Airbnb adds safety measures and other ways to stay protected while traveling solo
As a female solo traveler, I'm always thinking of ways to keep myself (and my belongings) safe — even in countries deemed "safe" by the U.S. government.
I take the same approach in my day-to-day life as I do while traveling.
For example, I share the details of any Uber, Lyft or taxi ride I take with loved ones, so someone can confirm I get from point A to point B without issue. I also call a loved one and communicate clearly that I am on my way with an estimated time of arrival; this ensures the driver is aware that someone else knows where I am supposed to be and when.
When headed somewhere on foot, I'll text my parents to let them know, and I don't walk alone after a certain time in the evening. I also don't wear my headphones when it's dark. I carry pepper spray when out and about (though you should make sure it's legal to do so in your state of residence and don't try to bring it on a plane).
Also when walking, I keep my eyes ahead of me and refrain from looking down at my phone too much to remain alert.
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When traveling, my mindset is the same yet slightly heightened due to unfamiliar surroundings.
As a reporter, I tend to frequent (points) hotels over Airbnbs. Prior to joining TPG, I often opted to stay at Airbnbs in favor of their cheaper price tags and because they allow you to experience a city in a less touristy way.
With that said, I would never choose to stay in a shared accommodation nor would I stay in a private room in a house by myself. Although I am yet to have an issue with Airbnb personally, TPG reported recently on a string of safety issues at Airbnb rentals throughout the U.S. in recent months. This makes the site's new safety features — which are designed specifically for solo travelers — timely.
If you plan on traveling solo or you're a female traveler, consider implementing these features when booking your next Airbnb (specifically for shared or private rooms).
Read more: Solo getaway in the USA: The 5 best American cities for solo travelers
New solo traveler in-app experience for shared or private rooms
As mentioned, I share my ride-hailing service details and ETA with select friends and family. I also share relevant hotel details when staying by myself, including the hotel name, location and dates of my stay.
Similarly, Airbnb users can now share their reservation itineraries — including the property's listing address, reservation code, and check-in and out dates— with others.
Additionally, upon booking, Airbnb will prompt users to ask their host questions related to the listing and neighborhood, based on local insights from solo travelers.
As of today, you can use the app to seek out tips from Airbnb "experts" before and during your trips. Tips could be about understanding international travel warnings, the benefits of daytime flight arrivals instead of redeyes, and ways to book your accommodations and transportation in advance.
During your trip, the app can also provide guidance related to local transportation options in a specific city and best practices for calling versus hailing a cab, among other tips.
For now, only English-speaking Airbnb users can try out these new features. However, the company plans to introduce this feature to more countries and languages next year, while also expanding it to reservations for entire homes.
Read more: Airbnb incidents make it more important than ever to know guest and host rights
Other Airbnb safety features
All users, regardless of booking, can take advantage of existing safety features, including the 24-hour Safety Line, which connects users to safety agents during a stay. Additionally, Local Emergency Services is available to users regardless of whether they are currently in a reservation.
"With one-touch, this feature quickly connects the user to local emergency services (e.g., 911) — which could be particularly helpful for solo travelers who are traveling abroad in countries where they do not know the phone number off-hand for local police," according to Airbnb. The company also noted this feature is now available in 70 countries and regions.
Other safety tips for solo travel
1. Share your location with your family and friends (privately)
As you might imagine, TPG staffers have collected a lot of ways to stay safe while traveling. Many gave tips related to sharing location with loved ones through Find My Friends (which is available on Apple products) or other apps.
Just remember that you'll need data to use most phone applications. Be sure you have access through an international phone plan so that you don't have to rely on Wi-Fi.
For my fellow millennial travelers in particular, try to avoid publically sharing details relevant to your trip that may locate you in real-time on social media.
"I try not to share the name of the hotel until I've left or moved on to another location or do live updates of specific tourist sites I'm at," TPG credit cards editor Senitra Horbrook said. "I'll wait until the next day or the end of the day to share where I went."
2. Keep your belongings close to you, but don't carry them unnecessarily
Like TPG family travel writer Tara Chieffi, I opt for a crossbody bag over a purse when traveling so that I can keep my phone, keys and credit cards close to me.
I don't recommend carrying your passport with you unless you're going to the airport in case you are pickpocketed; although, I would suggest making a hard copy to have just in case. The same goes for your cash and credit cards — don't bring more than you need.
3. Be alert and consider your surroundings
One thing my parents always harp to me is the importance of being aware of my surroundings. Although it's cliche, it's true.
When I lived in New York City, I took a self-defense class from a former NYPD officer, who reminded us that anything you do to make yourself a target has the potential to make you a victim — even something as simple as walking and texting. If you need to use your phone to look up directions, try to pull over in front of a building (or even go inside a business if possible), so that you're not outside alone and not paying attention.
"I try to stay off of mine whenever I'm alone in public," said TPG senior editor Christine Gallipeau.
Along the same lines, try to locate your keys ahead of approaching your accommodation so you don't waste time looking for them when you are actually at the door.
Related: Why every female solo traveler needs a card with travel insurance
For hotel-goers specifically, look into buying a portable door lock that can be used for hotel doors. Double-check that any peephole is facing out and not in,
If you are coming back late to your accommodations, you can also see if a member of the front desk team or doorperson will escort you to your room.
"Also, most hotels are better about this now, but when checking in, make sure they don't speak your room number out loud," TPG senior editor Kristy Tolley said. You should feel free to ask for another room in this instance, she added.
4. Ask questions
Whether I'm in a new city or at home, I try to get a sense of how to get to where I am going before I leave. This is especially helpful in unfamiliar places.
"I ask the hotel staff about public transport info in places where Google Maps was unhelpful (Uruguay, for example) and about how late it's 'safe' for me as a solo woman to walk around after dark," Horbrook said.
We recommend asking your hotel or Airbnb host what methods of transportation are most reliable and how the time of day affects that.
While safety concerns are relative and dependent on a variety of factors, consider these steps you can take before and during travel to feel safer.
Above all, listen to your gut, TPG photo editor Emilia Wronski said. From one woman to my fellow female travelers, I agree with this advice.
"I know it sounds basic but if you feel uncomfortable somewhere, or with someone, leave," Wronski added.
Read more: 6 solo travel mistakes to avoid on your first trip