Solo travel safety-Part 1: Is staying safe (and healthy) when you go places by yourself different from traveling with someone else? Answer: Yes.
I’m not a scaredy-cat traveler. And I honestly can’t think of a time when I was really afraid while traveling. But…I’m prudent and watchful. As a solo traveler, I actually have to do a little more work to feel and be safe. More planning on the front end, more awareness when I’m at my destination, more responsibility until I’m back home.
This is not to discourage anyone who’s already feeling a nervous about setting out alone. Au contraire, it’s meant to make you braver because you are smart, confident…and prepared.
Let’s go through each phase of a trip and look at ways to increase solo travel safety.
Do these things first
- Immunizations: Are they up do date? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seeing your health care provider 4-6 weeks before travel; new vaccines require time to build resistance or immunity in your body. TravelSmart Woman says to do it as soon as you know you like to go places. Have you received Hepatitis A and B shots? Have you had a tetanus vaccination within the last ten years? Does your health care provider recommend any extra immunizations? (My physician told me that it’s always a good idea to take the typhoid series.) What special shots are necessary to travel in certain regions or to participate in some activities? Do you need proof of vaccination to enter a country?
- Passport, Step 1: If you don’t have yours yet, finish reading this article and go start the application process. Even if you don’t intend to travel abroad, get one anyway. First, a passport is the absolutely best form of identification you can own. Second, going to friendly places such as Canada, or taking a cruise will require a passport. Third, you might win the lottery and want to take off for Fiji as soon as possible…
- Passport, Step 2: Already have a passport? Good for you! Take it out and make sure you have more than six months to go before it expires and three to six months after the end of your trip. If in doubt or the timeline is tight, you should probably renew. Also, even with a valid passport, there must be a certain number of blank pages to enter/exit, or get a visa stamp. You can be stopped from boarding the plane, and certainly at the border of the country you’re hoping to enter, if you don’t meet the requirements. Learn more about your passport at the U.S. State Department website.
Once you have these important tasks accomplished, you’re already safer. Less chance of becoming ill and you won’t be retained–or refused entry–because of noncompliance with travel laws.
Before buying a ticket or sending a deposit
- Check your destination choices. Sure, there are fearless solo travelers who are willing to go anywhere, anytime. They thumb their noses at danger. I am not one of those people. I intend to keep living so I can keep traveling. You likely feel the same way. So, once again, head to the U.S. State Department website and click on the places that interest you.I’m going to Costa Rica later this year–here’s the page that tells me everything I need to know to enter, exit, and stay legal. For example, I must have a return airline ticket when I enter. I may need to pay a $29 exit tax, depending on my airline. I also have to show that I am financially responsible for the duration of my stay. Crime? Tends to be theft, like most places. In contrast, if you’re considering Syria right now, the current report should give you pause. Use the website to get current information on any destinations that might not be the best choice for a solo traveler.
- Check and recheck any tour you’re considering. See my post about tours for single travelers here. As a solo traveler, you want to be comfortable and safe. Look at the tour company’s policies and itinerary. Read the reviews from other clients. Don’t hesitate to contact the company with questions. Where are the hotels? How safe are the cities or towns? Do I need to take any extra precautions? While excellent tours automatically add another layer of safety with professional guides and well-thought-out itineraries, go ahead and ask. After all, you need peace of mind to enjoy the adventure. There are usually other singles on any tour, as well as friendly couples. After a few times, you’ll set forth without a qualm.
It’s a lot of research and footwork on the front-end. But already, you know that the foundation is laid. After this? The fun part! Next up? Solo Travel Safety-Part 2! When the actual trip takes shape!