Traveling alone can be a wonderful experience as you're not limited by the agenda of a companion. This leaves you free to explore the world as you want to. It means you can do the things you want to do, and you don't have to worry about someone else looking on (bored) as you have your fun.
There's a safety concern that comes with traveling alone, often especially for women. So here are seven super helpful tips on how to stay safe, and have the solo trip of a lifetime.
1. Plan Your Route
Proper planning means you can tell people back home where you're going. At the very least you should plan ahead so you know you'll be able to get a taxi from the airport to your hotel, for example.
If you're arriving late at night, make sure the hotel you've chosen has a 24-hour front desk manager, or at least some means of letting you in at an odd hour, as the last thing you want is to be stuck outside at night with nowhere to go.
2. Let People Know Where You're Going
Whether it's your family and friends back home or another traveler at the place you're staying, let people know your itinerary -- and if it changes, make sure they know that, too. You should also avoid long periods without contacting the folks back home because you don't want to worry them, or set a precedence of going MIA for hours.
Staying in contact is so important when you're out exploring on your own, so make sure you have an unlocked phone you can whack a SIM card into or, at least, know the whereabouts of an Internet cafe so you can check in every once in a while.
3. Don't Go Out Alone at Night
We understand you need to enjoy your vacation, so if you are out at night, stick to public places. This is common sense when you're out anywhere, not just when traveling. Opportunist thieves might target you if they realize you're alone, so it's best to avoid putting yourself in this kind of situation.
Extra Tip: If you're out partying, be sure to watch your intake so your judgement isn't impaired. Also, order all your drinks yourself.
4. Carry a Dummy Wallet
One of the most widely circulated pieces of advice when it comes to traveling alone is to carry a dummy wallet. This should contain a few expired cards and a little cash so a thief thinks they've got something worthwhile before going on their way. This helps you to avoid having everything stolen; keep the most important documents, cards, and cash more closely concealed.
5. Blend In
If you dress like a tourist, you're more likely to targeted by scammers. Keep the "I Heart NY" t-shirt in your bag and tuck away your camera as you travel. You should also walk purposefully, with your head held up, to show that you know where you're going -- even if you don't.
Keep your nose out of your guidebook until you can pop into a coffee shop or back to your hotel. If someone senses you are lost or looking for somewhere, they could take advantage.
6. Trust Your instincts, and Don't Be Afraid to Say "No"
If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Use your instincts to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Don't feel you have to say "yes" to the first person who offers you something, even at the expense of seeming rude. This is especially true for taxis; make sure you book through a reputable company and always ask for the price before you get in the car as many will try and rip tourists off.
7. Hostels Can Be Great Places to Meet People
The two main things you need to think about when traveling alone are letting people know where you're going, and trusting your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about something, you're probably right about it and should stay away.
Most importantly, though, you should enjoy the freedom of traveling alone and doing exactly what you want to do (within reason, of course). You'll no doubt make friends along the way, but don't forget to enjoy your own company because solo travel can be a really enlightening experience. Hostels are wonderful places for solo travelers to stay because they often serve as the crash pads for liked-minded travelers, and many (such as Hostelling International) provide a large team of staff members, dedicated to making sure you have a safe and enjoyable stay.