Life

The Essential Rules For Solo Travel


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Solo travel can be a liberatingeven life-changing – experience, but as I’ve learned (often the hard way) through my years as a globetrotting travel writer, there’s definitely an art to it.

This month, Lonely Planet published my guide: The Solo Travel Handbook. I’ve loaded the book up with all the best tips and tricks I know for enjoying life on the road all on your own.

Here are eight rules to for the solo vagabond to live by:

Ensure you have back-up access to your travel funds and documents

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Being stranded in a foreign country without any cash (or your ID) can be a terrifyingly isolating experience. Take measures to ensure you can access your funds and documents if your wallet is lost or stolen. Email yourself copies of all important documents before you leave home, and keep an additional bank card (ideally for a different account) and a bit of emergency cash stashed in a sock or a secret compartment of your luggage.

Stay healthy

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There are few worse travel experiences than being holed up alone in your accommodation, too weak to venture out for food or medication. While food poisoning and other common travel illnesses can strike even the most diligent travelers, you can help to avoid them by practicing good personal hygiene, being careful where (and what) you eat and drink, and taking the proper precautions in destinations where mosquito-borne diseases like malaria are present.

Pack like a pro

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Nobody will be around to help you with your luggage when you travel solo, so pack thoughtfully. Pack light to boost your mobility, leave non-essential valuables at home to avoid attracting thieves, and research useful travel gadgets and mobile apps for the destination. An unlocked mobile phone is an essential safety tool for solo travelers, while a good book can be a welcome distraction when dining alone or waiting for transport.

Always tell someone where you’re going

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Family and friends at home can’t help you in a bind if they don’t know where you are. When traveling solo, it’s more important than ever to register your whereabouts with your country’s relevant government office. Better yet, arrange to contact someone at home on set days or intervals, so if you don’t check in, they can put the wheels into motion to ensure you’re safe.

‘Checking in’ on social media can also help people at home track you, but be mindful that strangers can also track your whereabouts if your profile is public.

Watch your drinks

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As a solo traveler, your personal safety is your responsibility alone. Thus going out drinking solo (or walking home alone after going out drinking with new friends) can make you particularly vulnerable. Lower the risk of having your drink spiked by buying your own beverages (and keeping an eye on them) when you do imbibe, and be aware of common scams, such as agreeing to buy a drink for a friendly woman at a bar, only to be presented with a hefty bill (and threats of violence if you don’t pay up).

Always know where you’re going (or at least look like it)

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As fun as it is to explore new places, having a decent knowledge of the destination before you head out can both help you stay safe and avoid getting ripped off. Before you depart, research how to get to your accommodation upon arrival (and how much it should cost), and ask at your hotel if there are any places you should avoid as a solo traveler before venturing out. Even when you don’t know where you’re going, walk with a sense of purpose; tourists who appear lost are easy targets.

Have a ‘fake ID’ up your sleeve

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In situations where you feel uncomfortable, using a fake identity (or inventing a husband or wife ‘who is on his/her way here’) can help to make you appear less vulnerable. Trotting out a fake name, profession, and phone number with ease can also help to throw off a potential scammer or predator.

Be wary of revealing the details of your travel accommodation to complete strangers.

Keep your heart open

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While it’s important to be ultra-aware of your personal safety as a solo traveler, don’t close yourself off to interactions with locals and other travelers. Rather than ask for a table for one, sit at the bar and chat to the chef or bartender. Consider staying in hostels, where you’re bound to meet other solo travelers. Group tours and local meet-ups also offer a chance to meet like-minded souls, and maybe even form lifelong friendships.

See you out on the road!

Sarah Reid is the author of The Solo Travel Handbook, available now from bookstores and at LonelyPlanet.com; $17.99.

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