In my life, the one thing I am most proud of is being a solo female traveller. Not everyone is brave enough to do this and I’m glad I’m not one of those. If you think I’m a fearless person, ok, you are right, I am a fearless person. But, maybe your definition of fearless is inaccurate. Fearless doesn’t mean I’m not afraid at all. It means I’m afraid but I do it anyway. When I started travelling in 2016, I’d never travelled solo, let alone, left Malaysia. I chose to do it despite all the negativity around – “It’s not safe” they said. Well, I’m glad I did. Since then, travelling is crucial and the best part of my life. It changed my life completely, my mindset, and the way I see things and life.
To my fellow woman who’s planning to travel solo, here are my safety tips for you ;
Research the place.
If you’re a solo female traveller, it’s important to prioritize your safety. One of the best ways to stay safe is to arm yourself with knowledge. As they say, knowledge is power. Before you travel to a new place, take some time to do your research. Google as much as you can about the place, including the people, the culture, the religion, transportation options, the local currency, and the crime situation. By learning about these things, you’ll be better prepared to navigate your surroundings and avoid potential dangers.
It’s also a good idea to learn some basic phrases in the local language. This will not only help you communicate with locals but also show that you respect their culture and are making an effort to connect with them. Additionally, before booking any accommodation, make sure to check the location on Google Street View to get an idea of the surroundings. Read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor to ensure you’re booking a safe and reliable place to stay.
If you’re looking for social interactions with other solo travellers, consider booking a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels are a great place to meet other like-minded individuals, make new friends, and exchange travel tips and stories. But, always be mindful of your personal belongings and don’t let your guard down just because you’re in a social environment.
Remember, solo travel can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience, but it’s important to stay safe and prepared. By following these tips and using your common sense, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your adventure to the fullest.
Print all of your itinerary and documents.
Yeah, I know. Why would you print it if you already have it downloaded on your phone? Listen, no matter how unimportant you think it is, just print it and bring it with you. Save the itinerary or any travel documents as a favourite in your email too (just in case you lose your phone, you can always recover it from your email). Give a copy of your itinerary to someone you trust before you travel. During the immigration process at the counter, they may randomly select a person and ask for their itinerary. It’s much easier to show them if you have a printed copy. I also bring a copy of my passport. I usually leave my passport in my hotel room and only bring the copy with me when I go exploring the place.
Never walk while looking at your phone.
When travelling alone, you need to be vigilant. If you look at your phone while walking, you will be unaware of your surrounding. Your safety depends on you. Give careful attention to a particular problem or situation and concentrate on noticing any danger or trouble that there might be. If you must use your phone while walking, stop somewhere safe. Do not give more attention to your phone than to your safety in any way.
Always hold an object in hand.
Any small objects such as keys, a pen or a pencil can be used as a weapon to protect yourself if someone tries to harm you. They can at least cause some pain, distract the attacker so you can escape, or even temporarily incapacitate them. If you know the basics of self-defence, then that’s great, but many of us don’t. If you have pepper spray, carry it with you for added protection. One spray in the eyes can incapacitate an attacker quickly. If you don’t have pepper spray, consider putting liquid hand sanitiser in a small bottle and using it as a makeshift spray.
Never attract attention.
Leave your expensive jewellery and accessories at home such as a gold necklace especially if you are travelling to the 3rd world country. You also don’t need to bring your revealing clothes with you or any fancy clothing that can attract attention. Stay low-key. Just a simple shirt and pants would be enough. Can bring a couple of nice clothes for any special occasion such as a dinner date, because, well…..we never know!
Never give your travel details to strangers.
Do not tell your taxi drivers or any friendly locals that you are travelling alone. You do not know these people. It’s their country and they know more about the place better than you do. If you shared and they have bad intentions towards you, then, you fu*ked up. Do not in any way share your hotel information, your itinerary or anything related to your trip. If they ask, just tell them you are travelling with your partner, husband, family, or friends; anything that can mislead them. If you are single, wear a ring. It will make people think you are married.
Trust your gut instinct or intuition.
Trusting your gut means following the physical feelings your body gives you. There’s no need to think it over or get another opinion—you just know. Listening to your intuition helps you avoid unhealthy situations. It is the ultimate act of trusting yourself. As an example, there’s a guy waiting for an elevator with you, but there’s something about that guy that makes you feel very uncomfortable. Your gut tells you to not enter the elevator with him. Listen to it. I hope by this example, you understand what I mean because you will be in a lot of situations that require you to listen to your gut.
Make friends with locals and fellow travellers.
I highly recommend talking to locals when you’re travelling alone. The elderly, in particular, are often very nice and welcoming. If you’re lucky enough to meet a good local, they may even help you with hospitality and guide you during your trip. However, as I mentioned earlier, don’t share too many details of your trip until you’re sure you can trust them. The same goes for other travelers you meet on your trip. I enjoy travelling alone, but it’s usually more fun when I explore with others. We often end up looking out for each other.
Spend some money for the sake of your safety.
Do not compromise your safety just to save some money. If taking a taxi or any other transportations is much safer, do it. Anything that is related to your safety, never think twice. One more thing, travel insurance is very important. I’ve met plenty of Malaysians who travel without travel insurance. They take it lightly. It’s stupid. If you can’t afford to buy travel insurance, then, you can’t afford to travel. Simple as that.
Book your trip in advance with a tour guide.
Book a tour guide to avoid any hassle especially when you travel alone for the first time. They will arrange transportation and the trip for you. You will be less afraid bcoz the guide will be with you all the time. You will feel safe. When I went to Bali, I booked with Pak Yanto and the trip was amazing. Bali now is like my 2nd home because I already know the place quite well, especially now Pak Yanto is like my own family. If you can’t find a tour guide before you go, do not worry. Most hotels will help you with that. You just need to ask the receptionist. I did the same when I was in Vietnam. My hotel arranged all the tours for me.
Do not bring all the money with you.
Leave some in your hotel room at a different spot in your luggage. You can hide it in socks, in between shirts, and in bottles; anywhere that you could think of. If you lose the money that you take with you, at least you don’t lose all of it. If someone tries to rob you, at least you don’t put all the money in the same spot. Only you know where you hide it.
Do not take any bags from anyone, especially at the airport.
You never know what’s inside a bag. It could contain drugs, weapons, or even bombs. If someone asks you to look after their bag or hold it for them, or if they want you to drop it off at a counter, don’t be too quick to agree. As my sister-in-law recently said,
‘these days you have to be cautious and think about the worst-case scenario’.
Protect yourself and be smart.