Tips For Traveling Alone

About to embark on another solo adventure and need some tips for traveling alone? I’ve got you. Luckily, I’ve been down this road. And a long road at that. Included among my many adventures was a cross-country US road trip that took 2 months and 9,000 miles. All solo.

So trust me when I say I’ve been there, and I’ve got some pretty good ideas about how you can stay safe, strong, and secure on your own solo travels.

Below are my top 21 solo travel tips, especially for the solo traveling woman (who is hopefully also over the age of 21).

1. Research Your Destination

Travel Guide Books on Amazon
Travel Guide Books on Amazon
Photos from Amazon

Of course, besides friends’ tips, you should also read up on your destination from reputable online sources like Trip Advisor. Or you can go old school with travel guide books. There is something nice about having a physical book to flip through while on your way to your destination.

2. Share Your Itinerary

Make sure your itinerary includes a way to contact you while you’re gone, however you’ll be most reachable. Phone number. WhatsApp. Social media. Email. Whatever rings your bell (or phone).

3. Then Stay Connected

Taken
Taken
Photo from “Taken

I’m admittedly a bit of a worst-case scenario thinker. So I figure the more prepared I am for anything, the more easily I can relax and enjoy myself worry-free, no matter how many human traffickers are lurking about.

4. Stay Somewhere Solo-Friendly

Other good options include an AirBnB or B&B with a highly rated local host, or couchsurfing with other trustworthy locals (though this is understandably a tad riskier). Whatever you choose to stay, make sure you arrange it through a reliable, reputable website like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or HostelWorld. This is a huge part of ensuring travel safety, so please book wisely. Don’t half ass this step.

5. Know Your Way Around

Photo by Skitterphoto

Learn the major street names and general neighborhoods near you and your planned attractions. Get familiar with the public transit map too, and make sure you know how one gets and uses a local transit pass. You should especially plan out your route before going out at night or to areas where you know you’ll have poorer reception. And whenever possible, plan to arrive places during daylight hours.

Then whatever you do, try to NOT open up those maps and stare at them while you’re out and about on the town. This can call attention to you, and not the good kind. You might as well wear a “Hi I’m lost” sign. And that makes you an ideal target. If you must reference a map, keep it folded small and subtle in the palm of your hand or, better yet, use the map on your phone. Get your bearings quickly and then return your attention to your surroundings. At the end of the day, it’s safer to know what’s immediately around you than where you’re headed.

Photo by JÉSHOOTS

6. Go At Your Own Pace

7. Fake It Till You Make It

Photo from “Wonder Woman

Stand in a power pose. Put on a positive face and pretend to believe in yourself. Say a mantra to psych yourself up if you need. Then see what that does for you and your travels. Not only will you get around more safely and assuredly, but you’ll likely also start to build some real, actual, bonafide confidence. It’s amazing how much you can get away with when you act like you know what you’re doing. The point here is to avoid looking lost or confused, which would make you an easy target for those with less upstanding intentions. So don’t let yourself stay holed up inside out of fear or uncertainty. Get out there, walk tall, and fake it till you make it.

8. Do As The Locals Do

As mentioned above, get to know the local transit system so well that you navigate it like a pro. And talk to locals. Because that’s what locals do. They talk to each other. Ask the concierge or front desk attendant where you’re staying. Pick the brain of your server or bartender when you go out. I got some of the best restaurant and live music recommendations from a bartender in Nashville. They’re usually eager to share their insider knowledge and you may make some new friends in the process. So make a point to make yourself a part of their world.

Photo by mentatdgt

9. Don’t Rule Out All Touristy Things

Just be aware that many popular tourist attractions aren’t worth the time and money. I spent two days trying to see Mt. Rushmore, and by the time I finally saw it, I got tired of it after an hour and left feeling like the cost was not worth it.

Then again, many group activities, tours, and meetups can be great ways to meet fun local people and fellow travelers. So once again, do your research and know what you’d be getting into. Weigh the costs against your own travel goals and make sure the experience will be rewarding for you before you commit. Don’t be afraid to be picky and do only what you want to do. It’s your trip. No one else’s.

10. Secure Your Valuables

Photos from Amazon

That way, even if someone grabs it off you, they’ll have trouble getting to the goodies inside. Wherever is the most secure, keep your real passport there. Then keep copies elsewhere as backups. If you do bring anything along with you, keep it well hidden. Like in this clever travel belt, this hidden bra wallet, or this underwear with a super stealthy crotch pocket.

Photos from Amazon

You can also take a page out of the spy handbook and keep a dummy wallet on you. Keep your phone in your front pocket. Wear bags and cameras across your body. Personally, I also like to keep a spare $20 bill tucked somewhere for backup, like in my bra or shoes. If you lose everything else, $20 can come in quite handy.

11. Be Friendly

As a woman traveling solo, you’ll be much less intimidating and easier to approach. That can be really lovely. Or sometimes a little annoying. But either way, I’m always amazed to discover how rarely I feel alone when I’m traveling by myself. And someone surrounded by friendly people is much less likely to be in danger. Plus if something does happen, you’ve got good witnesses at the ready.

