Travelling alone can be a thrilling and exhilarating experience, but it can also be pretty intimidating. When you’re alone, there’s nobody around to watch your back; if things go wrong (which is, admittedly, pretty rare, but it does happen), it can feel like you’re completely without recourse, which is why it’s important to make the proper preparations before you embark on a trip.
With that said, though, what should you do if you’re travelling alone to ensure that you’re not in danger? We’re here to help on that front. Here’s how you can stay safe while travelling alone, no matter where you happen to be going.
Research your destination thoroughly
Are there any no-go areas in the city or place to which you’re travelling? If there are, then fellow travellers or guidebook writers will probably have identified those areas and will be able to tell you where you should steer clear of. You can also ask people who’ve travelled to the country you’re going to if there was anywhere in particular they’d recommend you avoid. You’ll generally find that unsafe areas, especially those in built-up areas, are quite well-documented.
Check in with someone regularly
If it’s possible, you should try to designate a person with whom you can check in regularly while you’re travelling. Sending a text or calling someone at predetermined intervals – say, every six hours, rising to every hour if you’re somewhere that you don’t trust – will mean that they’ll always know where you are and what you’re doing. If they don’t receive a message or a call, they can contact relevant authorities or other people who will know what to do.
The app what3words is a true godsend for those who need to ensure safety when they’re alone. This is an especially useful app for hiking or wilderness exploration. Here’s how it works: every single part of the world has been assigned a grid reference that’s 3 words long. If you’re in trouble, you can use what3words to communicate the grid square you’re in, and somebody can come and help you. It’s such a simple idea, but it could potentially save your life if you’re travelling alone.
Don’t trust strangers
It sounds like the most obvious advice in the world; after all, we’re all taught from a young age not to trust strangers, and that’s advice we should take with us into adulthood. However, no matter how much something feels like an “adventure” or an “experience”, you should be careful not to trust strangers, especially if they’re asking you to get into a vehicle or to follow them somewhere. You never know when someone’s intentions could be malign, even if they seem on the level.
Pick popular and well-known accommodation
Choosing to stay in a hostel that you haven’t vetted beforehand might sound like an exciting prospect, but it could just as easily go south if the proprietors turn out to be unscrupulous. If possible, try to choose accommodation that you know you can trust. Chains like Premier Inn or Travelodge are safe bets, and if you can’t manage to find one of those, then do be sure to read online reviews for the accommodation you’re staying at (where possible).
Learn the language
Learning the local language could mean the difference between escaping a potentially sticky situation and getting caught up in one. If you know what the locals are saying at any given time, then you’ll always be prepared for what comes next. Of course, we’re not expecting you to become fluent in the language of wherever you’re going, but learning some key words and phrases – as well as questions that might be relevant in terms of directions or assistance – is pretty much essential.
Prepare your own food
While you usually won’t have any reason to be paranoid about food and drinks that are prepared for you in local restaurants and bars, if you absolutely don’t trust the location you’re travelling to, then come prepared with your own food. This means you can be absolutely sure of what’s in it, so you know that nobody’s trying to spike it with anything. Again, we stress that this won’t be necessary most of the time, but it is a precaution you can take if you feel you need to.
Don’t drink alcohol
If safety is your chief concern, then it might be a good idea to abstain from alcohol for the duration of your trip. Without anybody to look after you, drinking too much alcohol quickly turns from making you an inconvenience to your friends into posing a serious safety risk for you. Not only could you be accosted by strangers while you’re drunk, but you could also run into a health problem for which nobody is around to help you, so try to stay sober if you’re travelling alone.
Try not to carry cash
If possible, it’s a good idea not to carry cash with you when you’re travelling alone. There’s an obvious reason for this: if someone mugs you (which, hopefully, won’t happen), then carrying cash turns you into an easy target, but if you don’t have cash, it’s that much harder for them to access your money. In addition, try not to carry documents with you that you don’t absolutely need to have on your person. Getting your passport stolen along with your money is never a good feeling.