Traveling alone can be scary, especially when you’re out of your comfort zone and don’t know much about the country you’re visiting. But don’t worry, with a few simple rules applicable to your daily life, you can explore with confidence and be at ease.

So here’s my list of things not to do when traveling abroad solo!

Save it for later!

1. Don’t always be alone

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being alone and having a bit of me time, as we call it. It’s good to be able to dine alone and enjoy it. We don’t always need company to be happy, otherwise I’d never have chosen to travel solo.

But human beings are made to be with people, to share experiences, feelings and laughter…. The more the merrier, in fact. A moment is all the more memorable the more it’s shared.

So, while getting out there may seem like a challenge – at least, it was for me at first – remember that you didn’t come this far to experience only part of your adventure. While you’re at it, go all the way!

2. Don’t leave your belongings unattended

If you still think you’re living in candy land, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re not! As much as I like to believe in the goodness of people (and most people do), there are unfortunately some malicious people out there.

Don’t leave your belongings on the bus when you get off to go to the toilet, keep your valuables with you at all times and place your bag in front of you when you take the metro. That way, thieves will find it harder to steal anything.

Fun fact: when I lived in South Korea, leaving your phone/laptop or even your bag is like a way of showing that a table is already taken. You can also see bank cards on the street that nobody would touch, or packages several days old left on your doorstep. People are just used to it and trust each other a lot, I guess. If only it could be the same everywhere…

3. Don’t carry your passport along with you

Passport in travel solo post
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

I’d say that carrying your passport everywhere you go is mostly a bad idea. First of all, you don’t really need it unless you want to go to a bar/club or need to do some paperwork.

Secondly, in the unfortunate event of your passport being stolen, losing it could get you into serious trouble.
Between calls to the embassy, reporting to the police, replacing the passport, your trip will be largely ruined….

My advice is to keep it in your hotel’s security locker and always carry a copy or photo with you.

4. Don’t show your valuables

I always travel light, whether I’m packing my bag or taking valuables with me. In other words, I tend to pack only jewelry that isn’t synonymous with luxury and wealth, although I don’t really have any anyway.

Showing that you have money is one of the worst things you can do, especially in poor countries where even a gold bracelet is considered a symbol of wealth.

So pay attention to the country you’re traveling to, and avoid being perceived as someone who spends a lot of money.

5. Don’t pack too much

Packing things when traveling solo
Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Packing a suitcase or backpack is always an ordeal. The seasons, the length of the trip, the temperatures, the activities you want to do…, there are a lot of variables to take into account. I’ve already given you a few tips on the essentials to have in your hand luggage if you’re interested > here.

What you don’t want to do is pack too much. Don’t forget that you’ll have to bear the weight of your luggage for the duration of your trip. So it’s best to be careful about what you pack.

I always pack light and buy the rest directly on the spot. There will always be stores and mini-markets where you’re going, so don’t worry.

Pack pants, two T-shirts, a dress and/or skirt for the girls and a nice shirt for the boys, underwear and socks, pyjamas, a jacket (for cooler climates) and a pair of shoes.
I usually pack a week’s worth of clothes for short trips, and between 3 weeks and a month for longer ones.

6. Don’t forget travel insurance

I’ve probably said this several times already, but as it’s a very important point when traveling abroad, I’m going to repeat it once more. Don’t forget to take out travel insurance. I know this represents an extra cost in your budget, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

7. Don’t go out at night without a few safety rules

Traveling solo at night

I’m not saying you should lock yourself in your room after dark – quite the contrary. I love exploring cities at night because the atmosphere is so different from that of the day.
Between the beautiful lights that illuminate the city and the night owls out partying, you sometimes don’t recognize the peaceful, picturesque city of a few hours ago.

However, you should always bear in mind that petty theft and danger increase at night. That’s why I’m going to give you a few tips to help you worry less and enjoy your evening:

  • always check the itinerary to find out where you want to go and how you can get back to your hotel (last bus, metro, etc.)
  • find out about the area you’re planning to go to (is it safe or in a red-light district, for example)
  • try not to take your handbag with you: hide your card and/or money in your bra or shoes, or buy one of those money belts you can wear under your clothes.
  • pay attention to your surroundings, ALWAYS!
  • don’t accept drinks from strangers and don’t get drunk.

