Increasing your odds of staying safe while traveling is easy. Visiting another country shouldn't be an exercise in paranoia. You're just as safe in another country as you are in your own. However, the reason so many tourists have horror stories is one simple reason: they look vulnerable to thieves. Your weapons against thieves are simple doses of common sense and intelligence. Don't stand out like an ice cream cone on a salad bar. Use these tips and your own research to become a smart tourist and let the thieves pass you by.
Basic Tips For Staying Safe
The first thing you should consider is to travel as light as possible. Nothing screams "tourist" like lugging a camcorder everywhere you go, gaping at the sights and proclaiming in a loud voice "That's so cool!" That's not to say you shouldn't enjoy yourself, but be watchful and respectful of the town you are visiting. And traveling with a buddy not only keeps you good company, but it discourages thieves as well.
Nighttime is for sleeping, not for touring. When the sun sets, head back to your hotel. The seedy inhabitants of the neighborhood come out at night when vision is low. Especially if you're traveling alone, make sure you're locked in and secure at night. If you want to get into the night life of a town, stay in public areas and don't dawdle.
Next, avoid back roads and small alleyways. A secluded road may look inviting when you're sick of all the people, but it can also be a hidden place where you can be robbed.
Never proclaim "I'm lost!" or, when chatting with a friend "Are you sure this is the right way?". Thieves pray on the confused. Even if you have no clue where you're at, pretend like you do. Fold the map when you aren't using it, walk with a determined gait and make decisive moves. If you ask for directions, go into a shop or other public place.
And finally, think like a thief. Who would you target if you were out for a wallet or two? If you put only a little attention on this, you'll quickly realize a few things you can do that will turn thieves away. If you look smart and in control, even if you aren't, you'll increase your chances of staying safe. And really, when it comes to crime, that's all that matters.
Keeping Your Purse or Wallet Safe
Pickpocketing is the number one crime in the world. Over the centuries, these petty thieves have refined their techniques. Many times they disguise themselves as beggars, tourists, or even businessmen in suits. Often they travel in groups and work as a team. Be attentive if any stranger starts talking to you, as they may be a thief with a friend who will sneak behind you and pilfer your wallet before you realize it.
To keep your money safe, follow these simple guidelines:
- If you must carry a purse, put the strap across your body rather than hanging it off one shoulder. This prevents thieving bikers from slipping it off your shoulder as you walk through the streets.
- Avoid fattening your wallet so it bulges from your pockets. Simplify what you carry around and only take what's absolutely necessary.
- Carry as little cash as possible. At no time should you have more than the equivalent of $75 on your person.
- Many travel stores sell an "under the clothes" belt. This thin belt fits just beneath your waistband and stores your money safely away from thieving hands.
Avoid Getting Ripped Off
A less-subtle way of taking tourists' money occurs at some small shops. Preying on those who don't speak the language well or who aren't familiar with the customs/currency of the area, some businesses will overcharge you. Sometimes the amount is so small it's not to be noticed. You won't lose more than the equivalent of a few dollars, but this can add up over time. Here are a few tips to make sure your business transactions are legit.
- Get a visual confirmation of the total of your purchase. Most shops have a register or will give you a receipt. If not, ask for them to write it down, or just mime writing with your hand. The shopkeeper will understand.
- Pay with the closest thing to exact change as you can. They can't take what you didn't give!
- Count the change the clerk gives you back. Double check that the amount is right before you exit the store.
Other Tips for Staying Safe
- Never use ATMs at night.
- Avoid walking at dusk/nighttime, especially if you're alone.
- Never flash large wads of cash in public areas.
Use these tips along with your own common sense and research to have the perfect travel experience!