There’s no quicker way to ruin your trip than to be attacked, physically injured, be a victim of theft, or be cheated out of money. The easiest way to fall victim to one of these is to tell yourself that ‘it won’t happen to me’. Why? Because you weren’t prepared. Today, I want to teach you how to be prepared, even in the most unlikely situations. The best way to prepare yourself is to be aware of the possible dangers. When you are aware, you will know how to prevent most of them from happening in the first place. Prevention is key.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in a first world country or even a third world country, the safety of you and your belongings is of the highest importance. Here are some basic rules to follow in order to keep safe while traveling solo.
28 Critical Ways To Stay Safe While Solo Traveling
- Make a Plan Before You Go
- Inform Someone of Your Travel Plans
- Know the Local Emergency Numbers
- Have a Local/International SIM Card
- Keep Address & GPS Location of Accommodation
- Sometimes Lie to People
- Eat Healthy
- Make Friends with the Locals
- Hide Your Cash in Your Hotel Room
- Make Copies of Important Paperwork & Upload to a Cloud
- Look Confident
- Proper Packing
- Avoid Walking at Night
- Keep an Eye on Your Stuff
- Research Scams of Each Country
- Inform Your Bank
- Use a VPN at All Times
- Keep Money in 2 Locations/Dummy Wallet
- Don’t Drink Alcohol Alone
- Accept Only Unopened Beverages
- Don’t Trust Everyone
- Learn Local Laws
- Walk Away From Danger
- Hide/Don’t Bring Jewelry
- Ask Locals About Any Dangers in the Area
- Register with Your Local Embassy
- Be Prepared With Travel Insurance
- Tourist Areas Are The Most Dangerous
1) Make a Plan Before You Go
If you know where you are going, it won’t be as easy for you to get lost and end up in a place that you shouldn’t be. For example, if you want to visit a particular museum but you know that it is next to a bad neighborhood, then you will know to avoid going for a walk after finishing the museum.
But if you did not do your research and make a plan prior to arriving at the museum, and if you felt like going for a walk afterwards, little would you know that you would be walking through a notoriously dangerous neighborhood – and that could lead to some huge problems. Simply researching and planning will absolutely increase the odds of staying safe while solo traveling.
2) Inform Someone of Your Travel Plans
After you have made plans for your entire trip, it is important to share that information with someone either in or outside of the current country that you are traveling in (preferably both). If for some reason you go missing, people will generally be able to know where you should have been.
This will give clues to your last general location. Maybe you have been abducted, maybe you are lost, or maybe you were injured and are currently in a local hospital. Informing someone of your travel plans will help everyone come to a resolution as soon as possible – if needed.
3) Know the Local Emergency Numbers
You are walking alone in a neighborhood or even in a small village without many people, and you somehow get injured, who are you going to call? 911? Well, guess what, that number doesn’t do anything in the country that you are currently traveling in.
For this reason, it is important to have emergency numbers in your wallet or saved on your phone. Even if you don’t speak the local language, the authorities might be able triangulate your position based on the phone towers you are using. Please research the emergency phone numbers before you arrive in any country.
4) Have a Local/International SIM Card
It is obviously convenient to have a local SIM card in order to have mobile data everywhere you go. But there are many safety benefits to this as well. If the unthinkable happens, such as an injury or even a kidnapping, your phone may be your only lifeline.
As a side note, some countries have extremely strict laws regarding foreigners obtaining local SIM cards. You will probably want to pull your hair out in the process of getting one. If you’re going to visit one of these countries, It is sometimes easier just to buy an international SIM card before you go.
What’s interesting, is that some countries hand out SIM cards to foreigners for free with a few megabytes of free data as well. No paperwork required. They will even ask you if you want another one for a friend. It is amazing how different the rules and regulations are from country to country.
5) Keep Address & GPS Location of Accomodation
Take a photo of a map showing your accommodation in the local language. This photo can be presented to taxi drivers or other helpful people in case you get lost. Also, save the GPS position on Google Maps on your own mobile phone. When you arrive at the hotel, it is important to cross check that your GPS location is correct.
6) Sometimes Lie to People
The culture is different in every single country that you will visit. Some people will ask some of the craziest questions. “Are you married?” “How much money do you make?” “What hotel are you staying at?” “How long will you stay there?”
