In just a few more weeks, I’ll be packing my bags (hopefully just a carry-on) and flying back to Europe to explore Amsterdam and Belgium. It’s still crazy to me that this will be the 7th and 8th country that I am visiting alone! When I took my very first solo trip back in 2015, I had absolutely no idea what to expect and didn’t realize the significant impact that it would have on my life. It opened up this whole new world for me and now it’s something that I look forward to doing each year.
Last week, a woman reached out to me on Facebook. Her daughter is about to take her very first solo trip to Italy and while researching solo travel she came across my blog. She of course is concerned for her daughter’s safety and asked for some tips. Over the last couple of days I’ve been sharing my experience with them both and trying to help in any way that I can. It made me think – Have I become a resource for female solo travel? I’ve been sharing my own journey of traveling alone over the years, but I guess I didn’t realize how much that can help other women who also want to take that leap of faith.
A few months back, I asked on IG stories if anyone had questions on solo travel. While I still plan to answer all of those (sorry it’s taken so long) I did want to start by addressing the most frequently asked question.
“DO YOU EVER FEEL UNSAFE TRAVELING ALONE?”
I can’t say that I am 100% fearless, but I honestly haven’t really ever felt unsafe when traveling alone. The truth is that all travel comes with a risk, especially when you’re by yourself, and anything can happen at anytime. It can even happen right in your hometown. It’s completely normal to feel anxious or nervous about traveling alone. Those feelings are valid. There are definitely things that you can do to help you feel more safe. I’m sharing 10 safety tips for female solo travelers below!
RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
So much of your safety starts before you leave and it’s important to know as much as you can about where you’re going before you get there.
Before I book any trip, one of the first things that I do is research whether or not that country and the cities that I want to visit are safe. I’ll read several articles from fellow solo travelers who have gone to those places. I’ll check and see if there are any specific areas or streets to stay away from. I’ll research if there is any crime or scams that I need to be aware of. For example, almost every city that I’ve been to I have been warned about pickpocketing. It’s especially common in touristy areas. Because of this, I’ve learned to always wear a cross-body bag and keep it in front of me at all times, even when sitting at a restaurant. I never keep anything in my pockets either.
In places like Paris, you have to be aware of the gypsies begging for money with their babies. There’s also a lot of creative scams going around. I remember watching a scam unfold at the train station in Paris when I had arrived from London while I was on line for the ATM. There are women that walk around with clipboards and they will come up to you asking if you speak English to get you to sign something. Their goal is to distract you so that another person can try to pickpocket you while you are signing. They actually came up to me and I just shook my head that I didn’t speak english and walked away.
A girl that I met in Florence experienced the bracelet scam in Italy. A guy came up to her to spark a conversation and once she responded, he put a bracelet on her wrist. He told her that it was free, but then proceeded to ask her for money. I’ve read about this a lot and some of these scammers can get a bit aggressive if you try to walk away or give the bracelet back. Knowing about these things ahead of time definitely helps. They are very common. Most are done to distract you so that someone else can pickpocket you and others are done as a sneaky way to get you to give them money. Just stay alert.
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
You are your only eyes and ears when traveling alone, so you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings. One of the first things that I like to do after arriving to a new place is wander around my hotel’s location and get familiar with the area. This always helps me feel more comfortable with where I am.
I like to keep an eye out for the people that are around me wherever I go. Are they mostly tourists? Locals? Do I get any bad vibes? Is anyone following me? Does anything feel suspicious? This isn’t to say you have to be paranoid of course, but just be aware of what’s happening where you are. Walking around with your headphones in and music on probably isn’t the best idea. Keep your head up and keep your phone away when you don’t need it.
