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All travelers want to be safe. Travel alone? Then the safety issue can seem like a bigger deal.
I've written extensively about how to travel alone safely. I've written about basic travel safety tips and advice on how to blend into a culture even if you really can't. I've offered information on how to avoid getting sick when you travel and what to do if you do get sick as a solo traveler. (That's when solo travel is lonely!)
But one safety basic I haven't addressed is location. Where is it safe? Many of us who travel solo on a regular basis know instinctively when a place is safe and when one isn't. But new solo travelers may not be so naturally astute.
Here are a few generalizations to give you an idea of how to assess a location for it's safety.
Safe Places for Solo Travelers:
What's safe is easier than what's not so we'll start here.
- Places where families go tend to be safe – zoos, amusement parks, aquariums… if it is designed for and attracts families, it is safe.
- Typical tourist sites such as museums, churches, castles, are safe.
- Well traveled hiking trails (if you see someone every 5 minutes or so) tend to be safe.
- Small towns, where everyone knows everyone, tend to be safe. They keep each other in check.
- Public spaces in cities such as markets, pubs in good areas, shopping districts are safe. I've said it before, public is always safer than private. In public we are naturally protected by social values. In private, we are subject to the values of those around us.
Not-so-Safe Places for Solo Travelers:
Sometimes it's obvious when a place isn't safe. Other times, it's your Spidey senses that tingle and tell you to leave. Listen to them. Here, again, are some generalizations.
- Restaurants and other places near train stations: It's not that these places are unsafe in and of themselves, it's that these are natural places for people to hang out who want to scam or pickpocket a tourist. If you need to go to a restaurant near a train or bus station, try going a few blocks away.
- Remote areas for hiking or camping where there is no chance for help if required. They require extra precautions.
- Bad parts of town: There are areas in almost every town and city that are not safe and you can't always tell by the way they look. A nice looking neighborhood could have things going down that you don't know about. Likewise, what you consider dangerous looking at home could be very safe in another country. Don't judge an area by the looks of it as much as by the people who are in it. If you think you may have entered an area that isn't quite right, leave. If you don't know how, choose your person carefully and ask for directions.
- Bars: I like going out to live music at night but I'm very careful about where I go. I check out the place in guides and online but I also get a local's take on the place. Is it a place they would send their sister alone?
- Private spaces: Any time you go out of public with someone you lose control of the situation. As a solo traveler, I don't like losing control. Don't go to after-hour parties in places you don't know, house parties, private cars or cabs with strangers.
The Ultimate Safe Place for Solo Travelers
When traveling alone – going to safe places, avoiding unsafe places – it's important to remember that the place you're staying is your most important safe place of all. Try to keep your accommodation to yourself. Meeting new people traveling solo is a wonderful experience but an evening is not enough time to know a person's character. Keep your hotel, B&B or hostel to yourself so that it is always safe. You may want to have a read of Safe Answers to Common Questions which tells of how I discreetly dodged the issue of telling people where I was staying.
Travel Solo. Enjoy. Be safe.