Solo Travel Safety: 15 analog safety tips, 12 digital safety tools.

Organize your passport and a few other details and you'll be ready to go.

Keep your documents safe and keep copies of them in your luggage and in the cloud.

Remember vinyl? Record albums? Classic, yes? And they still sound great. Well, that’s analog.

But mp3 downloads have their place as well. Digital technology is especially great on the go.

Yes, analog and digital live side by side to provide a rich landscape of recorded music. The same goes for solo travel safety. While digital tools can add to our safety, we can’t ignore the analog, ‘old school’ safety strategies. So, here I give you some of both.

15 analog solo travel safety tips.

Here are some important ‘old school’ safety strategies.

  1. Know your priorities: It’s important to keep things in perspective. When it comes to your safety, it is you that counts most. After that, your concern should be your documents, then your money and only then your stuff. Never put yourself in danger to protect your stuff!  
  2. Stay in public with new friends. The irony of life is that you are protected from strangers by strangers. Whether at home or abroad, staying public keeps you safe. As you meet people on your travels, stay in public with them. Don’t go to their home or take a ride from them because that puts you in place where no one can come to your aid should you need it.
  3. Prepare for losing things before you leave. Before leaving, make copies of your passport, visas, credit card information, travel insurance, medical records. Hide them in your suitcase and store digital copies in the cloud. Should these important items go missing you’ll have an easier time replacing them.
  4. Buy the right travel insurance. Travel insurance is essential. Without it you’re taking serious health and financial risks. If you’re an adventure traveler you’ll want to ensure that your travel insurance includes medical evacuation. But for most of us, we simply want protection in case of unfortunate situations such as food poisoning or appendicitis. Travel insurance will cover you for doctor fees, medical examinations, cost of medication and even hotel accommodations. It may even cover the cost of getting someone you love to your bedside after a medical emergency or returning you to your home if that’s necessary. Read the terms of your plans carefully, compare cost and benefits and, please, declare any pre-existing conditions despite the fact that your insurance may cost more. Better that than discovering that you’re not covered at all. Insurance Hunter has sponsored this post. Check out their blog for lots of great travel tips.

    Use the same common sense you use at home. A dark, empty street is not where you should be.

    Use the same common sense you use at home. A dark, empty street is not where you should be.

  5. Know your surroundings and use daylight to your advantage. Arrive in a new location no later than mid-afternoon. Not only will it look better (and possibly less intimidating) in the light but you’ll have time to change your accommodation should it be in a bad location. Before you go out, check with your hotel/hostel/B&B and find out what areas you should avoid. As you explore, be aware of your surroundings and, if you’re staying out after dark, plan to take a taxi back to your lodging.
  6. Dress and act appropriately. It always makes sense to dress and act conservatively when traveling but some destinations absolutely require this. Women should cover their arms and midriff and avoid short shorts and deep cut necklines. Men should have at least one pair of decent slacks and a better-than-t-shirt shirt. Dressing well is a sign of respect to the culture you’re visiting.
  7. Inform people of your whereabouts. I don’t think people need to know your every move but someone at home should be aware when you leave one location and move to another. They should know where you’re staying and your approximate plans. One tweet, email or Facebook post is all it takes.
  8. Stay alert. Stay sober. Your natural skills for navigating the world are being challenged by a new situation. Why compromise them by being over-tired or less than sober. Drink less as you travel and stay well-rested so that you can be your best with any situation that arises.
  9. Engage others in your safety. Feeling unsure of yourself? Not certain that you’re in a safe area? Look around and choose someone to ask for help – preferably a family with children or an older person. While most people are good, you’re more likely to speak to someone who is safe if you choose them rather than if they choose you.
  10. Secure your valuables on you and in your room. There is a debate about whether valuables are better protected in your room safe or on your person. Having frequently heard comments about hotel safes being unsafe, I prefer to carry my documents, credit cards and money on me. A few tips: never carry a wallet in your back pocket; divide up your money and credit cards in a number of places; carry your bag or backpack in front of you in busy areas; and, wear pick-pocket-proof pants if possible.
  11. Secure yourself online. Public Wi-fi is just that, public. Don’t go into sites such as your bank on public Wi-fi unless you’re using a VPN. Read Travel Technology: Increase your security and reduce costs for full details.
  12. Know where you’re going and where you’re staying. Studying a map of a city or neighborhood is an important part of staying safe. It allows you to move with confidence making you less of a ‘mark’ for trouble. Knowing where you’re staying and how to get there (during the day and at night) is another key to safety. And remember, your lodging is your information. People you meet do not need to know where you’re staying.

    Packing light makes a lot of sense.