I think that this is a big one. I never post where I am until after I have left that place, especially since I like to geotag my locations for others who are interested in traveling to where I am. I typically record my video clips for stories and save them to post later in the day. I’ll usually post a photo to my feed after the day is done and I am back at my hotel. I’ve gotten some strange DMs from guys during my travels before when they see that I’m in their city. This happened a lot when I was in Rome and Jamaica. You just never know who’s watching, so be smart about the social media footprint you’re leaving behind. Make sure that you keep an online presence though as this lets family members and friends know that you are safe while traveling!
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
I like to think that I am pretty good at reading other people’s energy. Most people that you will meet during your travels are good with good intentions. I have connected with some incredible souls and made some great friends along the way. However, some people of course can have ulterior motives and this is when you really have to listen to your instincts and trust your gut. If you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, then it’s better to get yourself out of that sooner than later. Lie if you have to. Even though you are out alone you can always say you’re meeting up with friends or that your boyfriend is on his way or back at the hotel. You have the power to say and do whatever is going to make you feel the most comfortable.
SHARE YOUR ITINERARY WITH FAMILY
While I don’t always have a set schedule of exactly where I’ll be at all times, I like to give my mom a copy of my itinerary so she at least knows information about my flight, which hotels I am staying at, any tours I’ve booked and when I will be in each city. This gives her a general idea of where I am going to be. I know that this also gives her more peace of mind while I’m off wandering in another country by myself.
BE CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT
If you are going to be further away from your hotel at night, make sure to take a taxi/uber back if you can or try to get back to your hotel before it gets dark. Try not to walk around late at night by yourself.
In certain cities like Galway, Florence and Rome I made friends with some fellow female travelers. We went out at night (not too late) and then we walked back to our hotels together. You can even sign up for bar crawls or night tours to have people to go out with too so that you aren’t by yourself.
Only take with you the amount of money that you need that night and leave your valuables in your hotel safe. It’s things like this to help you feel better about going out at night.
GET AN INTERNATIONAL PHONE PLAN
I make sure to check in with my mom once a day during my travels. I always add on an international plan when traveling alone so that I can have access to my internet when not connected to WiFi. This is important to me and gives me peace of mind. You can also buy a SIM card when you arrive in your city. Regardless of how you want to go about it, I think it’s a good idea to make sure that you can use your phone no matter where you are. Also, download maps.me and then download the country and city you are in while connected to wifi. This allows you navigate your way around when you don’t have an internet connection.
DON’T FLAUNT YOUR VALUABLES
This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how some people tend to forget about this. Leave the expensive jewelry and designer bags at home when traveling alone. It can definitely make you a target. I only wear my father’s wedding band as it helps me to feel protected. You will never see me with my Gucci bag on my solo trips!
DON’T GET DRUNK
Don’t over drink! I’ll enjoy a drink or two with dinner or if I have made some friends, but I don’t allow myself to get drunk. I also don’t go out by myself with the intention to party. Being drunk by yourself in a foreign country is not a good idea. Have fun and enjoy yourself, but be smart about it.
This is another big one. If you are wandering around looking lost, worried and scared other people are going to see you as an easy target. Be confident, even if you don’t feel that way completely. Keep your head held high and make eye contact when speaking with someone. I remember being lost with my luggage in Venice trying to find my hotel and it probably showed that I was a frustrated and upset tourist. I had to take a minute and get it together so that I could ask for directions in a calm and confident way.
I should also note to make sure you’re arriving into any new city in the morning or afternoon when it’s still daytime. The last thing that you want is to be stranded with your luggage, lost and alone at night. I always take overnight flights so that I arrive early in the morning and whenever I’m taking a day trip, I try to get back to my home base by sunset.
Solo travel is one of those things that you can never fully understand until you experience it for yourself. It really isn’t as scary as you think. The more that I travel alone, the more that I am learning. While none of my trips have been perfect and things do go wrong at times, they’ve all taught me so much and have been some of the best experiences of my life. I’m thankful that I never allowed any fears to get in the way.
If you are considering taking a trip by yourself, then I hope that you found these tips helpful! There are of course even more things that you can do to keep you safe. Feel free to share any of your own tips with me below!