Jet setting on your own? You’re not alone. Solo female travelers have increased in recent years, with over 32 million American women traveling independently. So whether you’re getting away for some me-time, itching to go but can’t find a travel buddy, or you just got a great deal on tickets, here’s our best tips on making the best of your solo travel experience and staying safe.
What to Do Before You Go on a Trip: Preparing for the Trip
- Learn about your destination. Familiarize yourself with its geography, major landmarks, neighborhoods, and nearby cities, and main streets. Learn about its history and culture. If the official language is not English, practice some key phrases and memorize some written words to enrich your experiences with the locals. Finally, research cultural norms and major belief systems so you don’t commit any huge cultural faux paus. Certain areas may be more conservative in what areas of a body a woman should show, so know what these may be so you can pack and dress accordingly. It’s a good idea to try blending in by dressing like a local.
- Deal with Data & Minutes: It’s also a good time to determine if you need to purchase a phone card or have an international phone plan so that you’ll be able to make calls and use data while abroad. It’s great to have a phone in case of emergencies, but it is also good for making calls to hotels, meeting up with friends, and keeping family in the loop of your whereabouts.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- You almost always need less that you think. Traveling with minimal belongings not only helps keep your stress levels low as your body will thank you for not needing to lug a 50 pound suitcase up four flights of stairs, it will also decrease your chances of being a target for thieves or pickpockets. For more tips of avoiding purse pickpockets and thieves read this article.
Touchdown at Your Destination: When You Arrive
- Notify others. In general, it’s good practice to check in with the consulate as a safety precaution. They will know how to reach you in the event of an emergency, or if your family needs to be notified of your whereabouts. Make sure you have enough money on you in a secure place (like an Anti-theft purse), important documents, and write down the name, address and phone number of your hotel in the case that you need to show it to a taxi driver or ask for directions.
- Don’t be afraid to interact with strangers, as it’s a great way to learn about place you’re visiting. While most people are perfectly safe, be smart in how much personal information you share, such as where you’re staying, and if you’re alone or not. If you are drinking a good tip whether you’re alone at home or away, be aware on how much you consume, watch your drink at all times, and don’t get drunk. It makes it more difficult to get back to your accommodations, and makes you vulnerable to others.
Staying Safe and Not Getting Ripped Off
Unfortunately women are often the target of many crimes, but that shouldn’t deter you from travel. Use these smart practices to avoid being a victim of such crimes.
- Better Safe than Sorry. Riding taxis, particularly at night, may be a bit dicey in certain areas. A good “just in case” step is to note the taxi number or license plate before getting in. You can even shoot the image over to a friend to let them know that you’re in a taxi and this is their license. Many taxis display their name and license on the dashboard so you can snap a photo of it when you get in as well. If they do not have a meter, agree on the fare beforehand and have exact change to avoid getting overcharged.
- If it sounds too good to be true... In most cases where people go up to you at airports or train stations with the promise of a cheap taxi, these drivers are not actually licensed taxi drivers and I would recommend steering clear of them, as they may trick you into paying more money, take you to the wrong location to force you to pay more, or worse.
- Research the neighborhood your hotel is in before booking. Know which neighborhoods are safe, and which to stay away from. Stick with busy hotels in a central part of town so you can avoid walking empty streets alone at night, and also increase your chances of connecting with other travelers. Being in an unfamiliar location at night with luggage may cause extra stress and increase your chances of being a target, so choose flights that land during the day with plenty of time to find your accommodations before nightfall.
- Have a Secret Stash. Finally, plan for the worst with a secret stash of cash separated from the rest of your belongings. Even if all your luggage is stolen, make sure you can have access to the most important things by keeping a digital copy of important documents, like photos your passport and credit cards (front and back) on secure cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive. If you don’t memorize phone numbers, make sure you also keep a copy of emergency contact numbers in case your phone gets lost or damaged.
Closing Thoughts: Fake It till You Make It
Ultimately, if you look confident and walk with intent, most people will leave you alone. If someone does hassle you, be firm in your rejection, walk quickly, and if needed duck into the nearest hotel or store so that you aren’t cornered and alone. Listen to your gut, stay smart, and have fun!
Karin is the co-founder of Arden Cove and co-creator of the Anti-Theft Waterproof Crossbodies - bags created for women who want all the practicality and safety features without compromising in style. Shop ArdenCove.com.