First thing’s first when traveling solo as a female- have fun! I bet you thought I was going to say “safety” huh? Well, safety is obviously a priority but having fun is the point of traveling right? Traveling solo is one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done, I recommend jumping in headfirst (but also, maybe with a little guidance too.) This post is not about common sense guidance but rather specific safety protocol. Here are my tips and tricks to staying safe while having a blast on your solo trip. Enjoy!
FIRST THING’S FIRST
If you are traveling from the U.S.A. the first step to a safe trip is registering your trip with the STEP program. STEP is a free registry for people living in the U.S. traveling abroad. This simple and quick enrollment protects you in many ways while you are on foreign soil. What STEP does for you:
- Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency
- Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans
Isn’t it nice to know your U.S Embassy or Consulate will be standing by to help?
Okay, once you’ve informed STEP of your international whereabouts, now is the time to think about logistics. Things like:
- How will you keep your things safe? -theft is a very real threat while traveling pretty much everywhere.
- What happens if you are injured, get sick, or worse?
- What do you do when you get lost? -because this is going to happen once or twice.
Let’s talk about some of these things. Fear of these things should not be a deterrent to traveling solo. I am here to empower you and help you plan for the worst so you can enjoy your time while traveling.
THEFT- IT’S REAL & YOU ARE THE TARGET
I just gave the secret away! The secret to combating theft is knowing you are the target. If you start your trip knowing this, you will be on alert for anyone who approaches you. Remember this, if anything… If you approach them, it’s an organic friendship. If they approach you, they want something. It might be friendship but it might be your cash, jewelry or belongings. It is imperative to be aware of how your “friendships” start in other countries. You need to be the one who instigates, not them. I promise you won’t miss out on meeting your soul mate just because you didn’t give that one stranger the time of day that one night in Paris. Any groups of people, especially kids & teens, that approach you and start asking questions or talking to you it’s most likely a distraction to pickpocket you. Cutting the bottom of your bag, actually reaching into pockets or just grab and run are all methods used to steal things from innocent travelers. Walk with purpose, don’t let groups of people walk up to you and dear god stay on lit main roads- no back alleyways.
Anti-theft travel bags & wallets
These things may save your trip, look into purchasing bags that cannot be cut open, protective wallets and purses, etc. Personally, I always travel with a neck wallet under my clothes or even in my bra. I NEVER carry my phone or wallet in my pockets or purse, in fact, I don’t even carry a purse. I try to look discreet, I dress casual and never wear fine jewelry or carry expensive accessories.
In the hotel, the safe is not always safe. Hotel staff has master codes to the safe in your room so unless my friends are the hotel staff, I’m not keeping my passport or anything else in that safe.
Passport & I.D. protection
I carry my passport & photo I.D. in two different hidden locations on my body. I usually have my necklace wallet with my I.D. & credit cards and then a hidden fanny pack around my torso with my passport & cash. If one gets stolen hopefully the other survived. Before I leave the states I have a photocopy of my passport and my state I.D. in my bag as well as a digital picture of these two items in my phone. I even email a family member or two the digital photos, just in case!
My Cell Phone (is my baby & I treat it that way)
This is my prized possession and if you’re anything like me this is the one and only device with memories, photos, GPS, and text. Basically, this is the device that will get me where I need to go and save the picture I want to show my friends later. It’s my life. It’s the most important thing I bring with me when I travel. The only place I would keep my phone is in one of the two hidden “wallets” I have either around my neck under my shirt or around my torso under my shirt. NEVER just laying on the bar counter, or in my back pocket or sitting on the table at the restaurant, I don’t leave it exposed in any way. One of the most important aspects of my cell phone is cloud storage. I worked at a cell phone retail store for almost a decade and know everything there is to know about settings. I always change my settings to upload on 4G/5G not just WiFi. If your phone is set to WiFi-only and something happens to you, your phone most likely won’t have had the time to upload any pictures or videos that may help authorities. Most cell phone companies have cheap plans for international travel, so you don’t need to worry about expensive data usage while abroad. Last time I went I could use my unlimited 4G internet for $10 a day. 10 bucks a day for my safety and memories sounds good to me. Update your settings to upload immediately to the cloud. This will protect you and your memories.
INJURED, SCARED & ALONE
If you are injured while on a solo trip abroad don’t fear, most countries have hospitals and doctors just like the U.S. Before you leave for your trip, check to see what the equivalent of “911” is in the country you will be staying. Look at your hotel on a maps app and search for the nearest clinic or hospital. Always know what is around you by planning ahead. You have registered for the STEP program (if you followed my instructions) and can visit the website or reach out for help through the U.S Embassy or Consulate. You should be familiar with the nearest safe place for a U.S. citizen before you leave, this information is available on the STEP website. https://step.state.gov
LOST? LET’S GET YOU FOUND
If you get lost on a trip abroad don’t worry, people are generally friendly and will help you. Before you leave, get familiar with the language spoken in the country you are traveling to. Learn phrases like “I’m lost” and “I need directions” or “I need help” as these may come in handy if you get into a pickle. Use your cell phone GPS (assuming you have battery juice left.) If you have no GPS accessible try to find someone with a smartphone and ask them for directions, use a pen and paper if necessary to copy directions. While you’re walking around be sure to look for landmarks on the way, if you get lost you can backtrack until you find yourself in a familiar place. Most importantly, STAY CALM. A brain that is freaking out can’t think straight, if you need to take a break, do that. Stop for a beer. Sit and stare at the sky. Stay calm. You WILL find your way back to the hotel.
Other than keeping things safe and making sure your family and country know where you are going to be staying the only other thing to think about is planning. I always look up the hotel and close restaurant/bars. I read reviews and check out the pictures taken by patrons rather than the business. I try to always locate exits when I enter an establishment and really take the time to observe my environment. Sometimes I even go as far as to have my camera recording as I’m walking in, scan the room like I’m just an interested tourist. If I have my settings immediately uploading to the cloud, any video I’m taking is safe in the cloud if something happens to my phone or worse, me.
Phew! How do you feel? Hopefully, this information empowered you to feel safe and confident during your travels. Remember most people are friendly in this world. It’s the small percentage of people who want to take advantage of you that you need to prepare yourself against. Have fun, stay safe & keep traveling!
Until next time,