Hi Frugalistas! One of my lovely readers, Linda, recently contacted me about hotels in Paris that would be safe for her as a solo female traveller. Now, most of the time I travel in Europe I also travel alone. It therefore got me thinking about the things I do to make sure I keep myself safe when I’m travelling solo. Travelling safely is an important travel skill to master, so here are my top tips for safe and confident solo travel:
1. Pack light
I know, I say this all the time, but packing light is travelling safe. If you pack lightly you have less stuff to worry about. On the train, it is easier to keep track of your luggage. Not being weighed down by heavy bags and backpacks also makes you less of a target for thieves or pickpockets.
I’m not an obsessively neat person, but when I am traveling I am meticulous in always packing my suitcase with everything in exactly the same place, and packing my handbag exactly the same. I can then see at a glance if I’ve forgotten anything, or if anything is missing.
2. Leave your precious jewels at home
Whether it’s your priceless tiara (come now, I know you’ve got one!) or just something of sentimental value, leave any jewelery you really don’t need that is of any value at home. If you love your bling go for great chunky costume pieces that impress but don’t tempt……
Personally, I stick to just my wedding band and a pair of classic earrings for every day, with some classy costume pieces to dress up my outfits.
Depending on where you are traveling, single girls may find a cheap wedding band a good investment as a security against unwanted male attention.
3. Choosing a hotel
I like to choose a hotel that has 24hr reception. When it comes to location in large cities I like to choose a central neighbourhood that is well to do and has a good restaurant/cafe scene, so I’ve got plenty of food options. That also means that there will be other people around eating out. I also like to choose an area with good public transport links, so if I am coming back in the dark I don’t have far to walk.
I avoid areas near the railway station (as a general principle, they can be less safe) or night club districts (apart from anything else they tend to be noisy!)
4. Using public transport
At the train station, keep around other people, and never, ever leave anything unattended. That means taking your luggage into the loo cubicle (another reason to travel light!) Get into carriages with other people.
During quiet travel times, like at night or early mornings (and weekends in some places) use bigger train stations in preference to small ones. Train stations that are connections for multiple lines are often a good choice as there are more people moving through them.
At night, buses can be a good option because you’ve got the driver, and many of them will have CCTV cameras etc as an extra security measure.
If you are catching public transport at night study your route in advance so you know exactly where you going and when to get off. Work out the shortest possible route, and try hard not to check your map, or the train/bus route. You will look more confident.
If you are anxious, or don’t feel safe, take a taxi. Keeping yourself self and secure is always money well spent.
5. Getting out and about
Be aware of local tourist scams. Most guide books, and many blogs will mention the common ones. I have personally experienced the “ring scam” in Paris about 4 times, so these things are not urban myths. If you are worried or unsure, ask at your hotel or hostel for specific things to keep an eye out for.
Watch your personal belongings extra carefully around large crowds, popular tourist sites, airports and train stations. That is where scammers and pick pockets often congregate.
Pay particular attention when out at night. I prefer to eat locally at night so I don’t need to catch public transport, and so am I walking in familiar territory if it’s dark. If you are nervous about going out alone at night, eat your main meal at lunch, then just take a sandwich or something light back to your room for dinner. Or eat dinner early – although in Europe that will cut down your options.
Look like you belong. Not always easy depending on your colouring and where you are travelling. But look confident, don’t dress like a tourist (no bumbags/fanny packs or security pouches round your neck for example) and try not to study your guidebook or map in a prominent position where you will be easily seen.
6. Keep yourself nice
LImit your alcohol. Have a drink (or even two or three) but make sure you limit yourself so you can keep your wits intact, and you don’t look or behave like you’ve had a bit too much. Naturally, normal rules about taking care in accepting drinks from strangers, watching your glass etc apply.
Don’t go off with strange men unless you are prepared to manage the consequences. Yes, just like Mother told you. She was/is right. We all love to talk to locals when we travel. Some of those locals may be men. We may even want to meet men when we travel. That’s normal. But do take care in letting people know where you are staying (vague is better with someone you’ve just met), accepting rides etc. Remember when you’re on your own in a strange town, you’ve got no wing man to give you “that look” to protect you.
By following these simple guidelines I travel solo safely and confidently. I would love to hear from other solo women travellers about what works well for you, so we can share and all learn to do this important travel skill better every time we travel.
Related post: When to save and when to splurge