One of the things I get asked about the most when I talk to people about my experiences traveling solo is how I stay safe. Safety is essential to me. So, I have a lot of things that I do to keep myself secure when alone. Honestly, most of the tips are very standard and to the point. But, besides the self-defense courses and items that I have, I also developed a little way to remember my top safety tips. Stay SCARI.
S: Be Smart
This is a pretty simple one, and basically, cuts right to the chase.
First of all, do your research. If someplace is notoriously not the safest place to visit, even in a group, don’t go alone. There are several blogs and websites that can share insight on the safest countries and cities to travel to as a solo female (or male). Make sure you look at where your hotel is on Google Maps first. That way, you can confirm it’s in a good area and close to at least most of what you’re hoping to see. Request to be on a higher floor and book cars to and from the airport in advance (especially if you have very late or very early flights). And, make sure someone always knows where you are.
Before I go anywhere alone, I create an itinerary to note my general plans. I also add my hotel address, phone number, confirmation, and flight information and send it to my parents and older brother. That way, if they can’t get in touch with me for some reason, they know whether I’m doing something or if they should worry.
Don’t go to sketchy places. Carry some sort of self-defense item, even if it’s just a whistle or something. Don’t drink too much, and most importantly, do not tell everyone you meet that you’re by yourself!
C: Be Creative
This one goes in two directions.
First of all, be creative with your story. Minimal information is critical when talking to people around the area you’re visiting. One of my favorite parts of traveling solo is creating a whole new persona. I can give a fake name, say I’m from a different city, and have a different job. If people ask me if I’m meeting someone, I always say that either a friend is coming into town the following day. Or, that my boyfriend/fiance/brother/dad (any male relative) is on his way from the airport as we speak. When it comes to restaurants or bars, I try not to go to the same place more than once to maintain my “story”. I have told someone that I’m alone before, but it’s very much based on the situation and the vibe the person gives out.
II also like to research other hotels in the area. Then, if someone asks what hotel I’m staying at, I know the name of one that I can say instead without thinking about it.
Also, when it comes to self-defense and safety items, sometimes you have to be creative. I’d heard of these hotel door safety locks but quickly learned that they don’t fit on a lot of hotel doors. Instead, I take a hand towel and fold and roll it up to stuff it behind the door handle on my side of the room. This will make it harder for anyone to move the handle. Or, even just a basic doorstop that you can stick under the door on your side. Even if someone managed to get the door unlocked, it would be hard for them to open it. Which would give you a minute to prepare. Be able to use what’s around you, no matter where you are.
A: Be Aware
Again, this one is a give-in! For the love of God, please do not walk around with your face in your phone. You shouldn’t be doing that anytime or anywhere, but especially not when traveling to a new place by yourself! The same thing goes for walking around with earphones in – don’t do it.
Trust your gut. If someone is giving you a bad vibe, stop interacting and leave. If something doesn’t feel right, stop. Take note of your surroundings, listen to your intuition, and be ready to react at any moment. I’m going to be honest with you, if you don’t have good situational awareness or know-how to take inventory of your surroundings or aren’t usually able to tell when something isn’t “right,” I wouldn’t recommend traveling solo. It’s important to be aware at all times. This is especially when true when it comes to heading back to your hotel – make sure that nobody is following you!
R: Be Responsible
Listen, I know that one of the most appealing factors of solo travel is engaging with the men (or women) of the area (hello, France). And I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have fun because you can. But, you have to be responsible about it. Even though I’m a big believer in not letting people know where you’re staying, I do think it’s safer to go back to your hotel than to their place. Use my Google Voice trick if they ask for a phone number. Don’t drink too much if you’re going to be alone with someone you just met. Be responsible.
This also means learning the customs of the area so that you don’t stick out too much. Make sure that you’re respecting their traditions and aren’t dressing in a way that will totally expose you as a tourist. Don’t do anything illegal, obviously. Just try not to draw too much attention to yourself. The best way to avoid this is by being responsible and knowing how to behave in advance.
I: Be Able to Improvise
My final tip is to be able to improvise. Sometimes, you’ll slip up and forget your fake name or give something away. You’ll say you’re traveling alone in front of a group of people and you’re going to need to be able to come up with something on the spot. Try to learn more than one way back to your hotel. When going abroad, I try to stay places that have a hotel shuttle, but if they don’t offer one try to be ready in case you need to change course.
Also, if you go to do an activity that suddenly doesn’t feel “right,” have a backup plan in place! Time is precious when on vacation so make sure you’re ready with a Plan B. You don’t have to miss out on everything just because you’re alone. Just be careful.
I realize my tips might make it seem like traveling alone is scary, but honestly, it’s not. You just need to be prepared and, well, “scarier” than any potential issues.
As a bonus, here are some of my favorite self-defense items: