When it comes to traveling solo, everyone should practice caution -- but women are statistically at a greater risk. However, this shouldn't stop you from getting out there and enjoying yourself! Whether you’re in the midst of planning your first solo adventure or have had a dozen great experiences "party of one" beneath your money belt, these tips will help you feel smart and safe abroad.
1) Drink in Moderation: Alcohol has a way of lowering our inhibitions, and that can cause problems when you’re traveling abroad, particularly if you’re alone. So, have a margarita or two, but keep it in check -- and make sure you order your own cocktail. You’ll stay more in control of your surroundings, all while saving some hard-earned cash for other adventures. In many countries, the cost of a beer is equivalent to that of a full meal.
2) Talk To Hotel Staff and Fellow Travelers: We know you've been warned again and again not to talk to strangers, but other people can be your best resource when it comes to staying safe abroad. Talk to your hotel clerk, your bus driver, your doorman. The more familiar they are with you, the more prone they are to look out for you. You don’t need to disclose information to strangers about where you’re staying and what your exact plans are, but we do encourage you to put yourself out there and get to know the people around you. Don’t be afraid to make new friends!
3) When In Doubt, Look For Other Women: If ever you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation with a man, look to the nearest woman. Women tend to look out for one another, and can often provide the best protection. I was once caught in an uncomfortable situation with a man on a chicken bus in Bolivia, when a local woman caught my eye and started firing away at him in rapid Spanish. Whatever she said worked -- he didn’t so much as look at me for the rest of the ride!
4) Avoid the Beaches at Night: Always. Without exception. Beaches are generally not patrolled at night, even in the US. Before you step out for a moonlight stroll on your own, think twice about where you are, and what the risk may be.
5) Plan Your Accommodation: There are two things you should always pre-plan when you travel solo: what time of day or night you’ll be arriving to a new place, and where you’re staying that first night. Know these two things, even if you’re not big on planning. Having a set idea will make you feel more secure, and will also allow friends and family back at home to check in on you.
6) Bring a Doorstop: If you’re nervous about staying in foreign hotels or guesthouses, buy a rubber doorstop at any hardware store (they often cost less than a dollar) before your travels and place it beneath your front door at night. Most hotel doors open inwards, and this is just an extra step you can take to be sure that your room is secure while you sleep.
7) Be Cautious, Not Paranoid: Be aware of your surroundings and those who are near you while you travel, but don’t go so far as to cut yourself off from others or limit your experiences. The world is mostly safe and people are mostly good. Trust your gut, but trust in the beauty of the world, too.
Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, which publishes the world’s first series of travel guidebooks for women. Follow them at @GoGirlGuides.