From a Western perspective, these are incredibly intrusive questions. Sometimes these questions are harmless, and other times people have bad intentions. I usually give them false data. I often tell them that I am leaving earlier than I actually am, and I also tell them that I forgot the name of my hotel and point to the opposite direction that my hotel is located. Privacy is important. We never know when someone has bad intentions.
7) Eat Healthy
If you plan on traveling for a long period of time, it is important to pay attention to your health by eating proper foods. Personally, I include at least one piece of fruit in my diet everyday (minimum). I try to avoid oily or greasy foods. And I only eat at restaurants that appear to have a certain standard of cleanliness. This will help keep your immune system strong, and it will also help prevent food poisoning from dirty restaurants. Is this method fool-proof? No. But it will help!
8) Make Friends with the Locals
It is so much fun to make friends with local people while traveling. But beyond the fun aspect, local people usually also help to keep you safe. Local people often know where you should or shouldn’t visit and what you should or should not do. Make friends that you can trust and they will usually help you stay out of trouble. Learn how to make friends while traveling.
9) Hide Your Cash in Your Hotel Room
Maybe I am a little bit crazy, but I always hide my cash and credit cards somewhere in a hotel room. Sometimes I get really creative. I guess I always have a fear that the hotel staff will enter my hotel room and go through my belongings when I am out exploring. To the best of my knowledge, this has never happened to me.
Maybe because I hid all of my money and the money was the only thing that they were looking for. Or, maybe no one has ever entered my room while I was outside. I will never know. But, hide your cash and credit cards (if you don’t need to take it with you outside). Even if it is behind a pillow. Most people will search through your bags and never think to look under a pillow somewhere else.
10) Make Copies of Important Paperwork & Upload to a Cloud
If you lose your passport, then what? This can be a traveler’s worst nightmare. Losing a passport could cause a domino effect of chaos throughout your trip. If you don’t have a passport, you cannot board the plane to go home. If you cannot board the plane, the airlines will not simply give you a refund – you lose all of the money and need to buy another ticket on a future date.
That’s just one small example. There are more. However, I have learned that if you keep a copy of your passport and present that to the local Embassy, the speed at which a new passport is generated and issued to you is significantly faster. You should take a photo of all of the important documents that you have before you enter a new country and even after you enter a new country. Take a photo of everything and simply upload it to an online cloud. Thank me later.
11) Look Confident
The one language that all human beings have in common is body language. Yes, there are some small (and sometimes large) differences between the body language from one country to another country, however, generally it is all the same.
If you look confident while you are walking, bad people generally will leave you alone. They can usually see that you know what you are doing and where you are going. This is an indication that you have been in this country for a while. But if your body language is always showing confusion, some bad people may notice you and choose to take advantage of you because you are an easy target.
12) Proper Packing
Packing the right gear is another important aspect of solo traveling. The most basic aspect of this is to pack clothing that is suitable for the weather that you will be in. Proper clothes for hot temperatures and proper clothes for winter temperatures.
But in addition to this, it is important to try to wear clothing that will help you blend in to the local society. If you are wearing bright colors in an area where local people only wear brown or black, then you’re going to stand out incredibly easily. If people have bad intentions, it will be so easy to find you. Try to blend in.
As a side note, it is also important to look at the style of your clothing. Some places may be offended if you wear the clothing that you are used to wearing in your home country. Be respectful of the country that you are in. This is especially important for women.
13) Avoid Walking at Night
When is the best time for a bad person to do bad things to you? At night. Why? Because it is dark and no one else can see what is going on. I’m not saying that you should never walk at night, however, if you need to walk alone at night simply be aware of your surroundings.
If for some reason you feel uncomfortable because someone is following you…simply enter the nearest restaurant, hotel, or any other building that is open with people inside. If you feel very uncomfortable, tell someone to help you. If the police need to be called, then do it.
Side note: It is also better to follow, casually, behind a group of other people. It will look as if you are part of one group and the likelihood of being targeted won’t be as high.
14) Keep an Eye on Your Stuff
This sounds a little bit obvious, I know. But imagine for a moment that you stop to take a break next to the river to touch the water. You take your backpack off and set it next to the tree and walk 20 steps to the Shoreline. 2 minutes later, you turn around and notice that your bag is gone. It was stolen. Sometimes people can be opportunistic. Either keep your bag on your body at all times, or, never take your eyes off it if you feel the need to set it down.
