It is important to be prepared before you start traveling the world. Nobody wants to return home early due to some terrible unforeseen event. An example of this could be something like being robbed of all of your possessions or even something far worse like someone stealing your kidney.
Okay, losing a kidney is a bit extreme, but it does happen to people around the world every year. No joke. Luckily, not too many solo travelers are their victims.
It is my goal to teach you some of the basics to preventing problems from happening in the first place. Just keep in mind, you cannot prevent all bad things from happening. No matter how experienced you are or how prepared you are, small problems will still arise – we simply must learn to deal with them. But, We can usually prevent the big ones…
Here Are 12 Solo Travel Hacks To Prevent Travel Problems
- Make a Plan Before You Go
- Inform Someone of Your Travel Plan
- Sometimes Lie to People
- Make Copies of Important Paperwork & Upload to a Cloud
- Immediately Find a Local SIM Card
- Proper Packing
- Have Something to Do in Your Downtime
- Research Scams of Each Country
- Don’t Trust Everyone
- Walk Away From Danger
- Ask Locals About Any Dangers in the Area
- Be Prepared With Travel Insurance
1) Make a Plan Before You Go
If you are going to travel as a Guided Solo Traveler, you don’t have to worry much about this one. Your plans are generally created in advance and your tour guide will escort you everywhere. But if you are an Unguided Solo Traveler, you will need to create a plan to prevent frustration.
Generally, it helps if you research before you arrive. You’ll want to figure out what locations are the most interesting to you and make a plan to visit them. You’ll need to develop some type of strategy to get from your hotel to that place of interest, and then back. These are the basics.
Some countries are more complicated than others. I feel it is important to plan ahead. This is because if you wait until you arrive at the hotel, sometimes hotels will only try to sell you on their tour packages. Some of which are very expensive and some hotels will not give you all of the possibilities simply because they will not make a commission from it. Be sure to do your own research before you arrive.
2) Inform Someone of Your Travel Plan
One of the worst things that could ever happen is that you got completely lost in the wilderness, or, someone has kidnapped you (even in the city). It sounds crazy and far-fetched, I get it. However, if you happen to be one of the extremely unlucky people who go through something like this, you will be extremely thankful that you informed one of your relatives about your travel plans and dates.
Everybody travels differently. For example, every time I am going to go to a new area, I let one of my family members know when I will be leaving for this location and I also let them know when I arrive. If they haven’t heard from me in a while then they know something is strange.
If local authorities are involved, they will know where to start looking because my friend/family member would tell them where to start looking. It’s a creepy thought, I know.
3) Sometimes Lie to People
As I have been traveling the world, I have met thousands upon thousands of local people in many countries. Some people ask extremely creepy questions. Some questions, however, can be a safety concern.
Example: “Which hotel are you staying in?” Well, to be honest, that is not a question that I would like to answer honestly. So I usually point them in the wrong direction or simply tell them I do not know the name of my hotel.
Other times I am asked how long I will be staying in this area. This is also a question that I’m not interested in answering incorrectly. If I’m leaving tomorrow, sometimes I will tell them another week. Sometimes if I am staying for another week, I will tell them that I am leaving tomorrow. I usually throw them off.
On rare occasions, I see the person that I directly lied to, again. Then I have to quickly come up with an excuse. But, again, this situation rarely happens. Stay private and stay safe.
4) Make Copies of Important Paperwork & Upload to a Cloud
If you ever lose your passport in a foreign country, and you go to your local Embassy to get a new one, it can be a very large hassle. I have learned that one way to speed up the process of getting a new passport is to simply show them a copy of your passport. This could be a physical piece of paper or a photo saved on your cloud.
Every time you enter a new country you should take a photo of all of the documents that you are given. This even includes the actual Visa stamp that you are given upon entry into the country. Why? Because if your phone or computer is ever stolen, you literally are completely out of luck.
Now you will miss your flight out of the country because you don’t have a passport and you cannot obtain a new one quickly enough. Huge amounts of money is lost in a very short period of time. Take a photo, upload it to your Cloud, done.
5) Immediately Find a Local SIM Card
The first time you try to go from the airport to your hotel without a SIM card while in a country where you cannot speak the language, I can guarantee you will never do it again. Traveling in a country where you cannot speak the local language is definitely difficult. One of the ways around this difficulty is to have Google Translate downloaded onto your phone so you can communicate with everyone almost fluently.
But, if you do not have internet access on your phone via a local SIM card, the app does not work very well at all. If you can rely on the downloaded offline package of the app, but believe me, it does not work very well without the internet.
Plus, you’ll want to make sure that the taxi driver is not cheating you by driving way out of the way to bring you to your hotel. They will do this because it will increase the fare that you need to pay. Pay attention to your GPS position on Google Maps.
In some countries, it is extremely easy to get a SIM card when you arrive at the airport. In other countries, you will literally want to pull your hair out during the process of getting a new SIM card. Some countries treat you like you are a spy and they think you will use the SIM card to hack into their military database or something. It’s insane.
Do a little bit of research before you arrive, and if you are going to visit a country where obtaining a local SIM card is difficult, then simply buy a SIM on eBay or Amazon before you arrive.
6) Proper Packing
If you packed too much stuff, you will regret it later. Just because you can lift your bag and put it on your back does not mean that you will want to carry it for hours and hours and hours on end. The lighter that your bag is, the happier that you will be. I promise. You will not appreciate this until you actually travel with a heavy bag (or even two of them like me).
