Going on vacation soon? Here are some important tips related to travel safety!
When I travel, I am not worried about the language barrier, the food or the cultural shock. I am not even anxious about getting lost or about some random taxi driver dropping me off in the incorrect place (it has happened so many times). None of this bothers me.
What is really important to me is my personal security. In concrete, I try to avoid at all costs being the victim of robbery and other crimes. I don’t know about you, but being divested of my valuables is not the most exciting experience to have in a foreign country.
Thank God, during my 15+ years of travel, I have never been robbed (or mistreated in a criminal way). Unfortunately, I know a lot of fellow travelers that have gone through this awful experience.
Sometimes, these events are inevitable. However, I believe there is A LOT you can do to protect yourself and your valuables. This is why I want to share with you what has worked for me and for other travelers I have met.
First, if there are material possessions that you hold dear to your heart or are outrageously expensive, for your travel safety, please leave them home.
A country different than yours is not the best place to flaunt all your high tech gadgets and expensive jewelry. If you start to show off, locals surrounding you are going to notice. You don’t want to attract additional attention to your person. It is impossible to blend in 100% but avoid displays of richness.
In the same line, don’t tell locals how much money you make back home or how expensive your house or car are. Locals are going to be interested in the way of life in your country but learn how to handle these questions without making an emphasis on your person.
While exploring exciting new cities, you have to think about how you are going to carry your valuables. I avoid purses that hang on my shoulder. Also, try to avoid purses that do not close (do not have zippers).
I use crossbody purses. It is really difficult for somebody to snatch my purse and run away. Not long ago, I acquired an anti-theft crossbody purse. It is made of material difficult to tear and very resistant handles.
The other thing that I like about crossbody purses is that I do not have to take them off while eating or using the restroom.
If you are a guy, consider using pants where you can zip up your pockets.
Sometimes, when I need to carry my passport or all my money, I use a money belt. I use it as an extra layer of protection but I don’t think it is necessary in most cases. Lately, I have seen people wearing a fanny pack across the chest.
I usually do not carry my camera on a camera bag. I don’t feel carrying a big bag with the letters Sony or Canon prominently displayed. Plus, everybody knows what is inside. I always put my camera in my crossbody bag. This is a personal preference. I realize this may be difficult for people carrying professional cameras and equipment.
If you have a big stash of cash, divide it up. Also, divide your credit cards. This is obvious but so many people fail to do it. Take with you what you are going to need for the day and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
And, talking about cash, during this time I do not think it is necessary to carry significant amounts of bills. I keep a small amount of cash (less than $100) and try to charge as many purchases as possible to a credit card.
It is a good idea to download your bank’s mobile application. Most of them send you notifications when the card is used. In that way, you can monitor the use (and that nobody is charging improperly).
Note: Make sure you use a no-fee credit and debit card while traveling (no foreign transaction, ATM withdrawal or currency conversion fees).
Travel with a backup credit and debit card. Cards should be from different banks.
Notify your bank about your travel plans. Some banks will block purchases if they are not alerted about foreign trips.
Make copies of your personal documents (driver’s license, passport, etc.), carry a set with you and leave another set with a trusted friend or family member back home. Scan the documents and send the copies to your e-mail inbox.
Do not rely solely on technology while traveling. Print schedules, addresses, confirmations, vouchers, tickets, and other documentation before leaving home.
I consolidate my airline e-tickets, booking confirmations (with addresses), excursion vouchers, train or bus tickets and similar paperwork in a document, print, place on a folder and save on my suitcase. This has saved me from a headache more than once.
In my experience, you cannot assume you will have the same level of cell phone coverage or technological acceptance in countries different than yours. Plus, you need a backup in case you lose your cell phone or tablet.
When you are out exploring, don’t separate from your belongings if it is not necessary. How many girls leave their purses in a restroom, fitting room or restaurant? I have seen this happened many times. Even placing a backpack or purse on the floor for seconds can be dangerous.
I always keep my purse in direct contact with me.
Before leaving your room, organize your belongings. Don’t leave your room trashed out.
