Updated: Aug 10, 2022
I took my first solo trip to Guatemala, and ever since then I fell in love with solo travel. Being a female solo traveler, I've learned a few things about how to stay safe on your own, how to meet other travelers, and more! Here's 10 things to know before your first solo trip.
For those of you that are new.. welcome to my blog! My name is Savanna Crowell and I'm a wanderer who likes to share travel tips and insights on my favorite destinations. If you are interested in knowing more about my background, travels, or anything, check out the 'About Me' section of my website. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram @slc_travels to join me on my journeys!
10 Things to Help You Stay Safe as a Solo Traveler
1. Don't Go Out at Night Alone
I might be overly cautious here, but I found it was best for me as a solo traveler to avoid going out at night after the sun has set. If you meet someone during your travels and you guys want to grab a drink or party at night - by all means go for it! I just feel it's safest to not go and do these things when you are alone.
2. Never Tell People You're Alone
To ensure your safety, it is best to always pretend someone is waiting for you or is on their way (this goes for Uber drivers, people on the street, random people at a restaurant, etc.). If someone is asking too many questions and seems to be too interested in you, excuse yourself and leave. Sharing that you are lonely implies nobody is waiting for you and that you are an easy target.
I think it's fine to share that you are solo traveling when getting to know other women travelers at a hostel, but for every one else if they ask say you are either "meeting up with your family or your boyfriend/husband".
Along with this, don't tell people where you are staying because your accommodation is your safe haven!
3. Meet Other Travelers
Just because you are solo traveling, doesn't mean it has to be solo at all times. It's easier than you think to meet other travelers, with the easiest way being to stay at hostels! There are many types of hostels including: party hostels, quiet hostels, backcountry hostels, and some for digital nomads, with the variety of different kinds you are sure to meet people with common interests. The thing most hostels have in common is that they are meeting places! Hostels are where travelers connect for an hour in a common room, for a day on a tour, or sometimes longer, and where friendships develop and possibly further travel plans.
4. Only Bring What You Need on a Daily Basis
This is to ensure your safety, and also just because it's easier to keep track of less things. When going out for the day make sure to leave your passport behind in a secure location, and only bring the amount of money you will need for the day. This is in case something were to go wrong (you get pickpocketed, loose something, etc.), you will not loose all of your money and personal belongings.
Another recommendation is to carry your bag across your body and not on just one shoulder where it can be easily pulled from or at the back where a thief can can easy access. Or consider using theft and slash proof bags that cannot be easily stolen such as those from Pacsafe, who makes excellent bags that are slash and theft proof and also can be converted from backpack to handbag and are especially designed for women.
5. Share Your Travel Plans With Family and Friends
Another great safety tip is to share your plans with your loved ones (I'm sure they will want to know anyway!). And just in case anything goes wrong, they will know where you were last/where you're staying, etc. I would recommend sharing with them your tentative plan of what accommodations you're staying in, and when you will be in what town.
6. Be Flexible!
Trips never go as planned, especially solo ones. You never know who you're going to meet, or what's going to change that will make you want to stay somewhere else, visit a new place, or just change your whole itinerary! It's best to have a tentative plan of what you want to do, but just be sure that it can be flexible.
During my solo trip I ended up meeting another travel blogger on the street and we got to talking and decided to hang out and explore together! There was no way I could've planned this, but was glad that my schedule was flexible so we could do that.
7. Start Your Day Early
One of my favorite things to do on my solo trip to Guatemala was wake up early and wander the streets with my morning coffee. In the morning, everywhere is always less crowded and you can enjoy famous sites all to yourself. For example, I woke up at 7am and walked over to the Santa Catalina Arch, I had it almost completely to myself (the day prior I visited at 3pm and couldn't get a single picture without at least 20 people being in the shot).
8. Stay Somewhere With Plenty of Good Reviews
Traveling solo might make you feel more vulnerable in an unfamiliar place. Because os this it is best to ensure you are staying at a place that is what it says it is. To ensure this make sure you do research prior to booking and only stay at a hotel or Airbnb property with multiple positive reviews. These reviews will give you a good idea of what to expect from the host, neighborhood, and if any other tenants might be sharing the property with you.
9. Plan Your First Night Well
At minimum, I would recommend having a place reserved to get some good sleep on the first night of every destination on your trip, and plan to arrive by mid afternoon. It’s important to have the time to find your hotel or hostel in daylight and time to change your accommodation if you determine that this is not the place for you.
10. Avoid Common Scams
There are unfortunately scams everywhere you go. But, by informing yourself of them beforehand you will know what to look out for and avoid! Here are a few universal common scams:
Currency exchangers: Always check the quantity you receive from a currency exchanger and make sure to pay attention to the notes you give so they don’t try to short change you or pretend you gave them a different amount.
Old / ripped notes: If you carry internationally accepted currencies such as USD or EUR make sure the notes are new and have no damage to them, clever money changers may try to give you less for older notes and USD notes of certain years (typically older than 2009) are not accepted across many African countries because of higher risk of forgery.
Pushy guides: It is not uncommon for local guides to offer to take you to “their cousin’s business” or to the business of someone they know and who gives them a commission to bring them tourists. In some countries like India, this can be a real nuisance as your guide will insist over and over and once you enter the store, you will be victim of all sorts of tried and tested sales techniques to make you buy, from guilt tripping you to more dangerous situations where you may not be allowed to leave. In Thailand, it is common for the tuk tuk driver to take you to one such shop, drop you there and leave, pretending that is where you wanted to go. Be firm in your negative, make sure you are dropped where you needed to go before leaving he vehicle.
Don’t take gifts from strangers, even if they appear innocent and harmless, such as flowers or bracelets or twigs, they will use it to ask for money and then a mob of their friends will turn up to scare you and coerce you into paying for the “gift”. If you cant get away because they are holding your hand and not letting you go, this is the time to sound your personal alarm or shout “No!”. They look for easy targets and are unlikely to harm you but the harassment is very unsettling.
(Common scams by Mar Pages, from: https://www.solofemaletravelers.club/solo-female-travel-tips/)
These are just a few solo travel tips I've learned throughout my travels, in particular my recent trip to Guatemala. I LOVE solo travel and think that everyone should go on one at least once in their life. It's safer than you think, more flexible, and so empowering. Comment below if you are interested in reading about more solo travel tips!