Travelling can be fun until something goes wrong and unfortunately, there are people who choose to commit crimes everywhere. The type and frequency of these crimes can vary, but simple theft such as pickpocketing can be prevalent in many countries. Often tourists visit places where people are desperate for money and foreigners can be easy targets. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime.
- Do your research
It’s always wise to do some research on where you are visiting before you leave. A good place to start is the UK Government’s Office Foreign Travel Advice website or the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website. You should note any warnings and take precautions to reduce your risk to these whilst you are visiting another country.
Let’s look at an example. The UK Government’s advice for travelling to Tanzania includes information about bag snatchings from passing cars, motorbikes and cyclists. Before you go, buy a money belt so that you do not need to carry a bag and budget to take licenced taxis for all your transportation so that you do not walk around.
For all the other advice on the website take each one and be prudent. If the website warns travellers to not visit the country, for instance, during outbreaks of disease or a coup take the advice and don’t go. You can reschedule for another time and there are plenty of other places on the planet to visit.
2) Take Precautionary Measures
You may want to take some basic self-defence classes. This does not mean you can then go walking around dangerous areas late at night but if something does happen, you may be able to better defend yourself.
Taking pepper spray, tasers, flick knives etc as weapons can be illegal in other countries, or be used against you. Hospitals and jails abroad are not very pleasant, you do not want to end up in either, especially for something so small as the theft of a mobile phone, so don’t bring any weapons.
Take photocopies of your identification and keep them separate from the originals. Also email photographs of your passport, visa, credit cards and insurance details to yourself so you can use these the event of the theft of the originals.
3) Reduce your risk
- Know your destination address and route plus have all your information to hand so you do not stick out like a vulnerable tourist. Print out maps, addresses and contact details of where you are going and have them discreetly to hand if you need them.
- Dress conservatively. A simple headscarf can reduce a lot of hassle and can make you less of a target.
- Don’t walk around with jewellery, designer clothes and flashy tech gadgets, would-be thieves are attracted to expensive items on show.
- Make sure you use a money belt for carrying your cash and valuable documents.
- Only use licenced transport options. Know the price of taxi fares, take photographs of the taxi’s number plate and message this to your friends.
- Know how to call or alert the authorities and your embassy in the event of an incident.
- Put a spare purse together – some old expired credit cards, small bills and an old cell phone – to give to a thief if you are robbed. They will usually leave if they think they have got something of value from you.
4) Be Vigilant
You might be ‘on holiday’ but that doesn’t mean you can relax at all times.
Get into a mindset that spots danger or suspicious activity. Take some time to look around you and watch what is happening.
Be aware of your surroundings –
- Where are the emergency or nearest exits?
- Has anyone been following you?
- Are there items of luggage that have been left unattended?
Be careful and if you feel slightly uneasy about any situation then do something about it -alert management, local authorities or simply get out of the situation.
5) Use Protection
Many travellers die in road traffic accidents every year – use seatbelts, wear a helmet and don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to drink and drive.
Additionally, you must use protection when engaging in sexual activities, not only to prevent unplanned pregnancies but also sexually transmitted diseases.
6) Don’t Break the Law
If you are engaging in illegal activities you are more likely to be putting yourself in dangerous situations. For tourists, this usually revolves around narcotics, theft and violent behaviour. How do you know that substance you just bought from a stranger in a third world country is what they said it was? It could be rat poison.
If you get caught as a thief you could be subject to mob justice in certain cultures. Fighting is a bad idea. One punch is all it takes to kill someone, or the victim may go on to rally a large group of friends later and waiting to seek revenge. It’s all not worth it, seriously.
7) Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home
This may seem pretty obvious but its surprising to hear how frequently it happens.
- Don’t get into a strangers car, even if they have befriended you.
- Don’t use unlicenced transport options, such as taxis. They can easily kidnap you and take you wherever they want.
- Don’t always accept someone’s credentials – there are plenty of people who impersonate immigration and police officers.
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers – it could be spiked with a drug or worse.
- Don’t give out your personal information – someone could be waiting for you to rob you on your return to your accommodation.
- Don’t book unsecured accommodation – ask your hotel, hostel or AirBnB host what they do about unsolicited guests, late night entry and securing valuables. Lock your door and do not let anyone into your room. Lock your valuables away or use these kinds of disguises to stowaway cash.
- Don’t use unsafe transport – check for any recent accidents, whether there are safety equipment and sign for advice for in the event of an accident. Wear seatbelts. It’s quite useful to get local recommendations of verified buses, ferries and taxis.
- Keep an eye on your valuables at all times. If you are on a bus sit on the window side overlooking the storage area underneath so you can see anyone taking it off. If you are on a train keep your bag within view – if your bag is too big then you are most likely travelling with too much stuff.
8) Always take out insurance before you leave
If something does go wrong, you will be glad that the small cost of insurance will cover the huge bills from the hospital, stolen valuables, lawyers…. You really do not want to be that person requesting donations via a crowd-sourcing website because you didn’t take out insurance.
What tips do you have for staying safe when travelling?
Did you like my post? Please comment below 🙂