You’ve finally done it. Booked the flight, packed the backpack and then you are reminded of the words “solo traveller” and you’re flooded with fear. You’ve got this. This guide is going to cover all the best tips for staying safe when travelling solo so you can push fear aside and hop on that plane.
I want to preface this by saying, the world isn’t a big bad place. In fact, one of the many joys of Workaway is that it showcases just how kind, caring and generous humans can be.
However, when you mention the words “travelling solo” people instantly share their horror stories or danger warnings. At times, I get it. Solo travel can be overwhelming but do not let it (or people’s opinions) hold you back. Realistically, the scenarios we fear most never actually happen.
I don’t want this post to scare you, or put you off but instead, realise that travelling solo is one of the most empowering and rewarding experiences IF you have the right advice. Use these solo travel tips to make informed decisions on the road to fuel your wanderlust, not your fears.
Top 20 Tips for the Solo Traveller
1. Research your destination
Do your research before you travel. Know the customs, laws, and potential dangers of the country or city you are visiting. It’s also ideal to know things such as approximate costs so you can avoid getting ripped off, sketchy areas to avoid staying in as well as transport links before you get there. Don’t forget to research weather too, as conditions such as extreme temperatures, rain, or wind can also jeopardise your safety.
2. Arrive during the day (if you can)
A new and unfamiliar destination can feel even more overwhelming at night. It can also make it impossible to navigate your way to your accommodation or find a safe way there. Arriving during the day will not only make it easier to see and more transport options available but there will be more locals going about to ask for assistance if needed.
3. Get travel insurance
This should be one of the most obvious safety tips for travelling alone, but travel insurance is essential
. Simply because unfortunately, things can go wrong that are simply out of your hands. Alongside medical costs or replacing your belongings, insurance can cover missed flights, accommodation issues and more.
4. Use Workaway
Not only do we believe that volunteering is a great way to meet other people when travelling solo, but here at Workaway, safety is paramount
. We manually check all profiles to ensure only those with the best intentions use the platform and remove any who aren’t up to scratch. We offer support to all members
and encourage all users to leave and read reviews. Not only that, but we have so many ways to meet other Workawayers
on the road as well as blog posts and videos packed with tips and advice for travelling solo. By staying in a home away from home it's also a great way to lead you in gently if you’re new to solo travel.
5. Share your itinerary
Share your itinerary with someone back home, including your accommodation details, travel plans, and contact information should you change sims or have limited WiFi. As well as let them know your itinerary before you set off, update them when plans change. We all love to meet people on the road but let someone know if you’re meeting up with a complete stranger for the first time, or simply heading somewhere you’re unfamiliar with.
6. Copy your important documents
One of the most important safety tips for solo travellers is to keep both a physical and paper copy of your important documents. This includes flight and accommodation confirmation, insurance documents, and a copy of your passport.
On a similar note, never give your passport to anyone. Sometimes hostels require it for check-in but they should never take it away or lock it somewhere. If you notice some scooter rental companies (or any service) ask for your passport as a “deposit” this is not normal. Rent your scooter elsewhere. If someone has your passport they can potentially make duplicates or prevent you leaving the country.
7. Don’t tell people you’re travelling solo
This might be a controversial solo safety tip, but if you don’t want people to know you’re travelling alone – don’t tell them! You can use excuses like “my friend/partner/girlfriend is joining me later/ is currently in the loo/ has gone back to the room…etc” if you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone you’re there alone.
Naturally, you’ll want to make friends in hostels, or find people to road trip with so it makes sense to tell them, but there are certain situations where “advertising” you’re a solo traveller does and doesn’t make sense.
8. Keep valuables out of sight
Keep your passport, money, and other valuables in a secure place. Similarly, avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep expensive jewellery or watches at home. Cameras such as GoPros are small and lightweight and less of a target than huge cameras hanging over your shoulder. If you do have expensive valuables that you need to bring, make sure they are insured.
9. Don’t share every detail on social media
When it comes to safety tips for solo travellers this is one that many people forget. We all want to share photos and updates from our trip but be mindful of just how much you post online. Keep your profile private or set to friends only. Not only for your own safety but also for your belongings.
For example, if you share that you've just checked in to a hotel and then post that you are out for dinner minutes later you’re letting the world know your hotel room is sat empty. Similarly, posting in live time lets everyone know your exact location – both the people you want to know (hello mum!) but also strangers.
10. Avoid walking alone at night
This can be tough. I get it, you’re a solo traveller you want to embrace the freedom of doing what you want, when you want. In the majority of places around the world walking around alone at night is perfectly safe. However, there is no hiding the fact that the majority of crimes that target tourists happen at dark when the crowds have gone. Try and find someone to walk back to your accommodation with or use a rideshare app.
