I have travelled extensively but have never been subjected to violent crime. Perhaps it is luck, but one does make their own luck for the most part. Most of this advice is just common sense, but unfortunately, many people’s common sense tends to take a holiday when they are on holiday. Here are tips that assist me to travel safely.
Act Confident – Even if you are not, act as if you know where you are, and act as if you can assert yourself. It may be bluff, but it is usually effective.
Don’t share taxis – Never agree to share a taxi with anyone else unless you already know them. Never allow yourself to be outnumbered within a vehicle. If you see someone else enter your taxi after you have taken your seat – do what I did when it occurred to me, leave the taxi immediately – don’t question – just leave.
Beware the overly friendly stranger – A difficult one to decipher. In some countries everyone is friendly (especially Middle East and India) so gauging the difference between a genuine person or someone with nefarious purposes is not easy. If you feel something is not right, you are usually correct. Your intuition is a great ally.
Don’t disclose hotel information – Unless you trust the person, be cautious in revealing where you are staying. This avoids having anyone waiting or following you there. If pressed for where you are staying, just give the suburb rather than the hotel name or tell them you have forgotten the name of the hotel, but know where to find it.
Pretend to be with a group – If you are alone it is sometimes wise to pretend to be with a group who you will “meet soon”. This is also handy when trying to leave awkward situations. I know of females who invent imaginary partners that are back in the hotel, carry photos of a male friend claiming them to be their husband, or wear a fake wedding ring (which I term the “deterrent ring”).
Safety after Sunset
Alcohol and Drugs – I don’t drink alcohol nor take drugs, but reports of young people dying overseas reveals a trend of being drunk and alone – whether they are drinking alone or they wander off from their friends. If you are not with someone who has an emotional attachment to you, avoid getting drunk or high. Isolating yourself when not in complete control is a risky combination. Also, alcohol and drugs impair your intuition as to the danger or otherwise of a person or situation.
Alone at Night – You are not going to walk down a dark alley alone or through an unlit park at night in your home city, so why do it when travelling. Stay where the crowds are and you are less likely to find trouble. Some cities may not even be safe if you are part of the crowd. If locals are telling you this, then the simple answer is not to go out during the evening.
Arriving at Night – If you can arrange it, avoid arriving in any new destination at night. Orientating yourself after dark and finding your way around an unfamiliar city is not recommended. Look for transport options that arrive during daylight hours, and if that is not possible, arrange with your accommodation provider to meet you on arrival.
Keeping your Possessions Safe
Keep valuables hidden – Very obvious but easily forgotten. Flashing a wallet/purse or wearing the latest designer brands when travelling – generally these are not sound travel tips. If you cannot leave your valuables in a hotel safe, keep them under lock in your room, or carry them with you, but not in your pockets. Passport, cash, credit cards should all be stowed in a money belt or something similar.
Sit facing a room – Always keep you bag close to you when dining or sitting anywhere. I always sit in the corner of a restaurant or against a wall facing the room with my bag beside me. By adopting this position, no one is able to approach me from behind.
If you are feeling seriously threatened, you need to attract attention, so generally making some noise will have the desired effect – but it will not be suitable in every case.
There is no need to be paranoid when travelling, it is a case of being alert but not alarmed. A destination is very rarely dangerous if you research beforehand. Any destination can be unsafe if you do not use common sense.
I use World Nomads travel insurance. Why? Two reasons: first they are one of the only providers that allow travellers to purchase insurance whilst already on the road without the need to return to their home country. Second, their claims procedure is very impressive. My DSLR fell out of my camera bag and was damaged, and World Nomads paid out my claim even before I paid for the repairs on the camera. This fast claims process was repeated on a later claim. If you cannot afford travel insurance you cannot afford to travel. World Nomads has my highest recommendation.