The first question that comes to mind when for a solo female travelers is her safety. Of course we may encounter unpleasant situations, but let’s not forget that often atrocities happen simply within the home or in the city where we live. However, it makes more news when it happens abroad. The world that the media portrays is not as hostile to a woman travelling alone as they want us to believe.
It’s normal to be afraid of diversity, but when you travel, you need to open your mind and go further, diversity can be a resource, the world is full of people in solidarity. I felt it on my skin, when in a difficult situation, strangers did not hesitate to help me, anticipating the cash I returned as soon as I was able. Travelling alone leads women to become more self- confident, not forgetting an important element, such as safety on the go. In every situation we must use the good and sixth sense, what we do every day even at home. We need to find the right balance that allows us to travel but also to be safe, to be able to listen and believe in our instincts.
“What if they steal everything from me and I have no ID or money?”
“What if I can’t communicate with the locals?”
“What if I get lost and I don’t find my way home?”
“What if I get raped?”
“What if I get bored all alone?”
“What if I get really hurt or sick and I’m all alone in a strange country with no one to take care of me?”
These are probably some questions that go through your head, or maybe you’re thinking about everything that could go wrong. I don’t blame you, I had the same doubts and worries before I made my first solo trip, but if I had let the fears have the upper hand, I would have missed some incredible experiences that would soon change my life.
Here are some tips that I consider during my travels:
#1 LOOKING FOR GOOD INSURANCE
Having good travel insurance, it can save our lives because we don’t know what can happen, think of a coup d’état or coronavirus or if they steal our luggage. Travel insurance covers medical expenses, examinations, treatment costs and even hotel accommodation. Analyze in detail the various policies, compare costs and benefits because not all can cover your needs. Better an extra check, than to find out that you are not covered at all, for example many Italian insurance companies do not provide that you leave with a one-way ticket.
#2 HIDE ALL VALUABLE OBJECTS
I usually never carry with me anything of value such as necklaces, bracelets or earrings. If I visit a poor country it does not seem appropriate to wear items that pickpockets and thieves do not possess. Keep in mind that wherever such individuals operate they will only turn on those who are carrying such valuable items. This also applies to cameras and expensive technological equipment. Also pay attention to your cell phone, find a sheltered place to consult it. In many countries a nice smartphone is worth months of rent and food, so I recommend entering a store to take a look at the maps on your phone and to use your phone discreetly. It can also be useful to bring a primitive phone as a back-up in case something happens to your smartphone. Do not leave your personal belongings unattended or resting on the seat next to you and between the various air travel, bus etc. Carry valuables always with you, never embark them.
#3 GET ONLY THE OBJECTS YOU NEED
When you go to visit a venue bring only the absolutely necessary objects, the rest leave in the accommodation. Buy a TSA-approved padlock to keep your valuables safe while you’re away. Many hostels have lockers where you can store your valuables. Use the photocopy of the passport and the original leave it in the locker as well as other relevant documents. You don’t have to take them to the beach or the restaurant at night! Sometimes shops or rental companies (bicycles, cars, etc.) ask you to confirm your identity via an ID. In this case, simply show the copy stored on your phone. Always move your bag in front of your body in crowded spaces and never slip your phone into your pocket!
#4 AVOID GOING OUT ALONE AT NIGHT
When booking your accommodation, check the location and area. Never book a place that has no reviews. Read reviews, especially written by women, when staying at someone’s home (couch surfing), in hostels, Airbnb, and even hotels. As solo traveller,I’d rather pay more to be in a central area than take a risk and be somewhere I’d have to walk at night. Try to arrive/land in a city during the day to better orient yourself. The night is always the most delicate moment, so unless you are with other travellers, do not venture through the alleys alone. To return to your place of residence take a taxi instead of walking. Try to find a group of travellers to join if you want to go out at night such as a visit to the pub. The hostel is the right environment to meet new people to hang out with in the evening.
#5 GET TO KNOW SOMEONE ABOUT YOUR PLANS
Get acquainted with friends, relatives or the accommodation staff of where you are staying. Notify them your planned journeys, so that if you fail to return they can give raise the alarm.
#6 MAKE COPIES OF YOUR TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
It’s a good idea to make a photocopy or a photo of your travel documents and then send them by email to yourself. Store a copy on Google Drive or Dropboxso you can have access from any internet computer if those copies are lost or stolen. Send the same email to parents and friends, too, so they can send it to you if something goes wrong. Remember that the passport is the most important document you have and if you lose it or if it gets stolen it is a real issue to replace it, especially when you are overseas. You will not be able to continue your planned journey, so having a copy is very useful in case you have to turn to the local authorities or the embassy. Put 50 Euros for every eventuality hidden in a secret spot, just in case.
#7 KEEP YOUR EMERGENCY NUMBERS HANDY
It may seem more comforting to know that you can call or send a message to your loved ones if you need to. Buy an international plan or take a local sim, there are economic rates and marked emergency numbers, in case of need you can call them quickly. Make sure you buy a portable charger to keep your phone charged in case you no longer find your way back or you just need to contact someone in case of emergency.
#8 DON’T LISTEN TO MUSIC
You must always be alert, so don’t wear headphones to listen to music. The inability to listen to the sounds of the surrounding environment and the resulting sensory deprivation, is one of the determining factors in the increase of the claims in which you may incur. When I walk, I am fully aware of what is happening around me. I keep an eye on the cars that are driving next to me or anyone who slows/accelerates, listen to the footsteps behind me and look at the shadows. If I walk down a quiet street and I see a man is going to pass me in front, I also cross the other side of the street to be sure. You never know. It’s better to be mindful and cautious than to be carefree, as this could end up with undesirable consequences.
#9 DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH
Drinking is clouding your senses and slows down reaction times, I’m not saying you don’t have to drink at all but drink little so it does not cloud your conscience or your judgement. Be alert to what is going on around you at all times! You must always be in control of yourself and remember that you are alone. If you feel that your judgement and conscience maybe compromised with more drink then refuse the glass.
#10 CLOTHES PROPERLY
Dressed soberly so as not to catch the attention of a potential attacker, watch as they dress the locals and try to pass as one of them. In Muslim countries you have to cover arms, legs and neckline for example. It is important to do some research before travelling and study what are the local customs. Dressing properly is a sign of respect for the culture you are visiting.