Travelling solo: Bloggers share their safety tips
Solo travel, why do it? Some of us aren’t in relationships or our friends are too busy for adventures, or maybe you like to keep costs down. Whatever your reason, travelling alone is a whole other level of freedom. No need for compromising, squabbles or worrying about pleasing a travel buddy; when venturing alone, you plan your days around your own interests. Heaven.
So if you’re thinking about booking a train, plane, or ferry ticket, or ready to hit the road, we’ve got the guide on how to travel alone safely with the help of those who do it often. Travel bloggers share their valuable advice with us.
Plan, plan, plan
You may want to be the spontaneous free spirit, but you do seriously need a plan in place. Sure, leave room for spontaneity, but have an itinerary to follow. Not only does following a schedule allow you to get the most out of a trip, but do your research to make things so much smoother. For instance, do you know the transport situation, where the cheapest food spots are, and which areas are best to avoid? By taking the time to do the research, you will reduce the chances of getting lost, stuck or in any sticky situations.
Wendy Andrew, a travel blogger with Weekends with Wendy stresses the importance of planning: “Make sure that you have adequate travel insurance and plan/book accommodation. Let someone at home know where you’re staying. Find out where the nearest medical facility and embassy/consulate are just in case you need them.”
COVID safety and preparedness
Make sure to include the COVID regulations of the places and areas you’re planning to visit in your research. Things are constantly changing, so always check your travel documents, insurance and policies, and keep up-to-date with travel news. Some countries may have vaccine mandates in place, others may not and instead request proof of a negative COVID test on arrival. Some restaurants, bars and theatres may still require masks and social distancing, so make sure to consider this in your itinerary.
Look up reviews and forums
Once you’ve got your itinerary together and ideas of what to do and where to visit, look up reviews and read travel forums to get a better insight into these places. Knowledge is power, after all. Reading from those who have experience and knowledge behind them will go a long way, and you can pick up tips and tricks.
Technology is your friend
One app that will be a godsend is Citymapper. Covering the transport links across major cities across the globe, this app gives you real-time updates and easy-to-follow routes to take you from A to B. Heading to London for a break? This is your best travel buddy, telling you which tube or bus to get on, where to walk, and how long each part will take; helping get you in time for that West End show – or whatever you’re up to! Other apps that are helpful are SoloTraveller, Post Office Travel, and for female solo travellers, there’s Tourlina, which helps you connect with other females for meetups and to exchange useful, safe information.
Becky Derbishire – The Lifestyle Blogger UK – recommends the Find My Phone app: “You can invite friends or family members to join and you can share your location with someone. So for example, if you are going out alone, you can switch the app on so the other person can see where you are at all times. You can also set it to alert when the other person arrives at their destination, so you know they got there safely.”
Hannah Hart at ProPrivacy recommends a personal safety app: “There are plenty on the market, such as Noonlight, bSafe, Life360, and they can be used to check in with friends and family, and even alert police if you feel unsafe, pinging them your location in a matter of seconds. For women and members of the LGBT community, apps like this can be a lifeline on solo journeys, and even remain useful once you’ve returned home.”
With all the apps and tech out there, make sure you can actually use them. Battery power banks are also your new best friends. Charge them fully and bring two on your journeys, especially if you will be out all day and into the night.
Staying safe at night
Madolline Gourley – blogger at One Cat at a Time – advises to be back at your accommodation not too late and to “stick to main roads, don’t engage in conversation with strangers, and maybe message someone back home to let them know if you feel unsafe or if something suspicious is up, so there’s evidence of your whereabouts.”
Becky Derbyshire also has some tips:
“If I did ever have to travel alone at night, I would always make sure my Find My Phone app was turned on, that people knew where I was, and at what time I should be back. I would also make sure I stayed in populated areas, avoiding any dark, or secluded areas where there wasn’t much lighting.”
She also shares a chilling story about being followed and some quick thinking she had to do:
“I was once followed home one evening after a night out by a lone male. As soon as I realised this, I called a friend who lived nearby whose partner came out to meet me and walked with me the rest of the way home. Since then, I don’t ever walk alone at night. I either make sure I have transport or am with a friend.”
