you meet in a public place. Make sure you tell someone at the hostel the bar/restaurant you are going to/his name ect.
I would make your own way there and back to avoid getting into a stranger’s car and, if you do decide to go home with them, text someone their address.
If you do not feel the vibe and your gut is saying this is not right, then listen to it.
And if you want to be extra safe, then put your Whatsapp location on and let a friend see your whereabouts for the next 24 hours.
25. Coming home after dark
Personally, I would not be out late at night on my own if I didn’t know the area.
Try and either come home with a friend if you have been on a night out or come home after sunset.
Unfortunately, being a solo female traveller can make you a target, especially after daylight hours. I always carry a key in between my knuckles and if I listen to music I always have it on quiet with 1 ear in to keep vigilant.
26. Pack light
This solo travel safety tip might sound a little silly. But packing light is not only better for your back (if you have a backpack) but also makes you less of a tortoise. Carrying multiple bags will not only slow you down but will attract more attention to you.
27. Take self defense classes
Taking self defense classes can make you feel a lot more comfortable when it comes to walking about after dark. Even knowing a few moves/the best way to get away from an attacker could save your life.
I think classes like this are super fun, great exercise and you learn routines that will stick with you.
I did kickboxing when I was 13 and I can still remember the blocks 16 years on!
28. Travel with your valuables
If you are getting on a night bus, or being transported for a long period of time. And you have no access to your bag for a long period of time. Keep your valuables with you.
That way, if someone were to have nicked your bag or left it on the side of the road, you still have all your important documents and items with you.
29. Arrive in Daylight hours
A city in the day can be very different at night. Arriving in a new country jet lagged, lost and with a giant backpack can make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.
There are also fewer transport options in the night than there are in the day.
If you arrive in the day, there will be more staff manning the airports in case you have questions. It is also a lot less daunting when you can hear the commotion of commuters and travellers.
30. Be confident
A simple way of staying safe on your solo travel trips is by being confident.
If you act as if you have taken the route a million times, chances are people will leave you alone. Try to stand up tall and divert your eyes from the ground to the buildings around you.
YOU GOT THIS!
Solo travelling is daunting at first, but you will find your way quicker than you think.
31. Local dress code
Before adventuring to a new place, it is a good idea to see what the local dress code is. It is important to respect other cultures and their traditions. If it is inappropriate to have your knees on show, then cover them with a long skirt or dress.
If it is frowned upon to have shoulders showing, then wear a t-shirt.
If you really want to blend in, then look at what the locals are wearing and wear something
32. Check in with family and friends
Technology is incredible these days. It is so easy to link in with family and friends back home.
If you have created a set itinerary, send them a copy and let them know if things change. Or if you are being super spontaneous, then tell them where you are heading and who you are going with.
Updating your family on your whereabouts will give them peace of mind that you are safe.
You can also send your live location on Whatsapp or “find my friends on Iphone”. But personally, I would only do the live location if I was unsure about a place or situation.
33. Wearing Headphones
I love a podcast as much as the next girl, but sometimes it is better to leave off the headphones. Even with 1 headphone in, it can desensitize you to your surroundings and you might miss signs of danger.
If you decide to wear them, then only have 1 in and have it on quietly.
I would also wear your hair down to avoid people seeing you are listening to something.
34. Can you drink the water?
Before travelling to a new country, check if you can drink the tap water or if you have to buy it.
If you haven’t invested already, buy a reusable water bottle. And then decant bottled water into it to keep it cold.
The two water bottles I recommend are the Bemaxx active flask, which keeps your water ice cold all day. And the Crazy Cap that allows you to drink from the tap and filters your water via a chargeable LED light.
35. Avoid food poisoning
The best food in a country is usually at a street market where the locals are.
In a market setting, you can discover new dishes at a fraction of the restaurant price.
To avoid getting sick, eat food that is prepared and cooked in front of you and stand in the line where all the locals are eating.
If you can see the produce is sitting on display, it is usually best to go somewhere else.
37. Take walking tours
A good way to get to know a new city is to take a free walking tour. Most hostels will have a similar activity that makes you familiar with your new surroundings.
Having a local show you round will help you gain knowledge and allow you to ask questions about the area.
Walking tours are also a great way to meet new people and learn about the history of the place.
38. Does your hostel/hotel have a business card?
If you are a keen scrapbooker or journaller you might already do this. But asking your accommodation for a business card may help you later in the day. If you are lost and your phone has died, you will have the address and phone number of the building to give to the bus or taxi driver.
39. Join Facebook groups from the area
A great way to stay safe whilst travelling solo is connecting with other backpackers.
Joining Facebook groups like “backpackers in Australia” and “female travellers in Thailand” will help you learn about the experiences people have encountered before you. It also gives you a platform to ask questions about that place and get honest feedback.
40. Pack a first aid kit
Always carry a small first aid kit in your day bag with bandages, plasters, ibuprofen and Imodium. Maybe even tweezers and small scissors (but be careful not to take them on the plane). That way, if you are ever in a vulnerable situation, you have something with you.
In summary, solo travel is daunting the first time you embark on an adventure. But over time you will learn to become resourceful, vigilant, confident and happy that you did it.
This post was not to scare you, but to encourage you to take the leap of faith and book that trip!
With these tips, you will stay safe on your solo travel trips.
You will be a pro in no time!
As always, Happy exploring!