Traveling solo is undergoing a resurgence in this hyperconnected world. Witness the success of travel memoirs such as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and the endless blogs recording lone journeys around the world. Anyone who travels alone is aware of its singular rewards, but such rewards can be blunted if you fail to make personal safety a priority. Here are a few safety tips for solo travelers.
- Stay connected. Those days of being without cellphone,smartphone and Skype seem almost quaint. Before you leave home, find out whether your mobile phone has roaming capabilities at your destination. If not, or if the roaming cost is prohibitive, rent a phone once you arrive (or buy international SIM cards if you have an unlocked GSM phone) so you have a lifeline. Smartphones outfitted with GPS or online maps are good options for drivers.
- Keep others apprised of your daily itinerary. Regularly let people know where you’re going — including friends and family back home and your innkeeper or hotel concierge. When traveling alone into parkland or wilderness, always let someone know when you expect to return as well as your exact route — and then stick to it.
- Stash money, credit cards and passport in separate places.Keep some money and credit cards in your wallet or purse, and additional money and cards in a pocket or money pouch. When sightseeing, carry only a copy of your passport’s data page, keeping your passport locked in your hotel safe. (It’s also good to leave a copy of the data page with someone at home.) On travel days, carry you passport separately from your money and credit cards.
- Study up on your destination. Be aware of safety concerns as well as of local customs and etiquette, especially with regard to dress. When in doubt, opt for conservative. Women travelers should know in advance if harassment is an issue — and both men and women should get the safety lowdown on public transportation. Talk to locals about neighborhoods to avoid, especially after dark. Know the local number to call for emergencies.
- Ensure that your lodgings are safe. Keep your door locked, with the security chain fastened. Try to snag a room close to where the action is — near the concierge desk, say, or near elevators. Stay away from ground floors where window entry is possible. Don’t answer the door if you’re not expecting anyone.
- Stay healthy. Is the water safe to drink? Are poisonous snakes or spiders a problem? Are mosquitoes a health issue? Does your dive operator have a stellar safety record? Bring an extra supply ofprescription medications and an extra script (with the generic drug name rather than the brand name). And don’t forget hand sanitizer.
- Keep your wits about you. Traveling alone doesn’t mean cowering in a hotel room. Venturing into unknown territory is one of the thrills of travel. But don’t let yourself get so distracted by sights and sounds (or recording every moment on camera or cellphone) that you let your guard down. Of all the travel-alone safety tips, this is the most important: Don’t leave common sense at home.