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Solo Travel Safety Tips from an Experienced Femme Solo Traveler


the New York City skyline viewed from the Staten Island Ferry

The number one question I get about traveling solo is how I manage to do it safely. Unfortunately, it’s a valid question. There are a lot of ways in which the world at large is patently unsafe for people like me (femme-presenting, gender nonconforming, etc.) However, throughout all of my solo traveling (24 trips and counting), I have never had a major safety incident. You can be every bit as safe on the road as you are at home. Here’s all the solo travel safety tips that I use on every adventure.


Tip #1 - Research. Research, Research


This is the first and biggest factor in keeping yourself safe in your travels. Research your destination before you go.


Do a quick google search to see if there are any active travel advisories for the area you want to visit.


Find someone who has been there (like a friend, a colleague, or a travel blogger) and see what they have to say about the safety of the area and their comfort level during their visit.


If you feel the need, do some research on what kind of laws or protections are in place for any protected groups you identify with. As a queer traveler, I double check any foreign nations I want to visit to make sure homosexuality isn't illegal there. If I'm visiting a red state, I make sure they don't have active laws against gender presentation. (Lookin' at you Tennessee and Florida...)


If you’re visiting a large city, do a little research on where the dodgy neighborhoods might be so that you can avoid them. Do another quick search for common scams in the area you’re visiting so you can recognize and avoid them.


All this research is easy and will probably take you less than an hour. And you'll get a lot of peace of mind out of it. Most places are actually far safer than the news makes them out to be.


#2 - Google Street View


As a follow up to research, another check I like to do is to check out the Google Street View around areas I think I’ll frequent, and especially around my hotel. Walking around the neighborhood, even if it’s a virtual walk, will help you catch potential red flags before you book your stay there. Five stars highly recommend.


Downtown Seattle viewed from the Space Needle

#3 - Communicate


Yes, this is a solo trip and you're galivanting off into the world on your own, but please please please tell someone where you’re going and when you'll be back


When I travel solo, I make sure to a) stay active on social media, and b) keep in contact with my siblings and/or a few friends back home. This way, if these folks haven’t heard from me in a while, they can reach out to me to make sure I’m ok. Or if I’ve gone radio silent, they can call in local assistance on my behalf.


Make sure you have these people on your team anytime you travel solo. Hopefully you’ll never need them, but it’s good to have them on deck just in case.


#4 - Have Backups for Important Items


Getting lost, misplacing items, and pickpockets are all unfortunate facts of life. But with a little planning, you can avoid these issues entirely, or at least have backup plans to minimize the damage.


Don’t keep all your cash/cards in one place. That way if your wallet does get snagged, you’re not stranded with no funds. For the same reason, keep your passport in the hotel safe, not in your bag.


Make a digital copy of your passport or ID, as well as any other important documents, and save them to the cloud so you can access them from anywhere if your physical documents go missing.


Keep a phone charger in your bag. There’s nothing worse than getting lost in a foreign city with no map, or realizing that you need to lock your credit card and not having enough battery power to do it. Carry a charger so you can walk into any old coffee shop to plug in your phone and use their wifi to get the job done.


Wear a crossbody bag with a zipper, and keep your hand on it in high-traffic areas. Never put your wallet or phone in your back pocket. Make life hard for the pickpockets, and they’ll go pick on an easier target.


a sazerac on a table on a balcony in New Orleans

#5 - Know Your Limits


Staying alert is a big part of staying safe, so know your limits. Know how much activity you can handle without exhausting yourself. Know how much alcohol you can consume and still keep a clear head. Know how other substances you might enjoy affect you (and check to make sure they’re legal at your destination!) I have a strict one-drink-per-sitting rule when I travel solo to make sure my head stays clear enough to keep myself safe on the walk back to the hotel.




#6 - Be a Jerk if you Have To


So many people, women and femme-presenting types especially, have been conditioned to be friendly and to not make waves. This is bullshit. If you run into someone who’s making you uncomfortable, leave. If it’s unsafe to leave, grab an employee and make a scene. If someone is badgering you with questions, lie and tell them you’re on a business trip and meeting your friends or your partner in a few minutes. Your safety is more important than anyone else’s feelings.


#7 - Spend that Extra Money if you Have To


I’m a budget-minded traveler, but walking through a neighborhood that makes you feel unsafe instead of taking a cab is not worth the risk. Better to be out the cab fare than to get harassed on the street. Better to buy the expensive drink in the well lit bar than continue walking if you suspect you’re being followed. Let yourself take care of yourself no matter the cost.


a solo traveler in front of Broadway billboards in Times Square

#8 - The Top Solo Travel Safety Tip: Trust Your Gut


The same instincts that keep you safe at home can absolutely keep you safe on the road. You have to turn up your awareness a little when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings, but the gut feelings are the same. If an area feels off, leave. If a person is making you uncomfortable, ignore them and escape when you can.



A Personal Solo Travel Safety Story


In my actual solo-travel-filled life, the closest I’ve ever come to a safety incident while traveling was in Amsterdam. I realized I was being followed on my way out of the town center. Was it nerve wracking? Of course. But (a) I’m a city-dweller and (b) I already had a strategy for this kind of situation: I found a restaurant and stepped inside. I took a seat at the bar where the lighting was good, ordered a drink, and watched to see if my tail would appear. He didn’t. (And that bar turned into one the best meals I had on the entire trip!)


That was all it took to keep myself safe. Having a strategy prepared ahead of time meant I didn’t have to scramble for a solution in the moment. It made solving the situation easy.


an Amsterdam canal with a row of brown and white houses

Is it scary to think about safety incidents while traveling solo? Of course it is. But with a little research and prep, these incidents become easily solvable. And remember my stats? Twenty-four trips and no major incidents. Only one minor one of note. It’s good to be prepared, but preparation is 90% of the battle. Research, prepare, and trust your gut, and your experience will be amazing.


Ready to travel solo? If not, what are your reservations about it? And while you're at it, read this guide on How to Make your First Solo Trip Less Scary.


Need a packing list to help you keep luggage light on your solo trip? Want more Arts and Adventures? Subscribe today and you'll receive a FREE Packing Light List: the ultimate guide to packing everything you need and nothing you don't!



Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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