11. Use reputable transportation
Talking of getting home safe at night, this is one of the most important tips for staying safe when travelling solo – use reputable transportation services. We all want to save money but make sure to use licensed taxis or ride-sharing services
(our sharing economy guide
can help) and avoid unmarked or unlicensed vehicles. At the end of the day, you’re putting your life in the hands of a stranger each time you hop in a car/ tuk tuk/ scooter so make sure it’s safe.
12. Find friends
Although solo travel is one of the most empowering experiences, there are scenarios on the road when travelling as a group is simply safer
. This includes certain activities such as hiking or rock climbing, so you have someone on hand in case of emergencies. Or, if you’re travelling in particularly remote or rural areas (especially if they are unfamiliar with tourists), then travelling with others is always safer. Thankfully, there are so many ways to meet people while travelling solo
13. Dress appropriately
This doesn’t just mean dressing appropriately for the local culture but also to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. You don’t want to wear your fanciest designer clothing or trainers that will scream “target me” to thieves or criminals.
I even had a friend who had her expensive designer sunglasses stolen from her at a train station because she was wearing them on her head, this made them easy to grab in a crowd. It’s simple adjustments like this that can save you so much hassle. Leave the expensive stuff at home and try to blend in with the locals.
14. Don’t party TOO hard
For many of us, partying is part of the norm when travelling, even more so perhaps as a solo traveller as it’s a great way to meet people and let your hair down. However, drinking excessively or drug use is the easiest way to let your guard down and put you in danger.
On the topic of partying, make sure you see the bartender make your drink or open the bottle in front of you. Never leave your drink out of sight, or if someone offers to buy you one, go with them to the bar.
As a tip from someone who has learned the hard way from partying too much, always save your accommodation on your phone or keep their business card in your wallet. Either pin it on maps or save a photo with the location.
That way, after a beer or 5 you’ll always remember where your accommodation is. Unfamiliar surroundings plus alcohol can be a recipe for disaster but this simple solo travel tip can help.
15. Don’t assume your hotel room is safe
This sounds sinister but hear me out. Many hostels and hotels offer to store your valuables – trust your gut. Leaving your passport or camera at a hotel desk or in your room may seem safe, but things can always go missing. The safest place for those valuables is on you.
16. Learn a few local phrases
Find a language buddy
and ask them how to say a few essential phrases. Learning how to ask for directions or even just help me can be useful.
Here are a few ideas of phrases to learn in your destination that may come in useful as a solo traveller.
- Help / I need help
- Where is the police station / hospital
- I am lost / can I get directions to…
- Don’t touch me
- I don’t understand
Please be careful
17. Don’t get distracted
I had to squeeze this in here because again, this is talking from experience. Whether it’s at a temple and there are people who “want to bless you”, markets where they pile on jewellery “for free” or there are funny kids throwing you high fives – stay alert. Sometimes thieves set up distractions to pull your attention to the funny/ free/ flirty thing, all while they unzip your backpack.
18. Bring travel essentials that will keep you safe
One of the best safety tips for travelling alone is to pack wisely. There are a few handy items that can ensure your safety, including:
- Powerbank – a portable powerbank to charge your phone is ideal if you plan on using your phone for directions and taking photos all day. You will need battery charge to find your way back to your accommodation but also let people know where you are.
- Lock – having a padlock for your backpack or valuables can help keep them safe. It may also be needed in some shared accommodation such as hostels where lockers are provided.
- First aid kit – we all want to travel light but having a few basics such as bandages, plasters or antiseptic wipes are always useful when travelling alone.
- Maps / navigation app – nowadays we all use our phones to guide us but if you are headed somewhere with limited service make sure you have an offline map or directions saved.
- Money belt / hidden wallet – some places charge high ATM fees which encourages travellers to withdraw large sums of cash. Thieves know this and target tourists for this reason. If you are withdrawing large sums keep them on you using a hidden money belt, don’t wave wads around when making purchases and don’t keep it all in one place.
19. Fake it till you make it
Even if you are anxious or overwhelmed, pretend you are confident. Don’t show your fear, instead convince those around you that you are a sassy solo traveller. Acting confident can also be an effective strategy to avoid being followed, it shows you are less vulnerable and difficult to approach. I genuinely believe acting confident helps to calm my own nerves and think more clearly about a situation. Whereas attackers may target people who appear timid, lost or unsure of themselves.
20. Trust your instincts
Finally, trust your gut. This is the most important safety tip for travelling solo. Your instinct is rarely wrong. Listen to your gut and if something feels wrong, leave the area or situation immediately.
It’s no secret travelling solo can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also come with risks and challenges. That’s why these safety tips when travelling solo are important. Research thoroughly, pack and dress appropriately and stay aware of your surroundings for a safe and memorable trip.
I want to reiterate that while it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, it is also important to stay positive and open to the new experiences you will undoubtedly encounter. Strut your solo stuff by projecting confidence and remember your gut instinct is your best travel buddy.