Traveling solo can be an invigorating experience: you don’t have to accommodate another person’s interests, you can eat on your own schedule, and there’s no one there to judge you for eating that extra scoop of ice cream. But with the freedom of traveling solo comes a few risks as well, and it’s important that you keep your wits about you and know how to stay safe while having fun. To help you get the most out of your travels, I’ve compiled five helpful tips I learned while traveling solo this year.
Keep your family in the loop
As tempting as it is to jet off on a whirlwind adventure, don’t forget to send a friend or family member a quick text mentioning your last-minute plans. I bought my plane ticket to Brussels about two weeks before I visited the city, but I made sure to shoot my mom a quick email letting her know I was planning on leaving Germany. I’m all about being independent and making my own path and such, but when it comes to traveling safely it’s important that you have someone back home keeping tabs on you, just in case.
Arrive when it’s light out
Purposely booking a flight that will get you into a city late at night just to save money is a bad plan every time. As confident as you are when you board that plane, I guarantee you’ll show up a bit panicked once you realize you a) have absolutely no sense of direction in this new place b) might not speak the same language all the signs are in, and c) are tired after a day of travel. Traveling at night isn’t so scary (or dangerous) if you’re with a friend, but going solo at night is a whole other story.
My flight to London was delayed by almost four hours, and I ended up landing in Heathrow airport at midnight. By that point, the tube had stopped operating and the bus system would’ve taken almost 2 hours for me to get to my AirBNB. I had a brief moment of panic before I got my act together and hired a driver to pick me up. It cost me over a hundred dollars, but it was worth it for me to feel safe.
Be aggressive (when needed)
This tip applies to all solo travelers, but especially to ladies. If someone keeps asking you questions that make you uncomfortable (like if you’re on Facebook, where you’re staying, etc.) or if they won’t leave you alone on public transportation, tell them to stop or refuse to answer their questions. You do not need to be nice to everybody, period, end of story. If you’re on a train and someone is harassing you, either move to a different seat or try engaging with someone else around you. Odds are, they’ll realize something’s not quite right and will be willing to help you out of the situation.
Have a backup plan
So many things can happen when you travel: your hotel room could’ve been booked for the wrong night, your flight could be delayed, a rabid flock of pigeons could whisk away your only map (the list goes on, but I should probably stop there). While I don’t think you should feel anxious about traveling, I do think you should leave home prepared. Have another hotel’s phone number written down just in case, know alternate methods of transportation if you arrive somewhere after the public transportation has stopped, etc. It never hurts to be prepared, and having a backup plan will make your time abroad all the more enjoyable because you’ll know you’re ready for anything.
Have a working cell phone
Whether you’re a student studying abroad or are just taking a week to yourself, don’t turn off your cell phone to save money. At the very least, you need to be able to make an emergency call, but having a roaming data plan won’t hurt either (remember those pigeons that took your map? Having data will allow you to look for the nearest tourist center to buy another one).
I was tempted many times throughout my semester in Germany to stop loading money onto my sim card, but I’m so glad I kept it because there were multiple times when I needed to call the hotel I was staying at to let them know of a flight delay or that I had gotten terribly lost. If you’re concerned with accumulating roaming fees while abroad, be sure to call your service provider before leaving the country to learn more about their policies so you can avoid accidental fees.
Having these tips in the back of my mind while I traveled kept me out of trouble when I was traipsing through Europe solo, and I hope you find them equally helpful. Tell me: what are some tips and tricks you’ve learned on your travels and what situations have you been in where you’ve been glad you knew these tips?