Top tips for Safe Travels

IMG_20130418_055754

The world isn’t dangerous or unsafe. Quite the opposite! There are far more smiling faces to be found but safety remains a priority for even the most seasoned travelers. Here are some basic common tips and simple guidelines to use on your next vacation.

• Don’t be flashy. Wearing expensive clothes, jewelry and luggage can make you a target for crime. Try to blend in with the locals and avoid the obvious tourist appearance.

• Don’t bring anything you would hate to lose. Any sign of wealth makes you a vulnerable target.

• Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, use common sense: Don’t walk alone down unlit streets. Don’t discuss travel plans with strangers. Don’t flash huge amounts of cash.

• While your money, credit cards and other valuables should be either left behind in the hotel safe or hidden in a secure money belt under your cloths, neither of these is practical if you fancy stopping for a cup of coffee or buying something on the street. Keep a small amount of cash in an accessible pocket for the day, leave the rest in the hotel safe. If you have the misfortune of getting pick-pocketed then at least you have not lost all of your money.

• Familiarize yourself with the local culture of the country you are going to visit. It is fairly difficult to cause so much offence as to get yourself into actual trouble, generally people you meet will be tolerant and understanding. The exceptions would be offending local religious sensibilities, unpopular views about the government or royal family of the country you visit, or committing a crime. When traveling to another country, remember you are a visitor, and abide by their laws and respect their culture.

• Respect the customs of the local culture and dress conservatively (no shorts and sleeveless attire). Keep beach ware for the beach.

• Walk confidently to your destination, even if you have no idea where you are going.

• Do not leave your belongings unattended in public places (this one is obvious but being done). Most notably visitors leave their bags at their feet or hanging from the back of chairs when they are at cafes or restaurants. Either keep them on your lap or wrap its strap around your leg.

• Do not give to beggars: I know, this one is hard for me too. There are exceptions to this rule, such as monks seeking alms. Encouraging begging is not the most efficient use of your money (and goodwill). If you want to help out then do some volunteer work in the destination or donate some money to a local charity for the homeless. Again the internet is a fountain of information but here are two articles that address the issue and worth the read: “Should Travelers give to kids who beg?” and “Giving money to street kids

• While traveling on a bus or train, keep your valuables with you or at least in your line of sight.

• Use taxis at taxi stands, or have your hotel call you one rather than waving one down (in many destinations, taxis will not stop when you flag them down). On your way out of your hotel, pick up a card with its name and address on it. You can use this to ask for directions, or to give to your taxi driver who (in many cities around the world) may not have a clue where your hotel is if you mention only the name of it, or there might be a language barrier.

• View maps discreetly. A map identifies you as a tourist and unfortunately as a target.

• Photos are a must when travelling. However keep the camera discreet, many point and shoot cameras will fit in a pocket or bag when not in use. Do not leave larger ones dangling around your neck.

• When withdrawing money from bank machines, try to do so during day light, in well trafficked areas and use machines from recognized banks where possible. Once the cash is withdrawn take time to ensure it is stashed away safely. Do not do so while walking down the street.

Most importantly, just use plain common sense and intuition. Traveling abroad should not be overwhelming or dangerous. In fact it should be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences in your lifetime. Be yourself. There is only so much you can do to make yourself disappear into the local culture. When I was in China, I could have worn a dragon costume in a street parade and still would not have been able to blend in. But I met a lot of great people merely by saying hello.