The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all travel in a multitude of ways. Sadly, there are consistent signs all over the world that certain crimes have seen jumps during the pandemic. The biggest increases have been in violent crimes, particularly murder, aggravated assault, and shooting incidents. This is because, with fewer tourists in areas, there is less policing and therefore more crime. In my post Traveling After the Pandemic, we focused more on hygiene and money safety but, today I want to address your personal safety while traveling. So here are my top tips on solo travel safety in a post-COVID-19 world.
Solo travel safety starts before you even embark on your journey
Make sure you research the destination you are planning to travel to. Check local news sources for any crime reports close to where you are staying. This type of pre-travel knowledge will protect you from misinformation, having to trust strangers, and ending up in a scary situation. Also, remember everyone has a different standard when it comes to safety. A place you find safe may not feel safe for another person. Make sure that no matter who you speak with or what research you do, that you are comfortable and that the destination meets your personal safety needs.
Always let at least 2 other people know your full itinerary!
Check your government’s travel site
Your government will have information on not only the travel documents and vaccinations you need but, also any safety warnings for your destination. Here are links for travel alerts for United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. Also, check out my post on the top travel apps to learn about the smart traveler app.
Register with your government
Using the links above, you can register as a citizen when you are traveling to another country so that they have a record of where and when you will be visiting another country.
Schedule your arrival and departures during the daylight
Do your best to arrive and depart your destination during the day to avoid having to navigate unknown areas in the dark.
Know ahead of time where your country’s embassy, the hospital, police station, and the firehouse is before you get to your destination
You will want to have this information stored on your phone and written down in a safe place. I suggest looking at a map prior and marking where these are in relation to your hotel. On the first day of your trip walk, or cab to these locations so you know where they are and the quickest way to get there. Personally, when I travel solo, I try to stay within close proximity to a police station. Just a personal preference of mine. Also, make sure you have your hotel address, name, and phone number written down in English and the local language. This way if there is a language barrier you can always get back.
Know the culture
Make sure that when traveling abroad you do some research on the culture and any dress codes. You will be less likely to receive catcalls, unwanted comments, or worse if you are dressed appropriately. Plus, if you are traveling somewhere – respect their culture and policies.
Some good things to pack to take the extra step towards your safety are:
- A copy of your passport and ID. If you were to lose yours, having a copy will help when going to your nearest embassy to ensure you have no issues going home.
- This will sound odd but, an alarm doorstop. These are great to have as they will slow down any unwanted visitors trying to enter your room.
- Slash-proof, RFID blocking bag/wallet
- Wear a money belt or crossbody purse while traveling. Even the most popular and “safe” tourist areas are not immune to pick-pocketers.
- Flashlight/whistle keychain
Trust your instincts
I mentioned this in my post Tips Every Solo Travel Woman Should Know but, it is extremely important so, I will gladly remind you. When you feel like you are entering an unsafe situation, get out. You’re feeling that way for a reason. If you feel secure and comfortable, everything is probably going to be fine. Do not let anyone talk you out of trusting your gut.
Walk around with a purpose
Don’t walk with your head down and try to keep from looking intimidated if you are in an area that makes you feel worried. Doing so will alert those around you that you are ‘out of place’ and not from there. Walk with your head held high and with confidence. This will help you be more aware of your surroundings too. Some other ways to help you stay aware:
- Do not listen to music with headphones while walking around. It tells possible muggers that you have electronics of value with you and that you are not alert.
- Smile and acknowledge people as they pass and approach you. Make eye contact. Someone will be less likely to want to attack you if they know you can profile them.
Get to know any con games in the area you are traveling
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Check out this great list of tourist scams.
Talk like a local
You don’t have to be fluent in the language of the country you are visiting but, try to learn some basic phrases and/or keywords that would be helpful in case of an emergency. Drops: Language Learning app is one of my favorites. Some sample phrases to learn:
- Where is the police station?
- Where is the hospital?
- I need help.
- Where is the airport/train station/bus depot?
- I am allergic to…
- Call the police/ambulance.
- I am hurt.
- Help me.
- American Embassy.
- Where is the…
- How long until…
Enjoy wine at dinner. Indulge in some local beverages. Just do not get so wasted that you put yourself in a position to get taken advantage of or worse…
- When taking public transportation; stay awake, alert, and keep a hold on your belongings.
- When in a cab, keep your purse on the floor and your belongings in the back seat with you so, you can get out easily if needed. The purse on the floor prevents someone from reaching through the window at a stoplight and snatching it.
- Make sure to have a data plan on your phone. Just something minimal to ensure you can phone home if you need to.
Don’t be too cheap
Don’t go the cheap route. We all want to save money and find a bargain but, save that for shopping. Cheaper taxi/hotel/restaurant options may not be the safest. It’s worth the extra costs to ensure you are safe.
Stay in public places
Now, I am all about exploring off the beaten path but, you need to do this correctly. Do not just go wandering off to just anywhere on your own. If you want to venture to less touristy areas, find a local tour group that offers services in those areas, find someone to buddy up with, etc. Try not to go alone until you have been there before and know the area.
Minimize your belongings
Only carry around what you need. Keep everything else locked in your room’s safe. Also, it is always good to pack light so you are more mobile.
Keep your money safe
- Use debit cards wisely and get money from ATMs vs. exchange kiosks
- Have an emergency cash stash hidden
- Store money in more than one area of your belongings
- Only take out what you need in cash