When travelling overseas, whether it is to new and exciting destinations or old favourites, there are basic things that will, barring major unforseen circumstances, keep you safe when travelling.
The first and most important is simply this… BE AWARE and be sensible. It isn’t necessary to wander around in a state of paranoia at possible dangers lurking around every corner, but if you are travelling to anywhere where you are likely to stand out as a tourist you need to keep yourself and your valuables safe. Pickpockets and petty thieves know that tourists are an easy target so it is always important to be simply alert and aware in places you travel to. So, the best ways of doing this are:
– Don’t carry daypacks on your back through crowded areas, or if you do… have them locked and don’t keep valuable items in them. I have had many friends had ipods, cameras, wallets etc. stolen from their daypack whilst standing in queues or on escalators. Bags that can be slung across your body diagonally are the most difficult to steal or steal from.
– Equally however, fanny packs are a big sign saying “I am a tourist, please rob me”. How would you usually carry your money at home? If you are carrying large sums of money around on you whilst overseas then there are passport wallets that can be worn around your neck, but best to wear that wallet underneath your clothes as once again, these things scream, “valuables HERE!”.
– Be sensible about where you flash money around. If you are in a poor country sifting through wads of cash in a market then people will notice. Research the currency of the places you are travelling to and take note of the general price of things. Then you are not only more likely to be able to take the right amount of cash with you during the day (leaving the rest in a hotel safe), you will also be in a much better haggling position to find bargains without getting ripped off.
– Hotel rooms may be locked, but it is important not to leave valuables lying around. Most hotels have safes either in the room or behind the desk downstairs. An ex-boyfriend of mine had his wallet stolen from the desk beside an open window in a swedish hostel whilst he was in the bathroom. Ok, that may be extremely bad luck, but you get the general idea…
– Make sure important documents like tickets, visas, passports, travel insurance and credit cards are photocopied and one copy left at home with an emergency contact whilst the other is kept with you. If any of your things happen to be stolen whilst you are travelling it is important to have those details with you if you need to call up and cancel cards etc.
– If you are overseas and embarking on a more budget trip involving taking any overnight trains anywhere then be extremely careful with your valuables in any carriages or couchettes. In a sleeping car lock the door if possible (winding a travel strap around the door will often work) and try to get the top bunk, keeping your valuables hidden on your person and a bag with any valuables between you and the wall! Keep backpacks locked and kept away from the door (or if you are on the bottom bunk then underneath the bunk as far away from easy arms reach as possible. It is a very small precaution to take but many pickpockets frequent intercity trains and most of their crimes are moments of opportunity. Don’t give them that chance!
– When eating out, many places now have clips underneath the table for you to fasten bags to out of reach of thieves. If not, keep it on your lap of underneath the table, but never hung off the back of your chair (after travelling the world I came home to Sydney and had a bag stolen this way in a central city McDonalds). Likewise having mobile phones out on the table in some areas can be very risky too.
– Be sensible about the people you chat to. We all know that the experience of meeting new people is one of the nicest perks of travelling, but if you are travelling to places that are a bit more dodgy, just use your common sense about accepting drinks, rides, meals etc.
– Do a little bit of checking before you go. The internet is a fabulous thing as we all know! A few minutes of googling will usually find you myriad sites of either official travelling tips or fellow travellers posting warnings and advice. Backpacking websites often have fantastic tips about the local culture, customs, great places to stay, eat shop take daytrips to etc. as well as letting you know how to stay safe. They are well worth checking out.
– Stay healthy. Make sure you are up to date with vaccinations and be very careful with the water in some countries. That includes ice in drinks, salads (washed in tap water), shower water (don’t brush your teeth in the shower!), and uncooked vegetables. Carry basic medication with you without taking an arsenal of unnecessary things. If you are travelling to europe you will easily find what you need in a pharmacy, but painkillers, and stuff in case of stomach upsets is always a good thing to have with you.
– The last and most important thing is. Have travel insurance. Always. Every time. The one and only time I have travelled without travel insurance was the one time I needed it, having my mobile phone and digital camera stolen, so I say this from regrettable experience! Many credit card companies or banks have great deals for customers on travel insurance, but make sure it covers all that you need it for.
Travelling is not something to be scared of. Precautions are simple and will protect you against the most common mishaps to befall unaware travellers, leaving you free to enjoy your holiday!