15) Research Scams of Each Country
It does not matter which country that you visit, scams are everywhere. The interesting part is that because of the differences within the cultures around the world, every country has scams that are slightly different. Sometimes people get very creative! People will sometimes go so far out of the way to scam you that you have no idea you are being scammed. It’s really strange.
The best way to prevent being scammed is to simply research the scams within the specific country that you plan on visiting. Research before you go.
16) Inform Your Bank
To prevent your bank account from blocking your ATM withdrawals and putting you in an incredibly difficult position, it is important to notify your bank of your travels, before you ever leave home. There’s almost nothing worse than being denied access to your own bank account.
To make matters worse, when you try to call them, the bank might be closed because you are on the other side of the world. Or, international phone calls are not possible from your hotel. Or you try calling through the internet, but there’s no internet because the servers are currently down. Or my favorite (which happened to me while on the other side of the world), “sir, you need to come into our office and show your ID!” Seriously!?
Prevent all of this craziness from happening by simply informing your bank before you leave home.
17) Use a VPN at All Times
It doesn’t matter if you are using data through a local SIM card or if you are using Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop or even a mall – you should keep your VPN on at all times! There are so many risks that go along with not using a VPN. If you don’t think that you need a VPN for international travel, then be sure to read this article.
18) Keep Money in 2 Locations/Dummy Wallet
If for some reason you get robbed, you can give them a dummy wallet. It is a wallet that you keep in your pocket with only a couple dollars worth of cash inside. In fact, you can use your dummy wallet throughout the day. Every once in a while, you can add a bit of cash to it when you go to the bathroom or something.
The remainder of your money and important credit cards should be kept somewhere else. If someone steals your wallet, rest assured 99% of your cash in all of your important credit cards are not stolen.
19) Don’t Drink Alcohol Alone
Obviously I cannot tell you what to do or what not to do, however, I just want you to understand that there are bad people who simply target foreigners while they are intoxicated at night. There are no easier suspects than drunk foreigners who are walking alone at night. They will convince you that they are helping you at the very same time they are probably taking things out of your bag. You probably won’t realize it until you wake up the next morning.
20) Accept Only Unopened Beverages
Depending on where you are in the world, people may add some type of drug to your drink. This may make you pass out in order to rob you, or, it will put you in the hospital for the sole purpose of making you pay astronomical medical bills. Yes, doctors and hospitals have hired people to slip stuff in your drink. And the taxi/ambulance brings you to a specific ‘hospital’. This happens every year around the world.
The easiest way to avoid this is to only accept drinks that are unopened. You must open it yourself. Try to avoid mixed drinks. If someone brings you a drink that is opened as a sign of politeness, to stay safe, it is important that you decline the kind gesture. This will most definitely lead to awkwardness. However, you will be thankful that you did not wake up the next morning with one of your kidneys removed.
21) Don’t Trust Everyone
There was once a time where a man was very kind to me and helped me in multiple ways while I was traveling in his city. As a kind thanks, I took him out to lunch at a 4-star restaurant. I paid the waiter with the cash that was in my bag. While my back was turned, the man went into my bag and removed all of the cash that I had. Seriously? Yes! This was after I took him out to lunch and after he was incredibly kind to me for the previous several hours.
The moral of the story is that sometimes friendliness, kindness, and smiles are all fake. Just because someone is kind does not actually mean that they are actually kind. Out of the thousands and thousands of local people that I have met while traveling the world, this has happened only once. This type of behavior is not common. Usually a kind person really is authentic and kind.
22) Learn Local Laws
I’m not saying that you need to study every law in a foreign country, or even contact a lawyer. However, I am saying to do a quick Google search and understand the basic differences between your country and their country. I’m sure someone has written a blog post about it. There are some crazy rules that you may not be aware of.
It is important that you know about some of these rules and laws before you start solo traveling in a particular country. You wouldn’t want to face a penalty from the local police because you did something that is completely normal in your country, but it’s absolutely forbidden in the foreign country you will be traveling in.
