Travel tips when travelling alone

Most business travellers and some leisure travellers are “stuck” travelling alone. Having spent many days abroad, there are a few steps I take every time I travel alone.

Read the reviews

Regardless of the type of trip, you should always do your homework and ensure you read as much information as possible about your destination. Read professionally written reviews (if available) but ensure you get a healthy dose of general traveller reviews to get the real picture.

Many of these sites will allow you to post your questions and get answers before you leave. Some popular sites are:

Do your official homework

As a Canadian, I always check the government travel advisories of the Canadian Department of Forein Affairs and International Trade. Not only do they provide useful travel advisories but they allow Canadians to register with them and therefore be advised in the event of a major crisis at the destination (even when at your destination). Most foreign governments offer similar services so ensure you contact your countries foreign consular services and use their traveller registration service.

The US State Department has a travel advisory service available here : http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers services for the United Kingdom:  http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/

In addition to travel safety information, I strongly recommend you check out vaccination recommendations for your chosen travel destination using sites like:

Center for Disease Control : http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Public Health Agency of Canada : http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/index-eng.php

Define a communications plan

I strongly recommend that you define a communication plan with family or friends back home. Make the plan and stick to it. If anything goes wrong, your family and raise the red flag and call the appropriate government agencies for help.

How will you provide an update to these people? How often? If you will send an SMS message, does your cell phone work in your destination country? If you will send emails, where will you find connectivity? If an emergency happens at home, how can family and friends get in touch with you?

Pack like a pro

I will be travelling to Asia using the One Bag (carry-on only) approach so keep reading my blog for more information about this style of travel.

Regardless of your packing belief, remember that anything you check-in can get charged extra fees, get stolen, get damaged or be significantly delayed. This means anything of importance should always be in your carry-on luggage, including:

  • change of clothes
  • pair of undergarments
  • medication
  • ID, payment/charge cards, passports, and all official papers
  • all your valuable technology (cell phone, camera, gps, etc)

Ensure that you split key irreplaceable into multiple locations (such as cash, cards, ID, etc). I usually travel wearing a Scottevest Flex Cargo or Hidden Cargo pants which include 11 pockets to carry all of my valuables on my person. In addition to lots of pockets, they contain 2 deep pockets (one on each side) which has magnetic closure which is a great place to store money and ID (since it makes pickpocket’s lives very difficult.)

Blend in and be local

If there is one thing I want you to remember is that you should blend in (as much as possible). Don’t be the stick out tourist in the Hawaiian shirt, fanny pack or camera hanging from your neck.

Don’t flash wads of money, expensive looking jewellery or prized technology. If you want to stay safe, blend in. Don’t do anything that would allow a thief to single you out. Know where you are going before you leave so you don’t ask every 3rd person for directions. Stay on the main streets in well-lit and well-travelled areas. Stay away from unsavoury location which usually attract the “wrong” type of person like strip clubs, rough bars, “special” clubs, etc.

When travelling alone, it may be tempting to seek out other travellers and build a group but beware. You never really know who the other person is and what their intentions are. Approach every situation with caution leaving plenty of options to break away.

Also understand that coincidence rarely happens in the real world. If you meet someone that seems to be a perfect match, that seems to like what you like, be very cautious. It may be a professional that has done their homework and is playing out a carefully prepared plan.

Don’t be a hotel tourist

Be careful but not a hermit. You are in a new exciting city and there is no reason why you shouldn’t experience all of the wonder it has to offer. Go out and eat in local restaurants, visit local sights and enjoy the local offerings. Don’t be one of those business travellers that sees only the airport, hotel and office.