Safety while travelling solo

A solo traveller [iStockphoto]

While travelling together with a spouse or a family would be the best way to take a vacation for many, it is not always possible. 

Travelling alone, experts say, can be a liberating, inspiring, and confidence-boosting journey. However, the downside of solo travel is that solo travellers can be more vulnerable to scams or crimes. 

“My wife does not like adventure travel, and after waiting for her to change her mind, I decided to hit the road as a solo traveller since this is one thing I was looking forward to after marriage, and adventure, I could not let this slip away because my wife of three years did not like it,” says Jeremy Mbiuki. 

Mbiuki, who has been travelling solo for five years now, says his worst fear when planning for his first trips on his own is the vulnerability to scams, but a few trips later and with expert travel advice, he now is a pro. 

The downside of solo travelling need not hold you down from planning a trip on your own – what it means, Mbiuki says, is that you should take a few extra precautions.

The following solo travel tips will help protect you when you are travelling for adventure. 

When travelling solo, be careful not to let strangers know that, especially if you encounter pushy strangers striking up a conversation with you. “If you feel uncomfortable about someone asking if you are travelling alone, invent an “imaginary” friend or spouse who is “just taking a nap”, or has gone running an errand – anything to indicate that you are not travelling solo,” says Alice Ondiek, a businesswoman who travels across the globe.

Book a room on a higher floor: If the hotel has floors, always request a room on the highest floor. Experts say hotel rooms on the first floor offer an easy second entry point (through the widow), not only for intruders but also for wildlife. For stand-alone accommodation units, book a unit that is closer to the administration and management of the property. 

After checking into your room, take extra precautions by ensuring that there are no intruders. Leave the door open while you quickly and thoroughly check any potential hiding spots like under the bed, washroom, closet, and behind floor-to-ceiling curtains. 

Pack a doorstop: This will help to protect yourself further when staying in a hotel. Some hotel employees have access to key cards (a master key) that will open any room on the property. 

“Sometimes mistakes happen and another guest could be given the key to your room, or the lock to your room might not be functional,” says Alice.

She says she has had incidences of a non-functional key card, while two times she has found another guest “confused” in her room. Alice now packs a doorstop for extra safety.

Travel experts advise sole travellers to pack a doorstop as a second layer of security that they can use to prevent anyone from opening their hotel room door from the outside. The doorstop alarm sounds an alert that lets the management and other guests around you know that someone is trying to get into your room. 

Do not let strangers know where you are staying: While checking in, make sure that the front desk staff do not say your room number out loud, especially in the presence of strangers or other guests. The professional way of doing this is having the receptionist write it on your key card envelope instead. 

Mbiuki advises that when ordering at a hotel bar, or restaurant, or when you want to charge something to your room, you should write your name and room number on the check rather than saying it verbally if others are in earshot. 

And let someone know where you are travelling to in case something goes wrong. Other tips for solo travellers include researching your destinations before travelling, researching safety measures for your travel, being careful with your drinks in public spaces, and paying attention to your surroundings.


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