Digital security for solo travel
When travelling, especially alone, we also need to think about digital security, in particular, digital privacy, as Hannah Hart at ProPrivacy explains: “Be wary of free Wi-Fi hotspots – you’ll find these in airports, cafes, and even your hotel, but they’re notoriously unsafe. Hotspots are havens for hackers, who take advantage of the lack of security to swipe your data. Some hackers can even create their own fake access points that can be difficult to spot, so don’t do any online shopping or banking whilst connected to a public hotspot unless you have a VPN which encrypts all your internet traffic.”
Considering we’re often glued to our phones when travelling alone (our mobiles become our travel buddies and guides), this tip is extremely useful. All it takes is a quick public-access Wi-Fi connection for us to do some online shopping, buying a quick ticket to leave us vulnerable to hackers. So wherever you can, buy from shops on the street or ticket offices.
Two-factor authentication is also a good idea, Hart says: ”By enabling two-factor authentication on any social media or banking apps, you can prevent unauthorised access – just in case you lose your phone or laptop. 2FA requires you to input a code before you login, in addition to your usual password, which makes it much harder for anyone else to get into your account.”
And in combination with two-factor authentication, a strong password is also needed. The key points to consider is to not be predictable with your passwords, and as tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t use the same one for all your accounts. Fortunately, we’ve done a helpful guide on how to create a password (and remember it).
Stranger danger is a phrase we all remember from childhood, but it’s still important in adulthood, especially when travelling alone in foreign countries. Try to not look too much like a tourist as those with sinister intentions will take advantage, and it can be hard to tell who is being polite and genuinely helpful or just trying to guide you somewhere. If you do need to talk to strangers for help, go into well-lit buildings and shops and talk to shopkeepers or waiters etc.
You should also watch out for interrogative strangers. Travel blogger, Wendy Andrew, shares a cautious tale: “Be careful who you talk to. When I was travelling alone in Hong Kong several years ago, I was approached by a man who struck up a very bizarre conversation at Victoria Harbour. He started to talk about politics and asked how I was so well-informed. This made me quite uncomfortable, and I responded that I just read the newspapers and politely moved on. To this day, I wonder if he was the Chinese Secret Service and fear I may have been at risk of being arrested for spying or something!”
Whilst some of you may think Wendy has jumped to some pretty big conclusions here, it’s actually something to seriously take note of. When in a foreign country, especially one that has a stricter government, you do need to be aware of the rules and of past stories of when people have been arrested for mistaken espionage. Terrifyingly, this has happened in quite a few countries where some people have gone over to simply report or to study and have been locked up because of the suspicions they arose, for example, the case of Matthew Hedges.
Watch out for taxi scams
Tony Jefferson, founder of TravelingSession.com, warns about taxi scams: “Scams could be taking longer routes, tampering with the meter, or even giving back counterfeit change. Only take appropriately marked taxis from authorised pickup locations. The hotel front desk can usually recommend a reliable company. Don’t blindly take their suggestions as some make extra money by bringing clientele to particular businesses that aren’t always the most reputable of establishments. Know your destination before getting in the taxi, and research the place they recommend for yourself.”
Vehicle and road trip security
Siobhan Daniels – travel blogger at Shuv On Shuv Off loves a road trip, and has some valuable tips on how to keep your motorhome secure: “I have a lock that I put on the pedals of the motorhome, which I put on straight away. I have a steering lock and alarm. I also use the seatbelts to wrap them around the door handles, and then lock them to make it harder for anyone to open the doors. I put the front screen on and close the blinds when I leave the motorhome locked up to deter opportunist thieves who may look through the window to see what is on the seats etc.”
Make sure you have breakdown cover, a first-aid kit in your vehicle, that fuel is topped up, and that you’ve done your vehicle checks before any long road trip. Don’t drive fatigued, and make sure you’re well-rested. Sat Navs are saviours, but it’s also a good idea to have an atlas too, just in case. Be very careful of hitchhikers. It’s best to rely on another driver to help, especially if you’re on your own and feeling vulnerable. Make sure your doors are always locked on the road, and try to avoid driving at night.
Keeping your home and business safe when away
You not only should think about your personal safety and security when travelling away, but also the security and safety of what you’re leaving behind. Make sure to have good home security measures in place back home with driveway gates, and consider a smart home security system. You can conveniently control them through apps from wherever you are. You can even control lighting to make it look like someone is at home during the evenings and nights. Maybe you’re a business owner too. Do your premises have high-quality CCTV and access control systems in place? Have more peace of mind when you’re vacationing and review your business security thoroughly before you go.
Need a helping hand? Contact Expert Security UK for a guide on business security reviews to see what your business would benefit from.