I love that more and more females are getting out of their comfort zones and traveling. Traveling, especially solo traveling, is one of the most exhilarating, adventurous, and exciting things to do in life. There’s nothing quite like it. You can see amazing places, experience a different culture, and meet new friends. Of course anyone knows that the more you travel, the chance of having something unpleasant happen increases.
Even though it is becoming more popular for females to travel by themselves, our world is becoming less safe for anyone to travel. But once you taste the freedom of traveling alone or with friends, you are highly unlikely to want to give it up just to be on the “safe” side. Believe it or not, taking certain precautions and preparations can help keep you safe even while traveling abroad.
If you are a single female, and you must travel alone, because there are so many wonderful places in this world of ours to see, then do it safely. Here are a few tips, some of them life saving (no joke), for you to follow in order to have a happy, successful, safe trip.
- Carry Pepper Spray
I hope you won’t ever have to use it, but if you are traveling to a destination you are unfamiliar with, you know how the saying goes “it’s better to be safe than sorry”. While traveling in Panama I was with a friend who took a taxi alone to get back to our hotel, but instead the taxi took her far away from her destination. Luckily, she had her pepper spray with her, she sprayed him and eventually it was enough for him to slow the taxi down and for her to get out. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she hadn’t had the pepper spray. Take the pepper spray, you can stow it in your luggage, but don’t try to carry it on the plane, I don’t think that would go over well with the airline.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings
The more I travel the easier it is to stop paying attention. While it is good to stay calm and not to worry, but don’t let your guard down. I’ve been several places I was almost pick-pocketed. When you are in a crowd it’s easy for pick-pocketers to do their job, and you don’t want them to do their job around you. If you’re walking down a crowded street keep your belongings in front of you, holding them in front of you makes you more aware of what you have and it’s less likely someone will try to snatch something from you (or secretly unzip your pack and grab something out of it). One time I was waiting to get on a bus and I heard my backpack unzip and turned around. I didn’t see anyone but they were able to unzip my entire backpack before I noticed. I panicked and checked my pack but nothing appeared to be stolen. Still, I was upset that I was caught unaware. From now on, when getting on and off busses or waiting in long lines where their is a crowd, I hold my valuables in front of me where I can see them. Bottom line: pay more attention when you are in a crowd of people.
Keeping your stuff safe is important, but keeping your person safe is more important. Being aware of where you are, who you are with, what taxi you are taking, and where you are going, may sound simple, but it is vital when you are away from friends and family that could help out if you get in a situation you don’t want to be in. Even if you are in your home town, you do things to keep yourself safe. For example, most of us are alert when we are in a dark parking lot alone.
One thing that can keep you from being aware of your surroundings is drinking. Know your limit, and don’t go over it. There is no reason for you to get robbed, lost, or kidnapped because you drank too much. Have enough sense and respect for yourself to go easy on the booze while traveling.
- Research Before You Travel
It’s a good idea to google your destination. Google things like “Areas to Avoid in Antigua” or “Safe Areas to stay in Madrid” You can also get online and go to travel.state.gov and check out any alerts or warnings for your destination. I am glad I researched Italy before going. Most places were pretty safe except for pickpocketing, and I read about Piza being especially prone to pickpocketing. I held my stuff in front of me the entire time I was there, well for the most part. I relaxed when there weren’t as many people around. Sure enough I witnessed several disasters, one including a entire family that had to jump off the bus and chase someone down the road, I doubt they caught him. The thief had stolen the father’s wallet. Get on some travel websites and read up on your destination and get tips from people who have already been.
- Talk to Friends and Family
It’s really great to be single in our day and age, and to feel like you own the world, like you can do whatever you want. It’s wonderful. You can have your own job, your own car, your own apartment, and really only ever listen to yourself. “Be your own boss!” This may work for some people most of the time, but it is not a great mind set if you plan on traveling alone. Maybe you’ve planned a trip that sounds perfect and wonderful, which is great! But do run it by a few friends and family members. Get someone else’s perspective. It may not be that your trip is dangerous, but there might be something you hadn’t thought of that you could do to prepare for a better trip. It could be that someone might know something about the place you are visiting that you didn’t know.
Don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for advice, even if it’s from your (gasp) mom and dad. Yes, I realize you might be in your 20s or 30s and think it’s silly to ask for parents’ advice, but it doesn’t matter how old you get they will always be your parents and they just want you to be safe. On the flip side of that, just because one or two people don’t think your trip is a good idea, doesn’t necessarily make it a bad idea. If your entire list of friends and family are against you going somewhere, there might be something to it. Sometimes it’s easy to miss something when you are the only one looking at it. So respect yourself enough to ask for advice, and if the majority think it’s a great idea then go for it! It never hurts to get the advice of others, especially when it comes to your safety!