8. Don’t let your drink out of your sight

Speaking of going out, if you find yourself in a bar or club, my essential rule is to NEVER leave my drink on a table or in a place where I can’t see it. You never know what might happen, so it’s best to finish your drink first or simply take it out onto the dance floor with you.

9. Don’t always have a clear plan of your travels

Planning is a good way to relax and learn a little more about the country. But if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track adventures, you should probably turn to the locals or your fellow travelers.

And that means being flexible! You’ll find that when you’re traveling, things don’t always work out the way you want them to. Whether you miss your bus or train, or miscalculate the number of nights in your hotel reservation, you’ll have to pull yourself together and find another solution.

You may think at the time that your plans are ruined, but sometimes you’ll be amazed at how an unexpected event can be a pleasant surprise.

It’s also important to be flexible, as you’ll meet many travelers with whom you may want to share your experiences. Stay open-minded and listen to what you really want to do, without focusing too much on what you had originally planned.

10. Don’t put all your money into your trip

What I mean by this is that you should have an emergency fund in case something unforeseeable happens. It could be anything from an accident to buying gifts or simply wanting to extend your trip.

Having more money at your disposal is also reassuring, as you can leave knowing that a safety net is available at all times.

11. Don’t doubt yourself

Question mark when doubting yourself while solo traveling
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

I’m a pro at second-guessing myself, to put it mildly, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts.

Don’t put yourself in danger! If you feel even once that something is strange, or you feel uncomfortable in a situation, try to get out of the way. Once again, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Another thing, this also applies when you think you’re not good enough or brave enough to travel solo to the other side of the world. Please trust yourself, you’re much stronger than you think and you won’t be alone for long. You’ll meet lots of travelers like you, and you’ll soon forget all the hardships you’ve been through to get where you are now.

12. Don’t keep everything to yourself

Sometimes when you’re traveling, you just don’t feel like exploring or even getting out. It can happen, but I can assure you that it’s no big deal once you know how to deal with it.

You can call it homesickness, jet lag or simply tiredness from traveling too long. In any case, my solution is to turn to my family, friends or fellow travelers at my hostel to make me feel better. Conversing and letting off steam are usually what’s needed at this time. Traveling can be very tiring, and a sympathetic ear is often what you need most.

By the way, always share the details of your trip with your loved ones so that they can help you if anything happens.

13. Don’t drink tap water

This is particularly true in some countries, so check in advance whether the water is drinkable or not. And if you have any doubts, ask the locals or tour guides.

I’m sure you don’t want to get sick on your trip, do you? That’s why you should only drink filtered or bottled water. Be careful with food, too, as it’s often prepared with tap water.

And always have diarrhea and stomach medicine on hand, just in case.

14. Don’t hesitate to say NO

No when solo traveling
Photo by Debby Urken on Unsplash

If you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable (a guy hitting on you a little too aggressively, for example), don’t hesitate to make it clear that you’re not interested. If that still doesn’t work, make up a boyfriend or walk on by saying you need to join your friends.

You can also wear a ring on your ring finger to make it look like you’re already married. Men usually give up when they see this.

Other situations may arise: for example, finding yourself in a group of travelers and realizing that your interests don’t match. You don’t need to follow them around, just say so, and if they don’t understand, leave them behind and go back to traveling alone – it’s their loss!

The only thing to remember is never be afraid to say no! It’s always better than having to put up with something you don’t like.

15. Don’t forget to mingle with the locals

I always try to mingle with the locals as much as possible because I want to have a real experience and not just see the tourist side of things.

What’s more, they’re the ones who can give you the best addresses and tips, and help you discover unspoilt or lesser-known places, as well as dishes you never thought you’d taste in your life.

They are also always ready to share their culture and hospitality with you, provided you respect their customs. If you want to have a memorable experience, trust them – you won’t be disappointed!

If you follow these basic rules, you’re sure to have an extraordinary adventure. My final piece of advice is to stay safe and trust your instincts at all times! Have fun exploring the world and discovering yourself!

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