Staying safe when travelling alone
Solo travel is a great way to have new experiences, meet new people and share different cultures, at your own pace and with no one to please but yourself.
More and more of us are choosing to travel alone -- so much so that there has been an 11% increase in solo travel in the 35- to 44-year-old demographic since 2017, according to ABTA’s 2018 Holiday Habits Report.
Travelling to a new destination by yourself can be an empowering adventure, but it’s important to stay alert throughout your travels.
Should I travel alone?
Of course! Travelling alone enables you to enjoy some quality time with yourself, and as long as you’re prepared, you will have an amazing trip. This guide includes helpful travel safety advice that will set you up for anything you may experience.
Planning before you leave
From finding out about the country's entry requirements to planning what sights to see when you’re there, a good trip starts with the research.
A great place to start is the tourism board website for the destination you're travelling to. Use it to find out the best areas to stay and information about local transport, including Metro schedules and local bus routes.
It is also worth looking at the UK government website for official advice on travelling to your chosen country, too. You'll find guidance on everything from local laws and customs, to what vaccinations you may require.
- If you’re used to storing travel documents on your mobile, print off back-up copies of your passport, boarding passes, flight information and accommodation bookings, just in case
- Make sure you obtain comprehensive and reliable travel insurance. This will give you peace of mind in case something unforeseen happens
- Tell your bank that you’re going away. This will reduce the risk of unwanted charges or your card being mistakenly blocked
Register with your local embassy
It's recommended you tell your embassy where you'll be travelling to, especially if you’re going for an extended period of time or to a long-haul destination. If you sign up to travel advice updates, you'll automatically be sent regular information about the safety and security of the destination.
Top tips on how to stay safe when alone
- Make sure someone at home knows your travel plans and itinerary
- Research and plan transport from the airport to your accommodation ahead of time
- Travel light and leave your valuables at home
Avid solo traveller Joyce Connor said:
"My first tip is to stay safe by researching the place you’re travelling to. Know where the hospitals are and the police. Learn some simple words to help in case of an emergency. Don’t tell people you’re on your own if you’re not sure about them. If it gets late and your hotel is a long walk, take a cab back to your accommodation."
Staying safe when booking your accommodation
You’ll want to make sure your accommodation is suitable for your needs and is in a well-known location. Reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor can be a great way to get a real, honest feel for a place.
You may want to find the answers to these questions:
- Is the hotel in a well-lit area?
- Is it in a central location, so you can reduce your travelling time at night?
- What security features are at the hotel? For example, 24-hour surveillance or a 24-hour staffed reception
- Can you lock your valuables away in a safe?
If staying in a hostel isn’t for you, B&Bs can be a great alternative for something more sociable than a room for one. We recommend that you book your accommodation in advance for at least your first night. That way, even if you arrive in the evening, you won’t have to worry about finding accommodation at the last minute.
Top tip: Bring a doorstop to push up against your door so no one can get in. It can give you that extra bit of security and peace of mind.
Gemma Thompson, writer at girlsthattravel.com, advised:
"Make sure your hotel or apartment is in a safe neighbourhood, and use Google Maps to check the proximity of your favourite sights and restaurants. I use a street-view map too, to make sure I like the look of the surrounding area. This also helps you to recognise where you're going when you arrive, too, which is handy, especially if you've travelled a long way.
"I would also recommend arriving in the morning, if you can, as this eases you in and helps you acclimatise to the local time zone and weather. Plus, of course, it's always safer to travel during the day."
Staying safe at tourist attractions
One of the best things about travelling alone is that you have the freedom to visit bustling hotspots and to venture to quieter off-the-beaten track sites, too. No matter where you're travelling to, it's good to be aware of the most common dangers. With the advice below, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself in busy areas.
Keeping your money safe
Depending on how much money you’ll need, it can be a good idea to hide your cash in multiple locations, such as in your bag's side pockets, in your purse or even in your bra. Transfer funds using websites such as TransferWise to prepaid debit cards.
When you’re out and about exploring, pack a smaller bag with minimal personal items. Theft-proof backpacks with concealed zips have come on leaps and bounds in both technology and fashion. Some even have purses that stop radio-frequency identification devices, such as the chip in your passport or credit card, from being read by thieves -- a great purchase to use at home, too.
Dining in busy areas
Pickpockets will generally operate in busy areas, and in restaurants and cafés that have al fresco dining. When you sit down for your afternoon coffee, anchor your bag to yourself or loop it through the arm of your chair.
Never put personal belongings in your back pocket or leave them in plain sight on a table. It’s too easy for someone to lift a phone without you realising.
Blending in with the crowd
Blending in can help you get a better idea of the local culture. It can also make it easier to meet people.
Top tips for blending in with the crowd:
- Learn some common phrases in the local language
- Observe and copy how the locals dress and communicate. Try to dress appropriately to conform to the local culture
- Study any maps in the hotel before you leave so you’re not carrying them around with you. If you use a map on your phone, pop into a café or shop rather than checking your route on the street
- Only reach for the camera when you’re in that prime photo-opportunity spot. Locals don’t tend to be overly snap-happy through packed crowds
- Know your limits when it comes to alcohol. Drinking too much can make you less alert
Hopefully, these travel tips will help you when planning your trip. But if you're not sure if doing it alone is for you, you can join on to group tours with companies such as Just You, which offers escorted tours for solo travellers.
For more tips
Check out our handy infographic on the dos and don'ts while travelling solo.
Feel free to use this infographic on your website