23) Walk Away From Danger
If for some reason there is a disagreement between you and a local person and then tension starts to rise to the point where the local man is shouting at you, it is important to just simply walk away. Even if the local person is absolutely 100% wrong. Why? Because if a physical confrontation happens, and police come, you may be liable for everything (injury/property damage). Even if the man punched you in the face first and you only defended yourself.
It doesn’t matter. In some countries, simply because you are a foreigner, nobody will believe you. Local people may try to protect each other (even though they are all wrong) and the police will believe the local people.
The best way to avoid crazy situations like this is to simply walk away when tensions start to rise. Don’t bother trying to convince them of anything. Just accept being ‘wrong’, and simply walk away.
24) Hide/Don’t Bring Jewelry
Personally, I don’t wear anything more than a watch and a cheap bracelet made out of cotton. But there are people who like wearing lots of jewelry. If you are traveling alone, I suggest that you don’t. Either leave all of your jewelry at home during your entire trip, or, leave it in your hotel room in the hidden location.
Why? Because you may be targeted if someone sees you simply wearing a watch in some countries. If you are wearing gold chains and fancy rings, you will be seen as a massive target! Why would you want to bring this potential danger upon yourself? Who are you trying to impress? Traveling is about understanding the local people, food, and culture. Not about flaunting. Leave your ego at home.
25) Ask Locals About Any Dangers in the Area
One of the first things that I do when I arrive at any hotel within any country is ask the receptionist the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the area. They may tell you about an activity that you should avoid or a location that you should avoid. Either way, this is good information.
I remember walking out of my hotel and enjoying the afternoon sun when I approached a uniquely painted building in the middle of a desert. I started to walk around the building to see what it was all about. Eventually, I came to a large red sign that said ‘trespassers will be shot and killed’. Wow! It turns out, I was walking next to a military base. I had no idea. Needless to say, I got out of there as soon as possible. Luckily, I wasn’t shot at.
26) Register with Your Local Embassy
To be honest, it is always a good idea to register with your local Embassy. Let them know where you are staying and how long you will be staying there. If some type of emergency happens, they will know how to contact you or find you. It isn’t likely that something crazy happens (some type of attack or natural disaster), but if it does, you will be absolutely thankful that you reached out to them a few days ago.
27) Be Prepared With Travel Insurance
Can you imagine sitting in your taxi waiting for a red light to turn green and then suddenly someone smashes into the back of your car? Your shoulder has been dislocated and you have a neck injury as well. The crazy driver backed up and then drove off immediately.
Guess who is now stuck with high medical bills? You are. The best way to combat the unexpected is to be prepared with travel insurance. It is important that you learn why travel insurance it’s important.
28) Tourist Areas Are The Most Dangerous
In any country, where do all of the “rich & naive” foreigners like to visit? The tourist areas, of course! Do you think that local people who have bad intentions already know this? Of course they do!
The vast majority of times that I have either felt unsafe or have been cheated have been in the tourist areas within multiple countries. What’s interesting is that almost instantly after leaving the tourist area, local people become more friendly, more helpful, and we’re honest. Always have your guard up while visiting the tourist areas in any country!
Staying Safe While Solo Traveling Requires Emphasis on Certain Tips
Obviously, you need to read between the lines. Traveling to a remote village in a third-world country will require a different safety skill-set than if you plan on visiting a lot of nightclubs in a first-world country.
But generally, these safety tips can be applied in almost any situation. Like I said above, being aware of the types of danger is your biggest defense.
If someone throws a ball at your face and you are aware that the ball is going to come, there’s going to be a very small chance that the ball will hit you in the face. Why? Because you knew the ball was going to be thrown in your direction, so you were prepared.
But if you had absolutely no idea that a person was going to throw a ball in your direction you wouldn’t be prepared at all. The ball will hit you and you didn’t even have any time to react!
It’s the same thing but traveling the world and staying safe. Know as much as you can before you go. Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best. Be sure to also check out these critical things you must know before you start solo traveling.
I honestly hope that the information above didn’t scare you. Seriously though, the information was only organized to give you an idea about the potential downfalls and dangers of solo traveling. If you are aware of what could happen, then you will be more prepared and have a much better chance of staying safe while traveling. So, in general, is solo traveling safe? Be sure to read this article!
It is important to understand that the majority of people that I have met throughout my solo traveling journey have been absolutely amazing! I would say close to 99.9%. Yes, seriously! In general, most people have good intentions.