Traveling alone leaves less room for error.
A solo traveler doesn’t have a back-up person. Two sets of eyes and double the instinct are not operating as you navigate a new city or country. Most of the time this is just fine as long as you avoid making some basic mistakes.
Solo Travel Mistakes to Avoid:
1. Don’t leave the public sphere with new acquaintances.
My number one safety rule is “stay in a public”. Read why in: Caught in a Con Game in Paris. The social contract that keeps most of us playing nicely is enforced by people watching. Therefore, simply by staying in a public place you are protected. If you go into a private space with someone you don’t know well, there are no longer people watching and protecting you. Public is safer than private.
2. Don’t arrive in a new location after dark.
A new city always looks more challenging in the dark than in daylight – especially as a solo traveler. Arrive early in the day at a new location so that you can check out your accommodation to ensure that you are happy with it and it’s location. If you’re not, you’ll have time to change the situation.
3. Don’t pack too much.
Dragging around a large suitcase, or worse, more than one suitcase is a hassle, expensive (you may spend a lot tipping people to carry it for you) and not particularly safe – you don’t look like a seasoned traveler and therefore you may be more of a target. Solo travelers don’t need this extra attention. Trim down your packing to one carry-on or a reasonably sized backpack to enjoy more freedom and ease when traveling. Read: Bare Minimum Packing
4. Don’t rush into a new city.
It’s important to take time as a solo traveler – to take time and relax into a new location so that you can enjoy what it has to offer. The goal is to work the city as a local, to blend in as much as possible so that you are safe at all times. Start by sitting back and watching. Take in lunch on a park bench. Spend the afternoon in a coffee shop. Pick up a few groceries if just to get the local shopping bag. Take your time and ease into the city.
5. Don’t leave without travel insurance
Things can happen when you travel. Inconvenient things and, sometimes, terrible things. That’s why having travel insurance is a good idea. Travel insurance can cover cancellations, delayed departures, personal articles, medical emergencies, accidents and more. There are usually multiple options so review your purchase carefully. Any situation where you need the insurance will likely be stressful and, as a solo traveler, you have no one advocating for you. It’s best to keep a copy of your insurance on you as well as in your luggage and always keep it in the same two places on every trip.
6. Don’t travel without a reliable credit card.
Bank machines are everywhere in the world now but, what if a machine won’t accept your card? I had this situation in Jordan and Myanmar. I had three debit cards from two different banks and none would work. Thank goodness I had my VISA card. (This is NOT a promo for VISA though I do recommend carrying one because it is so widely accepted.) If possible, just pay with your card. In my situation I needed cash so I got a cash advance. Cash advances are a last resort because of the way interest is charged on them but sometimes they are a necessity.
7. Don’t travel completely alone.
It’s good to know that you have backup if you need it. Carry a cell phone with your emergency contact numbers and the local emergency numbers programmed in. Also carry a piece of paper with information on where you’re staying written in the language of the country you’re in. Depending on where you are and how long you’re staying, you may also want the number of your consulate or embassy with you. Know how to get in touch with the help you need should you need it.