Whether you are travelling to find yourself or expand your horizons, travelling solo can be one of the most satisfying things you'll ever do. However, with no one to support you or watch your back, it does require you to develop self reliance, being more vigilant than you would usually be. Here are some suggestions to help you stay safe and get the most out of your single traveller experience.
1. Have a travel buddy back home
Ask someone back home if they will be your virtual travel companion. Photocopy your important documents (travel insurance, passport etc) and as well as carrying an extra copy yourself give your friends copies. This way, they can get them over to you if you get into any trouble and need them urgently. Let them know your travel plans and regularly keep them updated as to when and where you are. Check in with them so that they know you are safe and let them know if your plans change.
2. Get travel insurance you can rely on
Accidents and illnesses do sometimes happen when you're on your own. By having good travel insurance, you'll be covered for medical expenses and won't have to rely on friends for help. Always read your policy through carefully so you know what kind of activities you'll be covered for.
3. Learn some of the language
While you'll probably make an effort to learn the standard phrases of the language, many people forget that phrases such as "help me" and "leave me alone" can be just as valuable. Even if you don't have time to pick up much of the language, do make the effort to learn these phrases. You can also look on sites such as www.couchsurfing.com and ask locals for any language tips or if you can find someone near you, a quick coffee before you go so that you can get their input.
4. Do your research
A little research can go a long way. For example, if you are female, research people's attitudes towards lone females travelling alone. Is it likely to be a problem for you? Is it easier to stick on a fake wedding ring and pretend that you're married if you are single? What is considered rude in that culture? A little research before can not only keep you out of trouble, but help you get the most out of your trip.
5. When you arrive
If you are travelling independently, it makes sense to have your first night's accommodation booked so that you don't have to worry about finding somewhere to stay. Try to arrive by daylight and if you have the means, splurge on a taxi that can take you direct to your accommodation and help get you settled.
6. Remain flexible
Things like treks that are far away from anywhere are always going to be difficult for solo travellers. Even something like a sprained ankle can cause huge problems if you're on your own. Do be open to joining up with other travellers or even becoming part of an official walk or tour. Not only is there safety in numbers but a walking guide can tell you much more than you would ever get from a guide book or website alone.
7. Learn to trust your gut
A large part of staying safe is about being aware, not only of your surroundings but also of what your body is telling you. If you suddenly feel vulnerable walking down a street, go in a shop and check if anyone is following you (if they are, tell the shopkeepers and ask them to contact the police). If the person you are chatting to at the bar suddenly says something that makes you feel uneasy, tell them you feel ill and want to leave, or even better, that you are meeting your friend. Start practising listening to what you are feeling and trust yourself enough to respond and get yourself out of situations that make you feel uneasy.
8. Be selective
You don't have to tell everyone that you are travelling alone. Be selective with the people that you share this information with. If you're alone at a bar, make friends with the bar man or woman and make sure they know who you are. Quite often then will keep a look out for you and come over if you are being hassled.
9. Check before you sleep
Bring a doorstop with you and place under the door to stop unwanted guests at night. If your room has a chain and double lock, use it, and keep your valuables in the safe, both when you go out for the day and at night. Familiarise yourself with your escape route if there is a fire and don't open your door to anyone you don't know. Don't be afraid to get the hotel reception to verify a supposed hotel employee. If you are woman travelling alone and reception has just shouted out your room number, don't be afraid to ask for a different room.
10. It's all in the attitude
Finally, it's said that muggers can spot an easy victim within seconds so don't mark yourself out as one. Dress for the area you are visiting, carry your cash close to your body and walk tall and with confidence. Do not take out your map or, even worse, go on Google maps in the middle of the street: go into a coffee shop or shop if you need to. Stay where it is busy and, if you do find yourself lost or suddenly in some quieter streets, ask a local if the area is safe. If you are travelling alone for any length of time, there are some great courses that will teach you some self defence that can help you feel a lot more confident, and look it too. One may be well worth the investment.more blog posts