12. Make Friends At Meals

Photo from “Eat Pray Love

13. Speak Up & Be Proactive

14. But Also, Blend In

Photo from “Jessica Jones

Plus it can’t hurt to maintain a little mystery. Don’t feel like you need to tell people everything about yourself right away. You don’t owe them any explanation for who you are or why you’re traveling alone. You can tell people however much or little as you want. Again, this is your trip on your terms. Remembering that will help you stay safe and strong.

15. Stay Alert & Ready

For one thing, watch your alcohol intake. Drink to enjoy, not to get drunk. If you’re drunk, your judgement and motor skills will be seriously impaired, along with your ability to react quickly and intelligently. When I’m traveling alone, I never let myself have more than two drinks in one night. Besides, it’ll be easier on your travel budget.

Beyond that, you’ll want to keep your head up as you travel solo. Look around you and take note of anything odd or suspicious you’ll want to avoid. Also keep note of the exit routes, in case you need to get away quickly. As an added bonus, it doesn’t hurt to be seen looking around and paying attention. And listening. That means no wearing headphones or staring at your phone. Both will prevent you from quickly noticing things around you. And you’ll look like an easy target. Don’t let yourself appear that way.

Photo from “Killing Eve

Walk confidently, but cautiously. If it helps, have a handy tool at the ready, like your keys between your fingers. And keep those eyes scanning. Though maybe try to do so in a friendly, not distrustful, manner. The goal is to appear alert, not like an asshole.

16. Stay Light

Photos from Amazon

If you’re carrying your laptop on you, make sure your laptop bag or backpack has enough padding to protect it, but not so much that it weighs you down.

Photos from Amazon

The point is to have everything essential you may need on you, but in such a way that you aren’t encumbered if you need to move quickly.

17. Stay Covered

In terms of travel insurance, you can’t go wrong with World Nomads. And you could go wrong if you don’t get any. You never know what disaster may strike, like a canceled flight, or lost luggage, or a run in with a drunk driver. So as the cliche goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

World Nomads Travel Insurance
World Nomads Travel Insurance
World Nomads Travel Insurance

Traveling, especially alone as a woman, is already a pretty courageous endeavor. You don’t need to take any additional unnecessary risks. That won’t make you any more of a badass. Just plain stupid. So bring an umbrella. Get insurance. And while you’re at it, do other smart protective things like, you know, buckling your seat belt, wearing a helmet, and strapping on that life vest. Your safety is not worth the picture perfect selfie that will be like totally ruined.

18. Watch Out For Scams

Photos from Amazon

It’s just as important (perhaps more so) to protect your identity as much as your stuff. So also be careful what information you give out about yourself. If someone is asking you for sensitive or private information, like your bank information or social security number, make sure you first verify who is asking. Ask to see their identification and if you’re still not sure, call their company to confirm.

If it’s a police officer or similar authority figure, ask to see their badge and maybe even write down their badge number and name. You have a right to ask for this information. And it’s a good habit to get into anytime you interact with law enforcement. You never know when that information could come in handy. And whatever you do, never ever give out your passport number (except on that customs form on the plane) or your account passwords (unless you really know and trust the person, and even then, I’d recommend caution).

19. Trust Your Gut

20. If You Must, Defend Yourself

GIF from “Tangled

Do whatever it takes, with whatever you can get your hands on, and as many words as you can muster (verbal warnings can help with deescalation and attracting witnesses), but only up till the point you can escape to safety. And no further. Or you may find yourself in even deeper trouble, legally that is. And in an unfamiliar city or country, that can prove quite the sticky situation. That’s extra drama you simply do not need. (Here’s where that travel insurance comes in handy again.)

But don’t let these words of warning hold you back from fighting back. If it comes down to it, definitely defend yourself. Do what you gotta do to survive. I’ve been there too, so I get it. You won’t get any judgement here. Some advice and self-defense training sure, but no judgement.

Photo from “Kill Bill

21. Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic

Photo from “The Hunger Games

Don’t panic beforehand either. Try not to be paranoid. Even if your gut is telling you shit’s gonna hit the fan imminently. Yes listen to your gut, but with composure and reasoning. You won’t be doing your gut any favors if you freak out. Fear can be a healthy emotion. It’s your body’s way of keeping you alert and ready. But there’s a difference between trepidation and full-blown panic. It never helps to panic.

So as you absorb and embody all of the advice I’ve laid out here, remember above all to keep your wits about you and stay confidently calm, cool, and collected. And you’ll be just fine, Cookie-san.

Ready to put these tips into practice on your next travels? Read on to learn how else you can prepare and protect yourself.

PS: This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see my Tough Cookie Travel Disclaimer here.

Like what you see here? Wanna break yourself off another piece of that? Explore more of Rebecca’s travel safety wisdom at ToughCookieTravel.com.

Writer. Editor. Wanderer. Warrior.

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