  13. Travel light and leave valuables at home. Traveling light, so that at least one hand is free, not only makes life easier but, again, makes you look capable, confident and less of a ‘mark’. To help keep your luggage light, don’t travel with whatever valuables you can leave at home. You’ll attract less unwanted attention if you’re not wearing jewellery, sporting an expensive watch or flashing technology. The best rule? Only take things you’re willing to lose. This is a difficult rule to live by. But just thinking about it can help you make good choices. Read Bare Minimum Packing.
  14. Use the same common sense you use at home. At home, acting safely is second nature. Don’t let your natural common sense take a vacation while traveling. Follow all the safety strategies you use at home while on the road.
  15. Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable about a person or situation, leave. Your instincts are probably right.

Digital tools for solo travel safety.

What device fits in your pocket and has thousands of uses? Your phone, of course. Here are the digital tools that increase your safety. Most of these apps are free and available for both iOS and Android devices.

  1. Basic apps for your phone:
    1. Flashlight / Nightlight: We knew it as kids, the dark is not our friend. Having a flashlight of sorts comes in very handy in many situations.
    2. Compass: I have a pretty good sense of direction but I can still get turned around. I especially like a compass in my car.
    3. GPS: Whether you’re driving or trying to find a restaurant around the corner, a GPS app can get you there.
    4. Weather: With extreme weather conditions becoming more common, it’s worth checking the five-day forecast so that you can move out of areas if its indicated.
    5. Find iPhone – I assume there is something similar for Android. Given that so much information is in your phone, it makes sense to have this app to help you find it should it go missing.
  2. Google Translate: This stands separate from the basic apps because it’s so important to be able to communicate in times of trouble. Even if you can speak the local language, under stress you may lose the necessary words. Google translate or a similar tool is essential.

    In an emergency, this app can let your trusted emergency contacts know that you need their help and where you are.

    In an emergency, this app can let your trusted emergency contacts know that you need their help and where you are.

  3. React Mobile, bSafe, Onwatch: Each of these apps works slightly differently so you’ll need to check them out yourself. This is how they work: you create a list of emergency contacts in your phone and, if you’re in trouble, tap the app and all of them will be alerted with your GPS coordinates. If you need the police, you can send a message to them via the app as well. React Mobile (the one I’ve looked at most closely) works in 39 countries and is available free for all iOS and Android phones. It also has a “Follow-me” feature which I think is over the top and would ruin the solo travel experience but the rest is pretty cool.
  4. Find-ER: Wherever you are in the world, open the Find-ER app, tap the map and it will tell you what hospitals are nearest you. You can also check out EMNet findER by Massachusetts General Hospital which is only for America.
  5. Scream Alarm, SOS Siren Alarm, SOS Whistle: These are all alarms which simply, are designed to scare off thieves or attackers.
  6. Wi-fi Finder: Safety is not always an emergency situation. Use Wi-fi Finder to help you find free Wi-fi to research or call for the help you need.
  7. TravelSafe: This app sounds fantastic but it is only for Android devices so I haven’t been able to check it out personally. According to the literature, it has information on emergency services around the world including contact numbers for the police, medical and fire services as well as embassies. You can customize TravelSafe with your country of origin and the country they are traveling to.

A few other solo travel safety posts.

Solo Travel Safety: My Kind of Strangers

10 Ways to Look Confident and Travel Safe

Safe Answers to Common Questions.

Solo Travel Mistakes to Avoid

10 Ways to Blend in When You Can’t.

Tips for Respecting Local Cultures

Travel Sickness: how to prevent 5 travel-related health problems


Thanks to Insurance Hunter for supporting Solo Traveler and sponsoring this post.

  • Share Traveler

    good tips! I’d add that while taking precautions for safety is important, it’s equally important not to let fear keep you from traveling. I recently wrote about irrational fears and how to measure the safety of international travel:

  • Kas

    following , great post , thank U :)

  • Travelbug1

    All great tips especially #3. Since most everyone has computer & internet (as long as it works and no power has gone out), I can retrieve from my emails and voila my passport is there and anything thing else such as visas, etc. Plus I do have photocopies of everything as well. I’m always thinking that something can go missing.

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  • Jules

    Really useful tips in here! Bookmarking!

  • Sofie Couwenbergh

    Good stuff in here!
    A lot of apps I hadn’t heard of yet.

  • leelaurino

    there is a company “safe check in” that offers a service to check in on solo travelers as well as others who might ned the service. when i wrote about them last year, they were still not outside the USA

    out hiking alone, traveling solo, even shopping, you register the time you will be back, if you do not answer the call from safe check in, they call your designated contact to report this to them.