- Trust Your Instincts
Believe in it or not, we all have a sixth sense. We have the ability to know when something is wrong. If you are somewhere where you can’t shake that feeling of dread or uneasiness, double check to make sure things are ok, or just get out of the area or situation. While studying Spanish in Costa Rica, I once was invited to go with a friend of the Spanish family I was staying with. I did not trust this person nor did I like the idea of the trip, but I also was feeling adventurous and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by saying no. I couldn’t speak Spanish very well, so somehow I confused the place she wanted to go (her home town) with another place (a fancy beach) and when I asked my Spanish teacher about it because I was concerned he encouraged me to go. Of course he thought I was talking about a popular tourist beach destination. I still didn’t feel good about it but I went anyway. We ended up in the ghetto of Costa Rica, went to a crazy night carnival that was full of drugs, gangs, and drunks. When we got back to her house her mom and her fought, strait out yelled at each other for an hour. She was in trouble and her mom had taken away her bed. We slept on the floor that night. I had to take the trip back to my family alone. The whole experience was slightly out of my comfort zone. I got back to San Jose after dark and had to catch a bus back to the town my Spanish family was staying in. When I told my Spanish teacher the real destination after I returned, he was so surprised and worried for me. I guess another lesson I learned was if you are going to ask important questions know what you’re talking about.
- Talk to Locals
Talking to locals is not only a great way to find places to eat, or shopping, but it’s also another way to stay safe. Talk to the hostel or hotel you are staying at. Get a map of the area and after asking for tips on restaurants, etc, ask for any areas that should be avoided.
- Travel with a Buddy
If you aren’t comfortable traveling alone it’s ok! It really isn’t for everyone. Take someone with you! I love traveling alone, but every once in a while I get tired of it, I usually talk my mom into going with me. She is great, we’ve stayed in hostels together, gone camping, and even though we are family and occasionally have differences, it really is wonderful to share my traveling experiences with someone else.
- Carry a Copy of Your Passport (Not the Original)
This is just smart idea. Before you leave the country, make a copy of your passport photo and information. Leave your real passport in the hotel safe and carry the copy. This could save you a headache later if for some reason your purse or wallet gets stolen.
- Don’t Accept a Drink from a Stranger
Just don’t do it. He might be beautiful, he might seem like he has money, he might be charming, he might seem harmless, and he might actually be all those things. But while you are in an unfamiliar place, don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know. Period. I’ve heard too many horror stories of it not just happening to women solo travelers, but also men. Don’t give someone a way to take advantage of you. A lot of things are out of our control while traveling, but drinking with strangers especially if you are alone and away from home is not a good idea and in no way beneficial to your traveling experience.
- Relax, Not Everyone is Out to Get You
Even though you should be aware of your surroundings, being anxious and nervous will do quite the opposite of keeping you safe. I will give my own embarrassing story. I was in Central America (this time not alone, my best friend was with me) and we had started out at a beautiful beach, which should have been an amazing beginning to our adventure. Instead I was so nervous about being somewhere unfamiliar, that I panicked, not like yelling and screaming, but definitely panicked. I thought of all the things that could happen to us being so far from anyone who knew us. Subconsciously I think I wanted for us to be invisible or something, otherwise there is no explaining my behavior. When we arrived at the beach we both realized neither of us brought sunscreen.
There were numerous stores where we could have bought sunscreen, but after going in one and not finding it I decided it was just safest to go strait to the beach and stay on the beach until we caught the bus home. That way less people would know we were there. We would also have less chance of getting lost wondering around looking for sunscreen. Yeah right! We had less of a chance of having a good time because both of us are white and burn in the sun!
Obviously, I wasn’t thinking clearly, I stressed myself out. This anxiety caused my normal sense of logic to become obsolete and I was utterly struck stupid. Who arrives at an incredibly hot beach and thinks “it’s safer on the beach without sunscreen”? It was the beginning of our backpacking around Central America and we both were badly burned. I felt horrible and couldn’t apologize enough.
So, in the end, once you’ve done all your planning, and you’ve taken all the precautions you can, it is ok to lighten up, have fun, relax, and buy sunscreen. (Please, just buy the sunscreen.)
I hope these tips help you while preparing for an amazing travel adventure! If you have any tips please share with me.