Women getting on train with suitcase.
In recent years, solo travel has been on the rise and received a boost from the pandemic. A trend report released by American Express Travel revealed that 76 percent of millennials and Gen Z plan to take a solo trip in 2024.
8 safety tips for solo travelers from global education expert
Jun 26, 2024, by Emma Bartlett

Cindi Lewis is no stranger to pickpockets. She recalls that when she was a study abroad student in Paris, a man had unzipped her backpack with the intention of stealing from her.

Lewis, who serves as Bryant’s executive director of global education, says the pickpocket was not successful but, either way, the joke was on him: “I only had two books and a notebook in there!” she says.

Many travelers have encountered similar situations. Having traveled far and wide, Lewis shares her worldly expertise with the university’s study abroad students as they step into new cultural environments that foster personal growth.

Today, Lewis says, she travels solo 90 percent of the time.

In recent years, solo travel has been on the rise and received a boost from the pandemic. Overseas Adventure Travel shared with Forbes that, back in 2017, 27 percent of its travelers were solos while, today, that number has risen to 50 percent. Additionally, a trend report released by American Express Travel revealed that 76 percent of millennials and Gen Z plan to take a solo trip in 2024.

Below, Lewis provides eight safety tips for unaccompanied explorers:


Before you leave…

1. Make copies of important documents

Before your trip’s departure, make copies of credit and debit cards to keep with someone you trust. If one gets lost or stolen, your chosen confidante has the necessary information to cancel the affected card.

Additionally, keep a copy of your passport tucked in your luggage, leave a copy with someone back home, and have a picture of it on your phone. Lewis notes that showing officials a copy of your passport will assist in getting the document replaced at a consulate.

2. Purchase the right daily bag

On daily excursions, you’ll likely be carrying money, your passport, and other important items. To ensure maximum protection, invest in an under-the-shirt pouch or over-the-shoulder bag.

“I personally use over-the-shoulder bags and like the ones that have a flap to cover the zipper,” says Lewis.

Lewis suggests avoiding backpacks since you can't see what’s going on behind you. She says those who choose to carry a backpack should keep it in front of them as often as possible.

3. Follow customer reviews

When Lewis is deciding on a place to travel, Google is her best friend for locating accommodations and determining areas to avoid.

“I head right to customer reviews, which usually talk about what the hotel and surrounding neighborhoods are like,” Lewis says.

She recommends using the same research principles when considering youth hostels and Airbnbs. Travelers should not stay at an Airbnb with zero reviews, and any Airbnb under consideration should have a variety of reviews and feedback about the location and hosts.

RELATED ARTICLE: From tourist to traveler: Use these 5 tips to enrich your vacation abroad


On your trip…

4. Stay in communication

While some solo travelers may provide their loved ones with detailed day-by-day itineraries, some thrill seekers may choose a more free-spirited path and leave behind a general list of to-dos.

No matter how much of your itinerary you choose to plan and share, be sure to stay in communication with people back home through apps such as GroupMe, FaceTime, or WhatsApp. Lewis suggests individuals consider renting hotspots, buying an electronic SIM card, or purchasing a data plan for international travel.

5. Be sly with cash

One of the biggest mistakes tourists make is traveling around with stacks of local currency. Lewis says people will often visit ATMs to exchange large amounts of American dollars for another currency. Avoid pulling out large wads of cash when paying for something, she explains, since pickpockets will take note and target you.

6. Secure your belongings

Americans tend to leave their bags on the chair next to them when they’re at an outdoor restaurant or cafe. Instead, she advises strapping the bag around your chair’s leg or wrapping it around your leg.

“You have to think about the small moped that's driving up the street and grabbing anything that's free,” Lewis says.

The same goes for public transportation.

“If you have bags and put them on your lap, don't sit by the door. Someone will try to grab them and take off,” she says.

7. Trust your gut

“Don't go anywhere you don't feel comfortable,” says Lewis.

If you're walking down a side street and feel uneasy, or you walk into a place you were going to have a drink at and think, ‘I don't know about this,’ leave. Don’t stick around and try to figure out why something feels off. Trust your gut and turn around.

Lewis adds that if you are going out at night, stay in well-lit areas and steer clear of shortcuts through backroads and alleys.

8. Walk with confidence

Whether you’re exploring an area during the day or at night, traveling solo is all about the confidence game, according to Lewis. If you're out alone at night and don't know where you are, walk like you know where you’re going.

“Don't look at your phone confused because you have just set the biggest target on yourself for scammers, pickpockets, or worse,” Lewis says. “If you are so lost, find a cafe or restaurant that's open and sit down. That's where you pull out your phone, see where you are, and come up with a plan. Have a beverage, take a breath, and get back out there once you have a plan in place.”

If you still can’t find your way back to your hotel, take a taxi. 

“Don't let that experience deter you,” says Lewis. “Half the fun of traveling is getting lost and figuring it out.” 

Read More

Related Stories