So, you want to travel alone? Maybe you couldn’t get any friends to go with you or you just decided that it would be easier to not have to plan your trip with someone else so you can do all the things you want to do when you want to do them. No matter what your reasons for going solo, you can definitely have just as much fun as if you were with a group or part of a couple. You have no one to hold you back and can feel free to switch up your plans any time you want.
There are endless reasons why traveling alone is awesome, but there is a downside: You have no one to watch out for you if things get sketchy.
Vacationing is fun, but you can’t expect crime to cease to exist just because you’re having a good time. It’s still out there and many destinations are full of thieves that are playing Spot the Tourists and then quickly planning how to rob you blind. I hate to think of this side of travel, but it’s real and something to always be aware of. You don’t want your getaway spoiled by having your passport, credit cards or cash stolen or even worse things to happen to you. That’s a sure way to end up spending the rest of your time there trying to figure out how to get back home. So. Not. Fun. Before we get to how not to get ripped off, let’s look at one of the worst cases of robbery while traveling alone:
Barcelona, Spain has been described as the pickpocketing capital of the world.
With all of its great attractions to tourists – delicious food, cheap drinks and amazing nightlife – it is full of travelers at all times of the year. Fortunately, violent crime is low, but you still need to keep an eye out for thieves and protect your valuables on your person.
Jim went to Barcelona and was aware of pickpocketing problems. He had heard several stories of people being robbed while in the city, so he was very precautious when traveling the city alone. He held on to all his belongings very closely while out in public. One night he decided to go out to a bar with some friends he had just met. He drank much more than he should have and left the bar alone.
On the way back to his room, he was approached by some street walkers. They tried to entice him into taking their services, but as he continued to say no, they were touching his arm and whispering to him. While he was distracted by one, the other was emptying his pockets of all his money. He was able to break away just in time for him to still have his phone and hotel key, so while he was out some pocket money, he was still able to get back to his room and only had to replace a bit of cash.
This is a common problem in Barcelona. Prostitutes look for drunken men and will either rob your person or steal your keys and follow you to your home or hotel. Once you realize your keys are gone you will double back to find where you might have lost them. As soon as you’re out of sight, they call their gang of thieves who come to steal everything you own and are gone before you get back and realize what actually happened.
Not all thieves in Barcelona are so subtle. They often work in groups to distract you and steal anything you have that might be valuable. Some are even brazen enough to snatch things in broad daylight where there are plenty of people to see them do it. And Barcelona isn’t the only place where these things happen. Maybe you’ve even had something unsavory happen to you in the past.
How can you protect yourself when you travel alone?
- Research crime at your destination. You can never know too much about where you’re going. I know the best part about vacationing is discovery, but you don’t want to “discover” that muggers are ten times more likely to attack people walking around after dark when it is happening to you.
- Question anyone you think might be following you. It’s good to be aware of your surroundings, so try not to walk around with your eyes glued to your phone.
- Don’t accept gifts from strangers, especially flowers from pretty ladies.
- Do not accept help from strangers who point out a stain of any kind on your clothing.
- Avoid helping strangers who “accidentally” drop a handful of coins. This may seem rude, but it’s better to seem unkind to someone you don’t know than get duped and walk away without your cash and credit cards.
- Put away your map. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk with your nose in a map crease is just screaming to the world that you are a clueless tourist. Thieves are watching you and maybe trying to think of a way to give you a hand…by stealing all your valuables.
- Hold your bag or wallet as close as possible when on the Metro or other crowded areas. Groups use this opportunity to create a delay that will distract you from thinking about your belongings.
- Stay sober. Bummer, right? But when you drink, your judgment becomes cloudy and you may make decisions that are not great, like trusting someone you just met.
- Keep your money hidden. Don’t be one of those dummies that stands on the street counting your change you just got back in the store or the cash you just got out of the ATM. If you don’t get robbed at that point, you should be surprised.
- Never hang your bag on a chair or leave it on the floor when dining. The same thing goes for jackets with valuables in the pockets.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry, watches or clothing. This only catches the attention of thieves more.
You’ll want to be particularly aware in tourist areas, and it’s not rude to be suspicious of most people while traveling in the city. Pickpockets take advantage of a traveler’s good nature to steal everything they can from them. This is the perfect time to employ any hidden pockets you might have in garments and remember that keeping too much money in your bag or pocket can be dangerous. Don’t forget to keep things you don’t need while out sightseeing either at home or in the hotel safe, including your wedding ring if it is large and expensive looking. The less unassuming you look, the less of a target you’ll be.
Solo Travelers Should Make a Good Back-up Plan
If you are a victim of robbery or other crime, be prepared. Don’t let tragedy make you sadder than it has to. Use a back-up – or several – to keep everything within your reach, even when you lose papers, cameras, your laptop, phone or all your worldly (travel) possessions are stolen. Keeping your whole itinerary online can be helpful, since you can always access it, even if you lose your phone or paper schedule. Using a free service like TripIt allows you to add all your important info, including phone numbers, addresses and confirmation numbers. Make a plan before you book your tickets.
Download the Evernote app to your phone.
It works across all platforms and is basically saved in “the cloud”. This can be used to take notes, “clip” articles online that you might want to read later and keep maps and directions on it. You can access it all on your phone, on your laptop or even online if you need to. This is a good place to keep your copies of your passport and credit cards. Upgrade your service for just $5 per month and be able to password protect your account on all your web-enabled devices. Evernote is great for everything and is a spectacular app, because you can jot things down if you think of something while you’re sitting on the plane, waiting for a movie to start or getting lunch. Pretty much whenever it’s convenient to send a text, you can be making a list or blogging/journaling. So much better than a notepad, too.
A simple back-up plan in case you are a robbery victim is to carry a check with you, which will be helpful while you wait for a new passport or credit card to get to you. Possibly hide it in the lining of your carry-on bag. You can take this check to your local embassy and they will give you money for you to use in the interim.
All of these tips can be used for regular travel as well when you go with your friends or spouse. While they may seem fairly logical, I see people being nonsensical all the time and putting themselves in danger. Don’t be a target. You definitely don’t want to remember your trip only because of the bad experience you had. The more prepared you are, the less chance you will have of something bad happening to you while you are on your solo journey and the more fun you will have.