7 Very Simple Tips You Need to Know to Travel Safely
We all know that crime happens everywhere, even at home – that’s why all countries have police services! But somehow when we travel, we let our defenses down and forget the basic things we would do at home.
Travel is meant to be fun and relaxing – and that is why it is important to think about staying safe while you are traveling.
Here are some tips. Some of them are theoretical for me and some are very real – and especially that I should have thought about them before I traveled rather than too late!
Do some research
Know something about the place you’re visiting. Check with your country’s foreign affairs department. Do they have alerts on any countries? Right now, there are terror attacks in many major cities, and you may want to avoid them. Some countries have a high political risk, including the risk of kidnapping and hijacking – perhaps you should avoid traveling to these countries?
But there are also go/no-go areas that the locals know about, and you should be trying to research.
Planning your itinerary also keeps you safe. If you know where you are going, and look purposeful, you’ll be less of a target for random crime. If you have pre-booked accommodation and transport you are more likely to have connected with legitimate providers and less likely to be ripped off. This is particularly important for registered vs unregistered taxis.
Check in advance what the safety and security features are on your bank or credit cards. Tell your bank before you leave where you are going and what type of expenditure will be appearing on your account. This means that the bank won’t block your card for your activity, but may flag suspicious activity outside of what you have told them. Know the bank’s phone number to block cards if necessary.
We know that this is your holiday but keep your defenses up – trust everyone and no-one. Be on the look-out for people trying to distract or confuse you. I remember getting onto a train in Hamburg, and just being disoriented by a lot of people jostling me and one person right in front of my face. That’s when I should have had my hand right on my travel wallet – but it was gone, along with the jostlers who all got out at the next stop.
Just as important is to watch your baggage. It can be stolen, and people can use it to try to smuggle drugs and other nasties – and you’re the one to be arrested if they are found. Baggage can also be lost quite easily. I was on a trip with a big group and it was quite chaotic as we loaded all our baggage into a mini-bus. It was only when we got to the hotel that I realized that my computer bag had somehow been left at the airport – with all the passports and the visas for our skiing trip! Luckily this was Heathrow and I could pick it up in lost property later that day. But you might not be so lucky!
And of course, there are always scam artists around, trying to part you from your money. Use small bills to pay for things in the street so that you don’t get counterfeit change.
Perhaps you shouldn’t share all the details of your life and circumstances with chatty cab drivers – stick to the weather or ask for information on tourist attractions.
Trust your gut feeling
Trust your instincts is an age old advice for pretty good reasons. They are right most of the time. If a place feels like a wrong place to be in, get out of there quickly. The more you travel, more experience you’ll have. With more experiences, you’ll make better decisions.
I have social anxiety disorder and started to travel in order to fix that. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. After overcoming my fears, I am more comfortable with people back home too.
Use some common sense
Keep cash and documents secure – eg don’t pull out your wallet on the street to donate to a beggar, and keep your travel documents in the hotel safe. Make sure that you have a copy of all your documents online so that you can access them if necessary. Have emergency numbers and addresses on your phone.
If you are carrying a wallet, only have the money you intend to use for the day – if you get mugged you’ll have something to give to the mugger but you won’t lose much.
Have travel insurance, in case you do lose something.
It might be wonderful to link up with a lot of new people and to party all night but this can be unsafe. Stay sober and stay away from drugs in strange places and with strange people. Always watch your drinks to make sure they are not spiked.
Be careful, even in your hotel room. Don’t open doors if people knock; put valuables in the safe, that’s why it’s there!
Stay with the crowd
Places that are perfectly safe during the day can turn dangerous at night. It’s usually a good idea to keep to public places and to stay with a crowd – and agree to keep an eye on each other.
Sometimes you can become a target of crime because you are obviously on your own or are obviously a rich tourist. It’s best to blend in, not draw unnecessary attention to yourself, not flash jewelry or cash around.
Have a back-up
Especially if you are traveling on your own, make sure that someone knows where you are and what your plans are, and check in with them from time to time.
- Have separate copies of your important documents in separate places both physically and digitally.
- Invest in some good travel wallets to keep your cash/card safe.
- If traveling with a laptop, check their security. You also need to stay fit while traveling to enjoy your trips.
You want to travel to many more places in your life. So, if something bad happens and you are accosted or mugged, it’s sometimes a good idea to not fight back or be a hero. Give the mugger your (nearly empty) wallet and live to tell the tale.
This all sounds very depressing and not holiday-like at all! But if you think about it, these are basic common sense things that you should do at home. Just remember them when you travel, so that you can travel safely!