How To Feel More Secure When You're Traveling Alone

With many parts of the world reopening borders recently, it's time to blow the cobwebs and kick your travel plans into full gear. For those who swear by the safety and convenience of traveling with a group of friends, you know how hard it can be to align your schedule with others and get everyone to commit to the same itinerary. From booking flight tickets to making accommodation arrangements, there's pressure in being in it together. Traveling with the people you know might deprive you of the freedom to enjoy the benefits that traveling brings, per Diversity Abroad. For instance, instead of engaging with the local community and making new friends, you spend more time with the rest of your travel group. And there will be moments when you argue with each other about various topics. Therefore, to make the most out of traveling, which is to build more connections and learn new things, why not travel alone? 

If you've always been tempted to embark on an adventure on your own, you're not alone. Solo travel has been trending since 2016 and is still on the rise. According to a 2021 Solo Traveler poll, 77% of participants under 55 claim they prefer to tour the world independently and don't want to wait for others. Even though there's security in numbers, don't let that deter you from embarking on a new adventure all by yourself. Here are some pointers on how to travel alone with confidence.

Lay out a budget and buy travel insurance

The key to enjoying safe and stress-free solo travel is to know how much money you can splash out on a trip. Then, pick one or several countries you'd like to visit that allows you to spend within your means. Your travel budget should be as realistic as possible. For instance, you should budget more money for lodging and dining when in Switzerland compared to Thailand or Indonesia. BudgetBakers points out that the major expense incurred during travel is transportation. How much you spend on transportation depends on the distance between where you depart from and where you're heading.

If you live in the U.K and plan to journey around Europe, you can travel between European countries by train, which is far more convenient and affordable than air travel. But if you're from Europe and you plan to visit Asia, you'd better save a decent amount of money for round-trip flight tickets, and depending on your nationality, you might need to apply for a visa and pay a fee. To be extra confident, buy travel insurance. Designed to cushion against risks such as medical expenses overseas and flight cancellation, travel insurance can reimburse you for some major costs deemed as covered reasons, Nationwide notes. Basically, do your homework, look at various options, and arrive at a ballpark figure for every aspect of your trip.

Share your plan with your friends and family

Have you watched "Get Out"? Or any movies where the protagonist has a close shave with danger in the middle of nowhere, nobody can hear them screaming, and it's the friend with whom they casually share their holiday plan that comes to their rescue? While these scenarios may be a figment of imagination, they can get more real than we give them credit for. AARP advises to ensure your safety and keep your family and friends in the loop with your travel itinerary, where you stay, who you're seeing, and when you're expected to be back in the country. 

Once you're in a foreign land, keep your hotel staff apprised of where you're going and when you'll be back before embarking on any outing alone. If you're a U.S citizen, you can join The Smart Traveller Enrollment Program, a free service that helps you enroll your trip with the nearest U.S embassy. It keeps you informed about the security circumstances in the nation you're visiting and connects you with your family and friends should trouble arise. It's also important to know the nationwide emergency number of the place you're visiting to request assistance in case of a crisis. For example, 119 is the emergency number in Japan, and that in China is 110. 

Learn essential phrases in the local language

When you're in a foreign land, navigating the day-to-day aspects of the local culture is easier, from exchanging currency to bargaining at a local market. You don't have to speak the language fluently, but some basic phrases and essential words can make you come across as less inexperienced and more cultured. If you're traveling to multiple countries in one trip, you don't need to study all of the local languages of these countries but only the bare minimum. 

According to Bold Tourist, you need to master four essential phrases: saying thank you, please, pardon me, and how to greet. Knowing how to count and read street signs will also stand you in good stead when you're out and about. Greeting a person in their mother tongue is the easiest way to strike up a conversation and get support where needed. Speaking a local language, whether it's small talk with a taxi driver or a person sitting next to you on the bus, might help you to establish rapport with people who can potentially become your best friends or business partners, FluentU points out.

Bring only what's necessary

The more checked baggage you have, the more expensive your transportation will be and the higher the risk of your luggage going missing. Too many bags can be a burden if you plan to travel between different cities and countries. Therefore, bring only what you can't do without or those that can help you save costs. For example, a reusable water bottle deserves a spot in your suitcase because it keeps you hydrated and spares you the costs of purchasing water bottles at your destination. For solo travelers who use their phones often, a universal plug adapter, a portable power bank, and a travel router are absolute must-haves. Before packing clothes, factor in the length of your trip, the weather in the destination country, and the kind of clothing you need. 

According to SmarterTravel, minimalists running tight on space should only pack neutral-colored clothing because they are versatile and easy to mix and match. To optimize your luggage space, set a limit on the sets of tops, shorts, and underwear you'd like to bring with you. The best approach to prevent overpacking, The New York Times, is to choose a hard-sided suitcase that is not well over 22 inches tall and has a solid shell so you can't fit in any additional. Also, keep the items you need to carry out your day-to-day business, such as your phone, your purse, and a copy of your passport, in a separate, secure bag. 

Don't throw caution to the wind

Grifters easily mark tourists because they are unfamiliar with local areas and spoken language. To avoid making yourself a target, try not to dress like a tourist, avoid wearing anything too expensive, circumvent less-traveled roads when night falls, and try not to blurt out details about your travel plans with strangers, GOV.UK warns. Don't also stop walking when you spot a suspicious-looking stranger following you while you're on foot. Keep your composure, be extra observant, buzz into a crowded place like a restaurant, or hop on a bus whenever possible. When you're in a cab and sense that something is off, constantly ask the driver for confirmation while using the Google Maps app for cross-checking. Even if you're unsure the cab driver is a scammer, deter potential scamming attempts by pretending to call a friend on the phone. 

If worst comes to worst, try to get out of the cab and run to the nearest well-lit gas station or convenience store. When you go drinking after dark, never get drunk or leave your drinks unattended to avoid drug-induced accidents. Traveling alone will challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and discover more about the world and yourself. However, every type of travel has its not-so-good side, and it's never wise to venture into the unknown unprepared. Plan your trip with the abovementioned precautions to ensure a thrilling and safe journey.