Staying safe traveling solo!
Updated: Jun 16, 2021
I have traveled solo to 22 countries over the past 10 years and had zero safety issues and have avoided the many scams imposed on tourists.
My top tips for being safe while solo: Let's start with some interesting statistics...
While there are many different graphs and charts with various information on crime and safety, we can easily see a few standouts that always appear. Those are Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), Singapore (the world's only city-island nation), South Korea (Seoul), and Australia.
If you want to feel safe and likely to be safe, Pick a safe country! Most of the countries I have been to are so safe, it's ridiculous. But always take basic precautions, even in the safest of places.
I can vouge for these as both extremely safe and worth visiting: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, United Arab Emirates
Research the most common crimes against tourists in the country or city you are headed to. There are many different scams that are commonly used specifically against tourists. A simple google search for "Thailand scams" or "Tokyo travel scams" or "tourist scams bangkok" will produce plenty of reading and even videos. The Jet Ski scam on the beaches in Thailand is common and police corruption means you will not get out of it without paying some cash....
- You must get a sim card for complete phone/data access. Simply buy a sim card that will give you a local number and data while you are away. Research this well before your trip. These can be purchased at the airport/mobile shops/convenience stores. Download "offline maps" which will give you full map access of the area even if you have no data. Use Google maps walking/biking directions. Know where you are going and learn the "911" number for each country. Your phone is the most important part of staying safe!
- Use your hotel safe to lock up your valuables and passport. You may need your passport to exchange money in some countries. Otherwise, lock it up and keep a pic of it on your phone..
- Use the hotel deadbolt whenever you are in the room. There are many stories of strangers finding ways to enter guest hotel rooms, but the deadbolt will stop them.
- Don't carry a lot of cash or wear flashy jewelry. Use your credit cards where possible (make sure to use the ones with no foreign transaction fee).
- Use ATM's with caution. Try and stick to ones in major public areas with lots of people around. Keep your eyes out for people around you.
- Watch out for "over-friendly" locals offering up something for free.
- Watch your money! Don't be careless handling your cash. Know the prices! Always negotiate the price before giving any money. Try not to give large bills and keep those bills in front pockets, zipped up, if possible.
- Always pay in local currency, as the currency exchange rates at local shops and restaurants are generally a bad deal.
- If using a backpack, make sure its zipped up, and move it in front of you when in crowded spaces like on trains or buses.
- Utilize popular ride share apps (Uber, Lyft, Grab). Your drivers name and car info are known by you and the app, making for a safer experience and less of a chance to get ripped off. Make sure the driver follows the route.
- Be aware of your surroundings and try not to always look like a tourist, Paper maps, & large cameras are a dead giveaway to locals who may wish to take advantage.
- Meet people! Obviously, if you can bond with other tourists or locals, this can be safer than doing evefrything alone.
Hostels are one way to meet other travelers. Meetup.com is a great way to get together with other travelers or people you have something in common with (such as speaking English, being a foreigner, or love of a sport or hobby).
Airbnb is another way to meet people, as you will probably be in a residential area.
Food/Walking/Bike/Segway tours are another possibility, as you will be with other tourists for a few hours in a more intimate setting. The tour guides themselves are a valuable resource for all your questions.
If you stick to the really safe countries, there is much less to worry about. If you venture to Brazil, Russia, Colombia, for example, you must be more mindful and careful. Certainly, use the internet (including YouTube videos) to get a good feel for any city or country. Some cities may be much safer within each country and your safety may be in jeopardy depending on the neighborhood.
Here is a good example right here in San Francisco, which I recently experienced. Can you see the red spot in the sea of green? You can walk anywhere in SF without any issues, but the Tenderloin is a neighborhood right by the extremely popular Union Square and right next to the Civic Center area. I accidentally walked through this area after dark and felt unsafe. I should have known to avoid it by changing my route slightly. As a tourist in a foreign country, venturing into a neighborhood like this can be extremely dangerous, so know it before you even get on the plane.
Just remember to do your research before making plans, but again some of my favorite countries like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Switzerland, Austria, and United Arab Emirates, don't require much to worry about.
Related post: https://www.solotravelr.com/post/travel-tips-and-tricks