Safety is a big issue when you travel solo.
And while our post, Travel Safety: 50 Tips for Solo Travelers, is one of the most popular on the site and has lots of innovative and practical advice, it is detailed.
For many people, it is too detailed.
While some travelers are anxious about travel and want to dig deep into everything that could possibly help ensure her or his safety, others live a great faith that people are good and travel is essentially safe. It is primarily for this latter group, of which I tend to be one, that I write this post.
This can be considered a companion piece to the 50 Tips article. Here are five principles of solo travel safety.
Solo Travel Safety Principle #1 – Public is safer than private
This is my number one rule, I stay in busy, public places. Out of my regular routine and in a different culture it can be hard to read a situation and people well. So regardless of how comfortable I am with new acquaintances, I rarely leave a public place with them. I strategize to avoid this so that I don’t insult them with my caution. For example, I may discreetly call a cab before anyone can offer me a ride as I did in a Blues Bar in Jackson, Mississippi. And I remember that a cab is not public if shared with a stranger.
Solo Travel Safety Principle #2 – Be proactive rather than reactive
One of the things I like best about solo travel is that it is social. I meet people all the time and I do so by taking the first step. I think that it is more likely that an inappropriate person will choose me than I will choose him or her. For this reason, I’m proactive in my choices. I choose whom I talk to, where I go, where to sit in a bar… If I need to ask for directions my first choice is to approach a family and then perhaps a couple. And I also don't assume that women are safe. I size up all my options and choose whom I'll chat with. I still connect with lots of people but I’m less likely to be put in the position of reactively trying to get myself out of a situation when I have made the initial choice.
Solo Travel Safety Principle #3 – Engage other people in safety
When I go out at night, I chat with a server for a bit so that they are aware that I’m alone. They’ll watch out for me and move unwanted attention away. If I’m walking to a destination but no longer sure of my safety, I’ll stop and ask directions even if I know the way. People will redirect me if I'm headed into an unsafe area. Whenever possible, I subtly engage others in my safety whether I'm feeling unsafe at that moment or not.
Solo Travel Safety Principle #4 – Never be rushed into a decision
Whether you're at home or traveling, being rushed into a decision is one of the easiest way to be conned or ripped off. It's a common strategy of people who want to take you for more than they should. It usually starts with introducing new, credible, but inaccurate information that requires you to make a decision quickly. If they won't give you the time to properly consider their offer reject it. Get yourself to a safe place where you can take your time to decide what you want to do. (I write about this in Reflections on Women Traveling Alone)
Solo Travel Safety Principle #5 – Be rude if necessary
I’m usually polite and congenial with everyone I meet. It's how I was raised and it makes for a happier life. However, when it comes to safety, if polite doesn’t work I allow myself to be rude – especially when I travel solo. Regardless of whether it may hurt someone’s feelings or disturb other people, if I have to, I will be rude to ensure my safety. I'll be loud or brush someone off curtly. It doesn't come up often but it has a couple of times.
Follow these fundamentals of solo travel safety, cover the basic travel requirements like carrying identification, having the name and phone number of your hotel in your pocket and keeping your money secure… and you should be safe as you travel solo.
Here are a few posts on specific safety topics you may find valuable.