I remember throwing a heavy $500 piece of filming equipment in the garbage can just to make my bag lighter. I was so sick and tired of my heavy bag. In addition to traveling light, it is important that you pack the proper gear for the country that you plan on visiting.
Make sure you dress warmly if you’re traveling to a cold environment, and bring light clothing if you are traveling to a hot environment.
Also, pay attention to what locals wear. Research before you arrive. Some types of clothing may offend local people…especially if you are a woman. A little bit of research goes a long way.
7) Have Something to Do in Your Downtime
You might be surprised how much downtime you have while traveling solo. Sometimes you will spend a couple of hours on a train, an hour in a taxi, several hours on a plane, or in your hotel on a rainy day. It is important to have something readily available to entertain yourself.
This could be a book or some type of Internet gaming app on your phone or laptop. Do not rely solely on local entertainment. There’s nothing quite like turning on the TV in your hotel only to find that it’s in the local language without any English channels. Remember, if you like reading, try to get the downloaded version onto your phone rather than carry a book with you. It is lighter.
8) Research the Scams of Each Country
Scams are always frustrating. It is important to research before you arrive. This is because scams usually start the moment your plane touches the ground. Not joking. Everybody is waiting inside (or just outside) the airport ready to scam you. Simply do an internet search about scams for the specific country that you plan on going to.
What’s interesting, is that every country has different scams. There are different cultures around the world with different mindsets, and therefore they develop scams differently. I can’t stress this enough – you literally will not believe some of the extents that people go through to actually scam you. Many of these scams would never happen in a million years in your home country – and you won’t be ready for them. That’s why they work so well on tourists. Prepare to be shocked.
9) Don’t Trust Everyone
I have traveled to many countries and met thousands upon thousands of people. I must say that about 99.9% of the people that I have met have been absolutely awesome! However, there is the .01% that you must worry about. These are the people that try to scam you, steal from you, or even try to take your kidney!
I have never met a kidney thief, nor do I want to. But it does happen. If you feel uncomfortable around someone, simply walk away. They are not worth your time. They are not worth your energy. Trust your instincts.
10) Walk Away From Danger
If for some reason you come across a person who appears to be dangerous or just has an angry attitude that continues to escalate, I cannot stress to you enough that you need to get out of the situation. You do not need to explain to this person why you are leaving, you do not need to explain to them that you are correct and they are wrong, you don’t need to do anything besides get out of the situation.
Keep in mind, that rules, regulations, and laws in their country may be drastically different than yours. If there was a physical confrontation that happened, maybe the local police would automatically side with a local person simply because you are a foreigner. They may think that ‘foreigners cannot be trusted’. This logic doesn’t happen too often. However, I have heard this type of crazy logic from other travelers.
Personally, while traveling in a foreign country, without naming the country, I was told never to go and help anybody if you see them get in a car accident or motorcycle accident. This is because it is very likely that the people will automatically tell the police that the foreigner caused the accident.
This way, both vehicle owners would gang up on you and blame the foreigner. The foreigner would have to pay for both vehicle damages and medical costs. This sounds unbelievably far-fetched, but it is true. I asked about this situation, and it was verified through local expats and also the local people of that country. Insane.
They will try to say something to the police like ‘the foreigner was distracting me while I was driving the motorbike and that is why I caused the crash’. That would literally be a viable answer and then the police would blame the foreigner. And yes, even if you were simply walking down the street minding your own business.
It is probably difficult for you to imagine this type of mentality, it certainly was for me also. So what other scenarios are possible? No idea. This type of crazy logic can be in any country…and that is why I am urging you to get out of any situation that you feel is slightly dangerous.
It’s important to note that this crazy ‘injured driver’ scenario isn’t common. Be sure to ask local people about what you should or shouldn’t do when you arrive at your hotel. They usually always have tips.
11) Ask Locals About Any Dangers in the Area
After I arrive at the hotel and put my bags away, one of the very first things that I ask every receptionist is ‘what areas should I avoid in this town?’ The last thing you want to do is walk into an area where people are notoriously dangerous.
I remember walking to a village in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and as I approached a large brick wall, I wondered what it was for. I walked along the side of the wall for a few moments and I came across a sign. The sign said in big red letters to ‘stay away from this area otherwise violators will be shot and killed’. I had randomly walked up to a local military base. Yikes!
I turned around and got out of the area rather quickly. Places like this would be nice to know beforehand. Luckily, nobody shot at me lol.
12) Be Prepared With Travel Insurance
I know, purchasing travel insurance will not actually prevent a problem from happening. I get it. However, it can prevent a massive financial burden if something terrible were to happen. It is not likely, but entirely possible, that someone steals a valuable item from you or possibly even your entire bag with everything inside. It is also possible that you get seriously injured while traveling.
If either of these were to happen, you would have to absorb the massive financial burden that goes along with having expensive items stolen or sitting in a hospital for a couple of days. I highly recommend that you read why traveling without travel insurance is a terrible idea.
Simply Prevent Solo Travel Problems, No Need To Be Scared
I know, everything listed above probably sounds a bit intimidating or even scary. My goal is not to scare you, my goal is to simply inform you about things that can be potentially quite negative. The chances of some of these things happening to you are rather slim. But simply being aware of them helps to reduce the chances of the big problems, even more.
Keep in mind that there are so many good things about Solo Traveling. Is everything perfect? No. Here is a list of the PROS & CONS of Solo Traveling. Be sure to read it.
In addition, if you want to dive in a bit deeper and learn more about travel safety, be sure to read about the ways to stay safe while solo traveling.
I highly encourage everyone to try solo traveling at least once in their life. It is one of the most challenging yet exhilarating things you will ever do.