For many would-be solo travelers, the biggest concern is safety. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from seeing the world! With a few tweaks to your attitude and some expert tips, you’ll be empowered to hit the road by yourself in no time.
Be Smart About Social Media
This tip will help you and your home stay safe! Professional travel bloggers and influencers know that you never, ever post your location in real-time. That’s just asking for trouble. You wouldn’t broadcast your location to strangers under normal circumstances, but somehow common sense goes out the window when you pull up Facebook or Instagram. Instead, pros will post about their experiences in a particular place days after they’ve already left it.
You can take this idea a step further and wait to post anything until you have returned home. If your house will be empty while you’re gone, then it’s smart not to advertise your travel dates. Consider setting up an automatic timer for your lights and installing cameras that you can control with your smartphone. Don’t forget to put a temporary hold on your mail, too!
Don’t Tell People You Are Alone
Veteran solo travelers will all tell you the same thing: Never admit that you’re alone. Always say that you are going to meet friends or family nearby. Even if you’re asking for directions, phrase it as, “I’m meeting a friend for lunch at this cafe, can you tell me how to get there?”
Some women travelers will even wear a fake wedding ring and claim to be traveling with their husbands in order to protect themselves. Others advise getting picked up and dropped off at a location a block away from your hotel so that it’s not obvious where you are staying. The degree to which you follow this advice depends on your own comfort level with traveling solo. Better safe (and slightly paranoid) than sorry!
Dress Like a Local
If I could give all travelers just one piece of advice, it would be this one. Dressing like a local is so important for so many reasons. For one thing, there’s the matter of respecting another culture. Some parts of the world value modest dress, and showing up in those places in a sleeveless shirt and cutoff shorts is disrespectful. You may even be barred from some locations, such as holy sites.
Beyond the aspect of respect, however, it’s also smart not to stick out as a tourist. If you want to blend into a crowd, then following local fashions and customs makes sense. Don’t try to put on some kind of costume, of course, but do study up on how modern-day folks dress before you pack your bags. If you stock up on shorts and t-shirts for a trip to a country that typically wears long pants and loose tops, then you might as well paint a target on your back while you’re at it.
Pay Like a Local, Too
Depending on where you are going in the world, money might work a little differently than what you’re used to. For example, some cultures use chip readers or even hands-free payment for everything, while others are a cash-based society where cards are the exception, not the rule. Know ahead of time whether you’ll need to keep a stack of bills on hand for tips. You should also let your bank and credit card companies know ahead of time that you’ll be making purchases outside your usual area.
I’m not sure if people still try to use travelers’ checks, but just in case you get this old-fashioned advice… don’t do it. You should also avoid changing money at the airport since the exchange rate there will always be worse than any other place. Just get out cash from an ATM like everyone else.
Know Where You Are Going–or at Least Fake It
Do you know how most people get pickpocketed on vacation? It happens when you are distracted. Trying to read a map on your phone might be the biggest solo travel faux pas. Not only could you end up blocking the sidewalk as you try to orient yourself, but you’ll also be offering yourself up as a prime candidate for pickpocketing.
When I’m traveling to a new city, I study public transit and street maps of the places I want to go from the comfort of my hotel room. If I get turned around, I don’t pull up my phone. Instead, I look for the nearest bus shelter to check the posted map. Of course, there won’t always be a transit map handy. In that case, I’ll look for a bench or a cafe and plop down to check my phone.
When I’m on the move, I walk as if I know exactly where I’m going. The result is often that people ask me for directions.