The Internet is full of travel safety tips, some useful, some questionable, and some that have been repeated ad nauseum. By now, you probably know most of the general travel safety tips out there: don’t flash your valuables, never carry a lot of money, know your surroundings, and so on.
Here are some less-mentioned but equally imporant tips to help keep you safe:
Don’t Be an Easy Mark
Pickpockets are smart, and they’re experts at picking the easiest mark. They thrive on the careless and the distracted, but skip right over the alert pedestrians who might cause trouble for them. So make yourself look capable and slide right off their radar.
How? There are a couple of easy ways to make a pickpocket’s job harder. First, be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded areas. Keep your head raised and look around confidently. Secondly, and most importantly, keep your stuff secured at all times. If you carry a purse, invest in a cross-body bag with a zipper closure and wear it in front of your body. Never put it down on the floor of a restaurant or hang it over the back of your seat at a cafe. Men should carry their wallet in an interior jacket pocket or in their front pants pocket, never the back. These simple adjustments can prevent the majority of thefts.
It’s not that all taxi drivers are crooked, it’s just that some are and as a tourist you’re particularly vulnerable to their scams. If you follow this protocol though, you can eliminate a lot of potential problems.
First, only use official taxis with the proper markings. Ask your hotel or hostel to call a taxi company that they trust and to give you a quote on the fair (this is particularly important in South America). Before you get into a taxi, establish the cost or insist that they turn on the meter, and if they tell you it’s broken, grab a different cab.
Don’t pay the fare until you and all of your belongings are out of the cab, including luggage in the trunk. You don’t want a driver speeding off with your stuff still inside.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Pennucci)
Protect Your Data
Everyone worries about protecting their physical belongings, but it’s becoming increasingly important to keep an eye on your personal information as well. Travel makes you particularly vulnerable to credit card and data theft.
Try to avoid using your credit or debit card for unnecessary transactions, particularly at smaller local establishments. Try to pay in cash wherever possible, or use a card with excellent fraud protection.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly more available, but open networks provide an easy opportunity for data thieves to access your information. If you’re connecting to an open (not password protected) network, use a VPN program to protect your data, particularly if you’re going to access anything sensitive, like online banking information.
It’s Okay to be a Jerk (Sometimes)
People, particularly women, are conditioned to be polite and agreeable in all situations. Unfortunately, certain predators and con-artists will use this to their advantage by pushing you to do things you aren’t comfortable with. Remember that it’s okay to be rude, when your safety is on the line. Don’t feel bad about telling people who are asking too much to get lost.
(Photo courtesy of joesahfeen)