I’m pretty sure that at one point or another when you told a relative, a friend or perhaps a work colleague that you were planning to travel, they might have decided to scare you with a tale of someone they know who ran into trouble while traveling.
Their passport was stolen. They were mugged in broad daylight. They got into trouble with the police.
Even though most of us can take these dramatic tales with a pinch of salt, safety is something that everyone should consider when traveling.
Over the last 5 years of traveling, luckily we haven’t encountered anything too crazy and I would like to think a lot of that is due to my
paranoia safety savviness. Here are a few helpful tips and ideas to help keep you safe while on the road.
Avoid Being Too Flashy
When we travel, we all want to create stunning memories – but having your expensive camera or flashy new smartphone stolen is a memory we could all do without. Avoid having expensive items on show as you’re making yourself a target for pickpockets, thieves, and opportunists.
Leave the fancy watch you got for your birthday at home and get yourself a cheap plastic one instead. As for your camera, make sure they have straps that can go across your body to avoid it getting snatched while you’re out wandering. Invest in a camera strap that has a wire running through it – that way, anyone who tries to pull or cut it off will be met with some resistance.
Some travelers even go as far as carrying a decoy wallet or phone in their pockets to hand over should a heated situation arise. Be smart and be one step ahead if you can. When we have long travel days, we usually dress down. Although we are carrying tons of expensive gadgets in our bags, on the outside, we look like the average scruffy backpacker. 🙂
Keep Everyone in the Loop
You might be a seasoned traveler, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your family and friends in the loop. Give them an itinerary, list the hotels/hostels you’ll be staying at, flight numbers and airport names for emergency purposes.
As a force of habit, I always email my flights and travel insurance details to my parent. They always know my rough plans and when I’m supposed to arrive in certain destinations.
In terms of handling our documents, even though my partner Tom and I travel together, he has digital copies of my important documents whilst he has mine stored away in a file. If anything happens, recovering things such as passport and credit card information won’t be too much of a pain.
Ask the Locals
If you can master the step above, then that will make blending in a little easier. Appearing as if you’re a local will make you less of a target for thieves and pickpockets. Smile and learn a few simple phrases that’ll start a conversation or make you look confident and even a resident.
If you’re looking up, walking with purpose and acknowledging those who walk by, then you’re not going to look like an easy play. At the same time, don’t be afraid to mix and ask locals for advice. I usually ask the hotel or hostel’s front desk for advice on where to go. If I am traveling alone, I also ask for safety tips as they would know which general areas to avoid.
In Bali, our local co-working space advised us against using certain ATM machines which were notorious for phishing scams. This article here has some great advice on how to interact with locals when traveling.
Always Be Ready
The key to staying safe when traveling is to always prepare and think ahead. When going out at night, always make sure you have enough cash on your for a cab as well as your hotel/hostels’ business card or address. If you can avoid fumbling outside of a hotel looking for money or trying to figure out where to go, you are putting yourself in a much better position.
Always Get Insurance
Sometimes, illness in a foreign country can be unavoidable. Whether it’s poor water quality, food contamination, poor sanitation or an illness caught from other hotel guests or passengers. The most common and contagious illness whilst abroad is diarrhea, but don’t worry there are preventative steps you can take which will give you a better chance of avoiding the illness:
Washing your hands thoroughly before every meal and after you’ve used the bathroom. Even if you don’t think you’ve touched anything dirty. You could even use alcohol gel on your hands as an extra precaution. You could also carry sanitizing wipes with you, which are ideal if there’s no soap or running water available. Try to avoid tap water or food that might have been prepared in water i.e salads or fruit. That includes ice too!
We never leave or go on trips without getting travel insurance. Having recently been in an accident, I would have had to shoulder thousands of dollars in hospitalization and surgery costs if I wasn’t insured.
When traveling, although most people are friendly, always have your wits about you; talking loudly about your room number or what you’re planning to do for the rest of the day tells any opportunist thieves when your room will be unoccupied. Always be sensible and keep your details private.
There have been some instances where people I meet ask us where we are staying and if I am not comfortable revealing this, I usually just say a different hotel name.
Keep Your Things Attached to You
Snatching or other petty crime usually happens in a blink of a second. It is best to keep your bags attached to you at all times. One of the reasons why I love backpacks is because you are most likely to keep in on you at all times. I would take things further and invest in good bags like Pacsafe which you can lock up. Also, make sure you have locks with you at all times.
Keep Emergency Cash Stashed Somewhere
Another great time is to always carry emergency cash with you. This way, in case your wallet (which has your credit cards and cash) gets stolen, you’re not left completely alone to fend for yourself. I usually store some in the lining of my backpack or in secret compartments in my gear. If you can, also store a backup credit card.
Although there are loads of other advice and safety tips that I can give, the bottom line is to trust your instincts. Yes, traveling can be dangerous but it is also life-changing, eye-opening, allows you to meet incredible people and is an opportunity that no one should pass up.
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