One of the biggest questions asked about solo travel is safety, especially whether or not it’s safe for a woman to travel alone. We’ve talked with hundreds of men and women who travel alone- all around the world. Do they ever encounter problems on the road? Yes. But do they think that, on the whole, traveling alone is safe and worthwhile? Without a doubt.
Of course, it’s not a perfect world and you do have to look out for the not-so-nice people. Here are some tips for the male and female solo traveler alike:
- Educate thyself.
Travel writer Marybeth Bond has traveled alone, quite extensively, over a good part of the world. Her advice, as seen in Dawn MacKeen’s “Women’s dilemma: Is solo travel worth the risk?” is “for most solo women travelers, negative encounters with men will come in the form of cat calls, dirty looks, pinches and lewd remarks. If you’re going to travel alone, you should be prepared to encounter these. And you should educate yourself before leaving on your trip, so that you know how local stereotypes and perceptions of women may affect you – and how you can minimize the risks.”
- Embarrass your harasser.
If someone is constantly accosting you, or seems potentially threatening, draw attention. Talk loudly. Shout. Laugh and scream. Do something crazy to draw public attention to the person’s inappropriate behavior.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad situation or ditch a not-so-nice traveling companion. In her article Going Solo, Anita Culp points out “If something makes you angry, just remember: you don’t live there, you can leave anytime, and you’ll never have to deal with this again!”
- Find other companions.
Couples, groups of travelers and other women can be excellent allies if you’re in trouble. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. Dress for the culture. If the women traditionally wear long skirts, you probably don’t want to jump out in your halter top and short shorts. We recommend females have a least one long skirt in their rucksack. Educate yourself on local customs and try your best to fit in. You’re less likely to get unwanted attention – and probably more respect from locals – by respecting their culture, even if it’s different from yours.
- Take a few extra precautions.
Throw on a ring and tell inquiring gentleman that you’re waiting for your husband. Don’t flash large amounts of money or jewelry. Wear your purse across your body so it can’t be easily grabbed off your body.
- Use your head.
If you wouldn’t do something at home, don’t do it in a foreign country. You wouldn’t sleep with your door unlocked or walk down a dark alleyway at home, so why risk it overseas?
- Trust your gut.
Always, always, always listen to your instincts. In his story Lone Female, David Savage says, “Consider where you are and who is around. Don’t leave yourself isolated with a stranger. Listen to your gut instinct.”
The bottom line? Think, be aware, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to do what’s necessary to keep yourself safe.
Meeting New People
Meeting new people is one of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of traveling. Those who go solo may have an easier time meeting people because it’s a lot less intimidating to approach one person versus a group. Here are some tips for meeting people:
- Find people in your hostel and go on a shopping/sightseeing excursion.
- If you’re new to an area, seek out other travelers (at hostels, popular cafes, etc.), who seem in the know.
- Don’t be afraid of locals – you can make a great friend.