11 Apr 2019
Travelling solo can be an exhilarating and freeing experience, allowing you to explore at your own pace and without any pressure to adjust your plans to suit anybody else. But when you travel alone, there can be added risks. With the right preparation there’s no reason that your first (or second, or third) solo travel adventure can’t go smoothly from start to finish – so here are a few things to keep in mind before you set off.
Depending on which part of the world you’re travelling to, the risk of pickpockets or even credit card fraud may be higher than it is at home. Even in relatively low-risk destinations, opportunities for you to become separated from your spending money are still present, whether it’s due to forgetfulness or misfortune.
While you might think a theft or misplaced wallet would never happen to you, it’s wise to be prepared in case it does. Finding yourself cashless when you’ve got friends around to help out is one thing, but when you’re alone in another country it’s quite another.
From security belts with hidden pockets to towels with storage corners, there are a host of different products available online that you can stash secret emergency cash in for your time away. Or, if you’re trying to save every last penny for your adventure, you can always get inventive and sew your own secret pockets into clothes you already own.
Whatever you do, resist the urge to dig your emergency funds out and spend them when you’re at a market or on a night out. If you can, keep a spare cash card or bank card separate from your main one, so that if one card is stolen and has to be cancelled, you’ve still got access to another.
Having fun when you’re travelling abroad is key to making the whole journey worthwhile. But when you’re going it alone and seeing the world solo, you don’t have the luxury of friends to watch your back. As a result, it’s important to keep your wits about you.
When it comes to nights out, the chances are you’ll be spending your time with other travellers you’ve met at your hostel, guesthouse or just at the bar. But even if you can drink for England when you’re back at home, it’s really important not to get too intoxicated if you’re partying with strangers or walking back to your accommodation alone in an unfamiliar location.
Never let the fact you’re a solo traveller stop you from having fun and new experiences, but do play things extra safe when you’re out and about. From being mindful of your day bag when you’re exploring a busy street to keeping an eye on your drink while you’re in a bar, paying a little extra attention can be the difference between an amazing experience and a situation turned sour.
A good rule of thumb is to follow your instincts – if you feel uncomfortable or your internal alarm bells start ringing, you should listen.
Under and overpacking are perhaps the most common mistakes made by novice travellers, and both can cause you unnecessary both. Overpack and you have the trouble of carting an excessive amount belongings around with you; underpack and you run the risk of not having everything you need.
To avoid making this mistake, there are a couple of pointers that you should follow:
1. Don’t pack to capacity – you may want to buy gifts or souvenirs while you’re abroad, so some extra room will always come in handy.
2. Consider your destination – what’s the season? Are there laundry services available? The more you know about where you’re going, the less you’ll need to pack.
3. Make a list – this can help you to mentally organise what you need to take and minimise the risk of forgetting something important.
It sounds like a really boring one, but let’s be honest, we’ve all used airport WiFi or another kind of public network at some stage on our travels. When you’re low on data and the signal is poor, free WiFi services can feel like a lifesaver – but you might be putting your personal information at risk.
When you’re booking your next connection or place to stay from your mobile, be very wary of entering payment card details or address information while logged on through public WiFi. These kinds of networks offer almost no security, if any at all, and as a result it’s easy for hackers to snoop on your details. You might not think you’re a target, but an unsecured connection is easy pickings for a hacker and it doesn’t take much for someone to empty your account while you’re on the next flight.
To keep your information secure, all you have to do is bring a bit of your own protection. Install a virtual private network app (VPN) before using any dubious connections, and with the flick of a switch you can add a layer of encryption to whatever you’re doing online. The result: anyone snooping will have no idea what details you’re entering, meaning everything from bank details to emails is kept safe and sound.
It’s difficult planning for the unexpected, but knowing how to contact local emergency services or where your nearest consulate is can be invaluable in a sticky situation. Making sure that someone, even someone thousands of miles away, knows where you are and where you’re planning to go can help if the worst happens.
For this reason, plan to update loved ones back home before you go off-grid. It may require travelling to an internet cafe or finding somewhere with free WiFi, but you’ll be glad you made the short journey if something goes awry.
The world can be a treacherous place, but it’s also beautiful and brimming with exciting cultures and breath-taking vistas. If you plan ahead and look for insights and inspiration from those who have travelled before you, you can avoid a lot of headaches and make it back with plenty of great stories to tell.