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Solo travel has become an increasingly popular travel trend in recent years. While any mention of “finding yourself” makes us cringe and roll our eyes, it’s undeniable that exploring new places alone and immersing yourself in foreign cultures is an experience like no other.
However, the excitement of travelling tout seul is naturally accompanied by some anxieties that are less acute when exploring the world in convoy. We’ve rounded up a few nifty tips and tricks to minimise risks and help keep you safe on the road.
1. Download safety apps
There are lots of free apps that provide support for solo travellers, from highlighting areas of danger based on recent events to supplying quick and easy ways to contact local authorities. With rising statistics on violent attacks and sexual harassment, particularly among women, these apps hope to build safer environments. Check out MissMap, Chirpey, RedZone and Tripwhistle to see their various benefits and be sure to familiarise yourself with them before you fly.
2. Research the area
Social media is playing an increasing role in advocating solo travel, and yet often can provide rose-tinted glimpses of destinations. Of course, you’ll want to explore non-touristy locales but remember to research beyond the filtered allure of Instagram to understand exactly where you’re headed. Get to know different local traditions so that you can respect communities by dressing appropriately, as well as ensure you won’t stick out like a sore thumb, which can make you an easy target.
3. Online communities
While a wariness of Instagram and Facebook is sensible, online communities have become paramount in connecting solo travellers around the world. For women, hashtags such as #WeAreTravelGirls and #TheTravelWomen are useful for creating communities and promoting safe travelling. Groups such as Black Girls Travel Too sees members connecting with each other to share tips, safety advice and the potential to meet up en route. In a similar vein, the Ultimate Travel Group, a Facebook community for anyone and everyone, has now reached over 17,000 members and is a great one to check out.
4. Stay in contact
When travelling, it’s easy to get swept up in the adventure and forget to drop a message to family and friends letting them know where you are. Try to send a daily update – the more reliable you are, the easier it will be for someone to know that it’s out of character if you haven’t touched base, and to track your whereabouts if you were to go missing. Apps such as Find My Friends are helpful in allowing others to view your location if you do forget to ring home.
5. Read hotel reviews
While pretty pictures of sea views or proximity to the nearest bars are big draws for hotels and Airbnbs, reviews may tell a different story. Read people’s experiences, check ratings and examine the security of each place before booking. Staying with an Airbnb superhost is another way to further safeguard yourself against danger.
6. Always carry a portable phone charger
Although it’s never a good idea to walk around flashing your valuables and you may be hoping for a digital detox while you’re away, your phone can be invaluable when travelling. Whether you’re using it for Google Maps, to remind yourself of a hotel address or for contacting friends, it’s never good when your battery goes red, blinks and dies. It’s also sensible to print out copies of important documents (passport, hotel confirmations, flight details, I.C.E. numbers, etc.) and stow them in different places in your luggage – that way, if something does happen to your phone you’re not left stranded.
7. Know your limits
Travelling can be exhausting, and it’s easy to push your instincts to one side when you’re having fun. Rest is important in keeping your head clear and making sensible decisions – as is knowing your limits when it comes to alcohol. Trust your intuition; if you don’t feel well, or if something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation and find a safe place to regroup.
8. Learn self-defence
While this may sound extreme and you’ll hopefully never have to use it, knowing a few self-defence techniques can help with confidence when travelling alone. Holding the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to visit all sovereign countries, Cassi DePecol practises Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defence system. We’re not suggesting you learn this (although it would be pretty cool if you did) but a defence class or two before you travel will give you that extra bit of armour should a situation arise.
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