Out of all American travelers in 2015, 1.7 billion were lone travelers for pleasure. 459 million traveled alone on business. Out of the more than 73 million Americans who traveled outside the country, nearly 25% traveled abroad alone. Here are some travel tips & tricks for travelers going it solo abroad.
Before You Leave
Get Registered: Register with the U.S. Department of State "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program". Travelers receive updates and alerts about destination countries. It also enables the State Department to be aware of any American in an area that has experienced a disaster, making it possible for you to receive protection and assistance. The program provides information resources to raise traveler awareness about a destination's customs and possible dangers, such as crime trends directed at guests.
Planning: It is often tempting to save a few dimes by taking a red-eye flight. When traveling alone, plan arrival and departure times during the day. Not only is it safer but there will be more taxis, buses, and other public transportation options to choose from. For long stays, renting a car can often be more cost-effective and safer than public transportation. For single travelers, it also means you don't have to worry about being on the street hailing a cab or catching a bus after dark. Call an agency and have a car waiting for you upon your arrival.
Share Itinerary: Make copies of your itinerary including planned excursions and points of interest and share with personal contacts. Periodically check-in with e-mails and texts. Advise contacts of any changes in activities. Share the names of locals you may have met and places you visited and toured. Avoid posting to social media, however, while you are alone in another country. Not only does this make you more vulnerable as a single traveler, it exposes your empty home to would-be thieves who fish for this sort of information.
Stay Connected: Contact your cellphone service provider and make sure that you will remain connected when you reach your destination. Your plan may already include international service. If not, many providers have short-term options for temporary international service. Another option (if you have a smartphone) is using your phone while connected to WiFi while you travel on airplane mode and call/message using web based apps like WhatsApp or Facecbook messenger.
Money Management: Check with your bank and see if your debit card will work at the ATMs featured in the country you are visiting. Many provide international service with exchange rate fees being charged to your bank account. You simply use your card just like you would at home, but receive local currency. This can be a safer option, conducting business at a bank rather than a currency exchange location which would mark you as a solo traveler to any bad guy who might be watching. We discussed using a credit card in while traveling in great detail on a previous blog here. Many banks also offer the option to purchase foreign currency ahead of time which can save travelers money and time.
The Details: Pay all your bills that will be due while you are away or even due immediately upon your return in case you experience delays. Get traveler's insurance. It should be available through your regular insurance provider. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Share Itinerary: Again, share your itinerary of day-to-day activities with hotel staff. Authorize a loved one or friend to receive updates should you be away when they call. Create a response plan with hotel staff and loved ones that is activated should you fail to check-in at a scheduled time.
Document & Cash Protection: Keep with you at all times your: passport, cash and credit cards. It may be tempting to leave your passport at the hotel along with some of your cash. Always have your passport on your person. If you must leave some cash behind, opt for your hotel's safe.
Power Of The Pack: Although you may enjoy the freedom of going it alone, still opt for guided tours. One great thing about being part of a group is that you can still enjoy the element of anonymity, remaining aloof if you prefer. But it gives you the power of the pack for security as you explore the most popular tourist attractions.
Look Like A Local: Blending in is an effective method of thwarting thieves that target tourists. Wear local clothing. Avoid flashy jewelry. Practice local customs. Conceal cameras and common accouterments of the average traveler.
Getting Around: Having your own wheels is one more way for solo travelers to flex their independence. Use an experienced vehicle provider (ahem...cough cough) with a proven reputation. Local car rental agencies are also a great source of information for places of interest, the safest routes, current road conditions and weather patterns to prepare for. They may be able to recommend an app to use on your smart device to help you navigate like a pro...Or you can read some of our travel tech blogs!
For more information on how to travel safely and get the most out of your experience in Europe, please contact us.
*image source e-rainford.com
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