An overseas trip is an exciting undertaking for any traveler, whether you’re a first-time backpacker or an experienced globe trotter. However, when traveling alone overseas, you might feel nervous and wonder how to keep yourself safe while abroad. So, before packing your favorite self-defense keychain and heading overseas, use this handy guide as a way to make sure you are prepared for a safe and fun adventure.
Before You Go
Safety while abroad starts well before you leave home. So, while you may want to be spontaneous, a little bit of planning to start your trip can make a big difference.
Do Your Research
You might know your destination country or city is relatively safe for tourists, but before your departure you should do more in-depth research into which neighborhoods or regions are safest to visit.
Use trusted up-to-date sources of information. You don’t want to rely on a travel guide from 20 years ago when tourism and political situations are ever-evolving in many destinations.
Check out travel blogs from recent visitors to that country or city, watch YouTube video guides for a glimpse of what it’s like to travel there, and check your country’s government travel advisories to ensure you’re not heading somewhere with restrictions in place.
Arrive During the Day
While this advice is typically given to female solo travelers, it’s a helpful practice for all solo travelers to follow. When you arrive during the day, you get a better feel for your surroundings.
Public transit runs more frequently, and more businesses and shops are open to ask for help if you need it. If it’s not possible to arrive during the day, then make sure you book accommodations with a 24-hour check-in policy and plan to take a taxi from the airport to your room for the first night.
Reserve Your Room the First Night
A spontaneous solo trip that leads you across the globe with no idea where you’ll end the day when you wake up each morning is undoubtedly exciting and the dream for many backpackers. However, it’s best to have your first night booked in any destination before you arrive. This helps you plan your route from the airport or train station in advance.
Once you are abroad, you’ll have a better sense of how comfortable you are feeling and what sorts of accommodations you want to book for the nights that follow.
Share Your Itinerary
You should always forward a copy of your itinerary to family members or friends before departing on a solo trip. Include any reservations you have made and general plans for activities during the day. Even if you don’t have the trip fully scheduled, a rough outline can be beneficial in the worst of situations.
Register with STEP
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free tool from the U.S. State Department to assist you during an emergency abroad. Registration is online and only takes a few minutes. In addition to receiving assistance in an emergency, you can get alerts about the safety conditions at your destination.
How to Pack
You should follow the same general packing philosophy for a solo trip as you would for any other vacation. However, there might be a few extra items you want to bring along.
● Copy Important Documents
The difference between getting stranded and finding your way home can rest on whether or not you have copies of essential documents while abroad. Make a copy or take a photo of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, and other important documents you need to bring with you when traveling. You may want to scan these items and store the images on the cloud so you have a backup way to access them. This will protect you if anything gets lost or stolen while you are abroad.
● Leave Valuables at Home
You should never pack anything that you can’t afford to lose on a solo trip. Valuables and precious mementos are best left safely back at home. However, you may want to wear a ring to avoid unwanted attention in some destinations if you are a single female solo traveler. A small, cheap ring from the local department store works just as well as a real diamond ring, and you won’t be dealing with a financial loss if anything happens to it.
● Consider Personal Safety Devices
If it’s your first solo trip, you may want to pack a compact personal safety device to boost your confidence. There are plenty of options that are lightweight and easy to conceal while traveling. Remember to pack them in checked luggage to avoid having them confiscated by TSA.
● Dress the Part
How you dress overseas matters. If you fail to respect the local culture and you dress inappropriately, you can single yourself out as an easy target for petty crimes like pickpocketing. You don’t need to purchase an entirely new wardrobe to match the fashion trends of the time, but pack clothes that are neutral and classic, and which show a respectful amount of skin.
Safety While Overseas
You’ve made it to your destination! You should be feeling reasonably confident since you’ve done your research on the area and packed smartly. Following tourist smart safety tips while on your solo trip will help your vacation go smoothly.
● Trust Your Gut
If you ever feel uncomfortable or just get a sense that something isn’t right while traveling alone overseas, go somewhere else, whether finding new accommodations or leaving a tourist attraction where someone is giving you unwanted attention. You have to trust yourself when you are traveling alone. There’s always an alternative option that makes you feel safer and more comfortable.
● Drink Responsibly
You should be able to relax and enjoy your vacation. However, when you are traveling alone, it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol intake to an amount where you are still in control. You shouldn’t accept drinks from strangers unless you can see the bartender pouring from the bottle or mixing the drink. Never leave a drink unattended, and be slow to trust those you meet while out and about.
If you are drinking at night, carrying a small self-defense keychain can offer you additional security when you head back to your room for the night.
● Don’t Overshare
Be very cautious about the people you share information with while traveling solo. Don’t let strangers know you are traveling alone. When asking for help, don’t be afraid to lie a little bit and say you are going somewhere to meet a friend.
● Be Confident
It can be intimidating to travel abroad, but it is also incredibly liberating. Do your best to act confident while traveling. Look people in the eye and stand tall. Walk with a powerful strut and a sense of purpose, and you’ll blend right in with the locals.
Enjoy Your Adventure Overseas
With a bit of preparation, you can have an amazing solo adventure overseas. The tips in this checklist can help you stay safe while abroad, letting you focus on enjoying yourself in an exciting, new destination.