For the most part, you can relax and enjoy safe traveling while abroad. However, just like at home, it’s always best to use a little common sense and street smarts.
The following tips — and others you may learn or know of — can help keep you and your valuables safe. Study these simple steps before your next trip, and you help ensure all your memories are good ones.
1. Avoid the “gawk” – You know the look: Someone standing outside a majestic building, eyes focused upward, mouth agape. Nothing says “tourist” more than that mesmerized look. Control your emotions by offering a more natural pose: one that suggests you’ve seen that building or monument hundreds of times before.
2. Remain alert – Constantly look around you for any suspicious individuals. If you notice someone eyeing you, stare back. Let the person know you’re on to him. Take away the element of surprise.
3. Know how to call for help – 911 is the emergency number used in the United States. That’s not a universal number, however. For example, New Zealand has designated 111 as its emergency number. Ask your travel agent or resort staff how to contact authorities. You may also find that information online.
4. Avoid dangerous or questionable areas – Goes without saying, but sometimes tourists end up where they shouldn’t. Again, your travel agent or resort staff should be able to help you. Check the State Department’s website for any information or advisories.
5. Don’t flash the cash – It’s good to leave a tip, but do so discreetly. A brash or loud demeanor, followed by promises to leave a large tip, can leave you a “marked” tourist.
6. Stash money safely – Use a money pouch for your cash, credit card(s) and passport. Remember to wear a baggy shirt or sweatshirt to cover the “bump.” The only drawback is that the pouch may not be quickly accessible. Make sure you mention it when going through the airport. The pouch will show up on the new scanners and will be noticed by the TSA agent during a pat down.
7. Use front pockets if at all – Pickpockets favor the back pockets because your concentration is elsewhere. Front pockets are better at keeping your valuables safe. Remember to drape your hands over the front of your legs, not at your sides. Your socks are another really good place to stash money, but the paper rubbing against your leg can be uncomfortable.
8. Store cameras and phones in pockets that secure – Many jacket pockets secure by a button or zipper. Those are great places to store your digital camera and cell phone or other electronic device.
9. Keep all valuables with you – It may take only “a few seconds” to snap that picture, but that’s more than enough time for a thief to swoop in and grab your backpack or luggage. Never leave any possessions unattended. Indeed, keep the backpack on your back as much as possible.
10. Place book in bottom of backpack – Some thieves are able to slice the bottom of your backpack and steal your valuables while you’re walking along. A thick book (hardback, ideally) can prevent that.
11. Minimize the jewelry – Sadly, some tourists apparently need to impress while on vacation. Unless you’re going someplace fancy for dinner, avoid displaying fine jewelry. You’re there to have a good time; leave the imagery for a charity event back home. I realize that you’ll take some along a watch and other valuables. Store those in your room safe when not in use.
12. Learn self defense skills – Many martial arts schools offer short courses in self defense that can help you fend off an unarmed bandit. A swift kick to the groin or a poke in the eye will send many bad guys fleeing and keep your vacation intact.
Most tourist areas, like many American cities, are safe. But you can always fall victim to the random crime. Following tips like these will help you enjoy safe traveling.
Do you have any tips you’d like to add? Feel free to comment below. And, if you enjoyed this column, please share it so that others may benefit from what you and I have written. Thanks!