Your display of goods may be too tempting for people entering the room. Plus, if something is removed, it may take you long to find out (maybe while you are at another location).
If things are organized, the probabilities of noticing a difference are greater. While on the road, I place most of my belongings in my suitcase every day. I closed it and put it on a corner.
In that way, I know my things are not on public display. I know this may sound like a pain in the neck but I realize it’s important (plus I pack light).
Lock your suitcases before leaving your room.
Close your windows and balcony doors. I have seen many people robbed because they left their balcony door open.
After having my hotel room door opened in the middle of the night, I travel with a doorstop or block the door at night. This applies mostly to doors that can be opened with an electronic key.
Note: Some people oppose to blocking doors because this practice can become a hazard during a fire emergency.
A lot of people use the “Do not disturb” sign to keep people out of their room. Even if you put this sign on your door handle, there is no guarantee people are not going to enter your room.
A lot of robberies occur while taking public transportation. You need to decide if the public options are safe. If not, it is advisable to book private options even if they are more expensive.
Believe me, I know about this. I try to make use of public transportation as much as possible. Some trips have gone terribly wrong (like in overcrowded buses where you don’t know what is going on, shady guys are selling stolen goods, or drugged people are making a show).
A combination of lack of research and a desire to save money has gotten me into trouble. Therefore, make sure you know what are you getting into (pay more attention if you are carrying all your things).
Make sure you use taxis belonging to reputable companies. Guidebooks, hotels or hostels can provide you with this information. I don’t want to say this but you can easily get in trouble if you don’t follow this advice.
To me, taxi drivers are some of the most fun and interesting people you can meet while traveling. Taxi rides can be described as experiences. However, do not put yourself in danger (to save money or whatever). It is not cool to find out you have been taking pirate taxis (not registered) during your whole stay in a place (yes, it happened to me).
Get an idea of the atmosphere of a city’s neighborhoods. Some are ok to visit, some not. Some are safe during the day but not at night. Some are desolated on the weekends. Get a good understanding of these aspects and plan your sightseeing or walks accordingly.
With respect to neighborhoods, make sure your accommodation is located on a safe one. That is the neighborhood you are not going to be able to avoid.
Before booking, look at ratings and read reviews. Unsafe conditions are probably going to be reported by previous guests.
Follow local’s advice. If a local tells you not to take a particular street or not to go to a place at night, follow what they say. They know more than you.
Be careful how much alcohol you ingest. I am not here to preach but we have to recognize that excessive ingestion of alcohol suppresses your senses. Thieves looking for opportunities have a tendency to attack weak and intoxicated people.
Walk around with confidence and security. As mentioned before, delinquents don’t want to bother with strong people. If you project assurance, they will probably pick somebody easier to fool.
Be aware of cute and innocent beings (like kids) who may want to distract you, while others rob you.
If you start to notice that things are getting rough around you, get out of there. Similarly, if you have a hunch about a certain place, follow your intuition and move on to a safer place.
Do not hesitate to ask. If you have doubts about a place or a transportation method, ask. Locals (hotel or hostel reception) will likely respond to your questions properly. I know that sometimes you don’t want to look clueless or stupid. But a simple question can help you to enhance your (or your family) security.
Do not engage in illegal activities. Take into consideration that what is legal in your country may be illegal in another country.
Also, be aware that certain laws (like driving under the influence) may be more strict in the country you are visiting.
Stay away from scammers. I understand these individuals are not going to approach you and disclose their real intentions but, if something sounds too good to be true, well, it may be time to move in a different direction.
I want to bring your attention to individuals offering goods or services in exchange for visiting a property or attending a timeshare presentation. I cannot affirm all of these are scammers but, in my experience, most of what you are going to be told will end not being the truth.
These experiences may turn into a travel safety issue when these individuals apply their high-pressure sales tactics or want to retain customers on their property against their will.
Take into consideration if these are worth your travel time (and calories).
Be extremely careful when using public wi-fi networks. Since these are open, you may be exposing important personal information (passwords, bank account details) to criminals.
What other advice can you provide on the travel safety topic? What has worked for you?
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