Six simple ways to stay Financially Safe when you Solo Travel
Money matters before and during your solo travel. As a solo female traveler, I must add financial safety right there in the top of the list with my travel preparations. Often how you stay financially safe also means how you stay physically safe and mentally at peace. For me, I'm a mix of both business and vacation solo traveler, so I know a thing or two about money matters that I wanna share with the #Solopacker community.
1 - UNDERSTAND THE LOCAL ATM NETWORK. Where is the nearest ATM to your hostel or guesthouse? What are the charges your bank takes for overseas withdrawal? If your ATM card accepted in the local ATM machines? What helpline can you call if you face issues with your ATM card? These are questions you must have answers to so that you don't find yourself stranded without cash. All it takes a bit of google search or connecting with a local using the #Solopacker web app to find out. This becomes even more important when you are solo traveling for a long period across multiple countries. And if you're thinking "why not just use a credit card?", well then you'll be forcing yourself to miss out many authentic, off beat experiences that even today rely on cash transactions, including in modern cities like Bangkok, Singapore or Ho Chi Ming City.
To join Solopacker www.solopacker.com/join
2 - TELL YOUR BANK WHAT TO DO WITH SUSPICIOUS CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS. I was solo traveling in India and using my credit card to purchase railway tickets. Now I don't for a bit doubt the intentions of the honest local travel agency that helped me. But in the world of internet and algorithms, I wasn't that surprised that my credit card details were hacked the next day for a few thousand USD purchases made in Japan. Did these purchases go through? Nope! I had given my bank instructions about daily limits of using my credit card overseas. Thanks to that, I got an email alert, to which I responded and it was all good. Oh but I wasn't able to use that same credit card again (for the best I suppose). By the way, the same thing applies to if your card or your whole wallet gets misplaced or stolen. Don't assume merchants will cross check the signatures behind your card; they have better things to do!
3 - YOU HAVE MORE POCKETS TO KEEP CASH THAN YOU THINK! This is my favourite and most popular tip for solo travelers going to places where they know ATMs, Credit Cards or any kind of plastic money would not work. When I was backpacking in central Asia, these are the 6 "pockets" I used to distribute my cash - right pants pockets, left pants pocket, right socks, left socks, my actual wallet and my passport pouch. You wanna guess where I kept most of my cash? ;-) Don't get me wrong. I am an optimist at heart and most destinations I've been to have honest, helpful local people. I do this crazy ritual so that in the slight chance I lose or am forced to give up my wallet, my first reaction is not panic, anxiety or mental breakdown. I'll still be able to carry on for a day or two, at least.
4 - EYES ON THE ROAD, NOT ON YOUR PHONE.
I try my best to stay connected in my socials so my loved ones back home know about my well being and don't get paranoid that I'm hiking along in the virgin jungles of west Malaysia. That said, I finish all the stuff I need to do with my phone within the safe confines of my hostel or hotel (plus there's usually wifi, so...). If you watch any of the TV shows about scams targeting tourists, the perpetrators look out for a few basic signs of a helpless tourist - one of which is she staring down her phone in the middle of a public area. One of my friends got scammed in Beijing by a "helpful" local who invited him to a tea shop and slapped him with a $60 bill for a pot of tea! Sure enough, he was zooming in and out of his map app to find a place to eat when he got targeted.
5 - TRAVEL INSURANCE IS A MUST.
This is a bit sensitive, because there are too many travel blogs trying to plug a specific brand of travel insurance. I'm not gonna do that here. But I will say that given how often I travel for work and for vacation, I have always benefited from buying travel insurance. When my baggage was delayed in New Delhi, I could claim my purchases for new clothes. When I fell sick before a trip to Cambodia, I could claim the airline cancellation fee. When I got food poisoning in Australia, I could claim the pharmacy expenses. So which one should you buy? Err... all I can say is that I have an annual plan. 6 - TRAVEL BUDDIES ARE THE BEST INSURANCE POLICY
I cannot recommend this enough. Yes solo travel is about freedom & adventure, but when the going gets tough, a trusted travel buddy can be your best insurance policy. Sometimes when your financial or even physical safety is compromised, you need a friend to support you and do the straight-thinking for you. No shame in that; our need for social support makes us as human as our sense of adventure to solo travel. Friends I've made during my travels have lent me money, bought me tickets, paid a fine for me and even argue with a really unhelpful bank teller. Some I managed to pay back online, and some insisted that there is no need. Kindness moves in a circle, and I help fellow travelers too. Just be careful, especially as a solo female traveler, with who genuinely wants to be a travel buddy and who has ill intentions. That's the main thing I like about Solopacker that I can find a travel buddy and see how other travelers have vouched for that person. To join Solopacker: www.solopacker.com/join