Call us crazy – or just antisocial – but there’s something so satisfying about traveling alone. Not only are you completely free of the schedule coordinating, complaint managing, and fight mitigating that typically comes with group getaways, but you’re also able to enjoy a destination from a seriously personal perspective. Want to spend six hours sprawled out in a grassy park? Go for it! You’re rolling with your own itinerary here.
Still, don’t go screaming “I’m finally free!” through the streets just yet. Solo travel comes with its own set of safety quirks, so you’ll need to pay special attention to a few things before you can revel in that alone time. Keep these tips in mind, but don’t let them deter you from heading out all by your lonesome. As long as you stay vigilant, the chances of running into major trouble are minor at best.
1. Know before you go.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many weird situations a single destination can throw at you if you skip the pre-trip research in favor of another “Grey’s Anatomy” marathon on Netflix. Are you wearing camouflage in Barbados? You could be arrested. Did you get trapped in a crowd of people trying to exit a train in Barcelona? Check those pockets; your wallet might be gone. Before you travel anywhere, spend some time looking into the local laws and common scams. Armed with knowledge is always the way to go.
2. Have a worst-case playbook.
Putting together an action plan for bad situations is a great way to keep calm and carry on. Make a list of things that could go wrong, and write down a step-by-step guide that details what you’ll do if they happen. You don’t necessarily have to travel with the list – or research safety concerns to the point that you totally freak out – but even a basic understanding of the local strategies helps. Don’t forget to make photocopies of your passport, write down the addresses of the nearest embassy and police station, and check for any destination-wide emergency numbers. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
3. Put the map away.
You may have no clue where you’re going, but the whole world doesn’t need to know that. Local criminals usually look for the least savvy person in a crowd, so avoid letting the not-from-here spotlight shine on you by trying to blend in. How you choose to accomplish that depends on where you’re headed, but these rules of thumb are fairly standard:
- Dress appropriately for the weather and destination. It may be wintry as all get out back home, but most people don’t wear shorts in Spain until the dead of summer. Do as the locals do.
- Keep all map-related activity to your phone. Everyone else is glued to a screen these days, so you’ll fit right in.
- Don’t wear your backpack in the front. We know this is a common safety strategy, but it ultimately makes you look like a terrified tourist who’s probably an easy target. Try not to be that guy.
4. Skip the remote activities.
Hiking through a local mountain range? You might want to rethink that jaunt if you’re not going with a guide. Doing anything that separates you from the world at large is risky enough as it is, and you don’t want to get caught in a tough spot when no one’s around. The best barometer is to consider whether someone could hear you call for help. If the chances are slim, it’s probably wise to hold off on that activity until you’ve got a pal in tow. No, that creepy stuffed animal you bought in a souvenir shop doesn’t count.