We’ve all heard horror stories of people being robbed, pick-pocketed and targeted while traveling, but you shouldn’t let that make you afraid to travel.
If you take the appropriate precautions while traveling to protect yourself from avoidable trouble, you’ll be just as safe on the road as you are at home.
Traveling isn’t any more dangerous than stepping out your own front door. There are some things that are just unavoidable. But you can always arm yourself with the knowledge and skills to keep yourself safe no matter where in the world you are.
Use common sense, keep calm, and follow these principles to stay safe while on vacation:
- 1. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get distracted as a tourist, so be extra careful not to become so worried about snapping the perfect picture that you forget your surroundings. Major tourist attractions are a hot spot for pickpockets.
- 2. Don’t carry your camera around your neck. The more you look like a tourist, the more you look like a a target. If your camera has a strap, wear it across your body so it blends in.
- 3. Don’t wear expensive (or any) jewelry. Those rings or necklace you wear every day at home can make you a target. There’s no need to take jewelry with you on vacation. It’ll be there when you get home.
- 4. Know where you’re going. Look up directions beforehand and carry a map with the route marked, in case you find yourself lost or need help getting back. It’s much easier to show someone your map than to explain in a different language.
- 5. Be extremely cautious when hailing a cab. Don’t get into an unmarked cab. In some countries, it’s normal to use unmarked taxi services, just be aware of the situation and if you feel unsafe for any reason, wave them on and don’t get in.
- 6. Carry protection, such as a can of spray mace, just in case. It’s very unlikely you’ll have to use it, but you’ll feel better having it available.
- 7. Don’t trust the nice fellow who follows you down the street. They’ll ask where you’re from and miraculously, they have a brother who lives there! While many (if not all) of them are not dangerous, this is a scam that’s used everywhere to make you feel comfortable and let down your guard. Don’t fall for it. Just smile and keep walking.
- 8. Overindulgence often leads to inattentiveness. If you’re going to be drinking, make sure you have a safe and guaranteed way home.
- 9. Use the buddy system. It worked in grade school, why not use is while on vacation too? Stay with your travel partner as much as possible, and work together to stay alert of surroundings and keep track of details.
- 10. If traveling alone, make sure someone at home or at the hotel knows where you’ve gone and when you’ll return. Leave hotel information at home, along with a copy of your travel information, and passport at home with a friend or family member, and consider texting at regular intervals when in more dangerous locations.
- 11. Pay for tours and activities with a credit card. Ideally, you’ve researched a reputable company in advance, but in case something happens, you can fall back on your credit card to reverse charges for a tour that doesn’t go through. You can be sure you’ll never get any cash deposits or payments back.
- 12. Familiarize yourself with the town or city you’re visiting so you’re aware of neighborhoods or streets you should avoid and be especially careful when walking in an unfamiliar place in the dark.
- 13. Store any valuables, including extra cash, jewelry, electronic devices and your passport in the hotel safe.
- 14. If you need to carry a backpack, consider placing a small luggage lock on each compartment if you wear it on your back. You’ll look like a tourist wearing it on your front. It’s best not to bring a pack at all to locations with known pickpocket problems.
- 15. Don’t carry too much cash around and never pull out a wad of cash or flash a stack of bills. Keep the amount you need to pay for a taxi or a ticket in your pocket separate from your other cash so you don’t have to show how much cash you have on you.
- 16. When pulling cash out of an ATM, choose a machine in a well-lit, high traffic area like at the airport or a mall and put the cash away immediately.
- 17. Use common sense. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Even if something may be harmless, if you don’t feel right about, or it seems fishy in any way, you’re better off avoiding it. Trust your instincts.