Staff Corner: From the remote desks of Cara, Michelle, Anna, Sheila and Gretchen
Current location: Ireland and the USA
The ladies of the house have decided to take over the Learn blog this week and offer their tips for traveling solo! Do you have any you can add?
As we’re all daydreaming about the days when we can travel again, it’s important to remember that, as women, sometimes we need to be that bit more cautious and take a bit of a different type of care to keep ourselves safe, especially when we’re travelling solo.
With that in mind, please enjoy the below tips (and photos!) from each of our Learn Ladies.
Solo Traveller Tips from Cara
- As a gal, I have always felt I had to be more aware of my surroundings – so be observant, my advice, don’t talk to strangers (or at least creepy strangers) and keep your eyes wide open. Follow that gut of yours, because more often than not, it’s correct.
- Generally I don’t go out at night by myself, unless I’m in a very busy location, the area is well-lit and my accommodation is super close by or I can get a taxi or public transport easily.
- Technology is sooooo much better than when I started to travel. Buying an international calling card, then standing in the longest line ever to call home on the one and only payphone in town was the norm back then. Now I make sure I have an unlocked phone on me when I travel so I can use a local SIM card and stay connected. Depending on where I’m flying into, I will get a SIM card at the airport, even if it costs a little more, so I have some form of communication from the start. It’s helpful not just for contacting folks, but having local data makes travel so much easier with translation apps, directions and the ability to research your next activity. If I can’t get a SIM right away, I’ll have Google maps downloaded offline, and a few other handy apps in case I get stuck.
- I always tell someone where I’m going. If I have a local number, I use WhatsApp a lot for calling, texting and video calls. It’s free if you’ve not heard of it. I can share my location through WhatsApp on my phone, so it’s handy if I feel it’s necessary.
- I always have the first night or two planned when I’m by myself. I like to know or have an idea of the transport options prior to arrival, and how to get to my accommodation.
- Depending on my location, I do wear a ring on the wedding finger of that country (did you know that different countries can wear their ring on different fingers?). It doesn’t always work as a deterrent, but I have found it helps. I actually have a travel band for my wedding ring that I wear and I wouldn’t be devastated if something happened to it.
- If I travel to a country where I don’t speak the language, I try to learn a few simple words or phrases, or have them written out so I can point to them if needed. You can also download translation apps offline now.
- I always have a backup for battery power for my mobile phone and make sure it’s always charged.
Solo Traveller Tips from Michelle
In addition to Cara’s excellent tips above, I also do the following:
- Use a handbag with a strap that can go across your body; muggers won’t try as hard for those as it’s physically attached to you.
- Try to work out your transport and walking routes in advance to keep from having to look down at a map or your phone – a surefire sign that you’re not from the area. I walk with the air of being large and in charge, so people think I know where I’m going (even if I’m not so confident on the inside).
- Don’t put your earphones in when walking in an unfamiliar area, especially at night. You need your full senses – plus then you’re soaking in more culture that what you’re listening to on your phone/mp3!
- Where legal, carry a pocket knife or multifunctional tool on your person. This will come in handy for opening things, to use as a makeshift food utensil, holding something in place, etc. I was gifted one at the end of a long hiking trip, and the guy who gave it to me (an ex-military grandad) told me to keep it and use it so I only need to rely on myself.
- Echoing Cara, don’t bring any expensive jewellery, as it makes you a target, and you’d be devastated if it were lost/stolen/broken.
Pocket knives serve a multitude of uses, not least to help prepare lunch!
Self service laundry facilities help keep your packing to a minimum.
Solo Traveller Tips from Sheila
- Pack light. I always pack neutral colors so it’s easy to mix and match all the clothes in my bag. One pair of black pants will go with four tops that are neutral color as well. That’s four outfits there! Leave your tie dye pants at home! You’ll regret seeing those in ALL your pictures after the trip. Believe me! Plus packing extra light means more room for gifts you can buy for others and yourself!
- Learn the basics of the local language. I find that having the basic words in the local language for basic needs, directions and how to ask for help potentially helps with not getting ripped off.
- Trust your gut. Always choose safety over being polite. It might be hard to feel as if you’re coming across as rude or feel like you are overreacting, but if something isn’t right, speak up or leave an uncomfortable situation as soon as possible.
- Bring a sarong or a thin scarf. A light scarf can be multi functional when traveling in a hot or modest country. I use my sarong to cover my eyes while I am sleeping on an airplane or train, as a beach or picnic blanket, a cover-up after swimming, to keep me warm during chilly evenings and to cover my shoulders and chest while visiting a religious site.
- Be open to meeting new people. Be the traveller that you want to meet. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, but of course, safety is first.
Black pants go with a multitude of things.
Scarves come in handy in every type of situation.
Solo Traveller Tips from Anna
- Keep your documents close to your body – not in a backpack, which can be easily opened without you even noticing! Ideally, keep additional documents that can prove your identity in a different safe place.
- Try to not carry cash, use top-up cards if possible and never keep your PIN next to your card!
- Stay in between people. When you have to wait a couple of hours for your next train or bus, don’t isolate yourself. Keep moving and try to be close to other travellers.
- Never accept any freebies or kind offers from strangers.
- Stay in touch with your friends and family. Make a plan of your journey before you go and share with your loved ones. Set up a security password or phrase, something that would raise an immediate alarm once you use it.
Solo Traveller Tips from Gretchen
- Keep all your belongings organised so that you don’t panic and think that you’ve lost something, when in reality it’s just in a different pocket of your backpack. I love these bags to help save room and stay organised.
- Always keep an extra plastic bag with you so that you can keep clothes that may have gotten muddy or wet separate from your other belongings.
- Keep an open mind when you meet other solo travellers; they may be going similar places as you and could become new friends!
- Make sure to download everything that you may need (maps, tickets, translators) to your phone when you have access to WiFi so that you can use them without it.