Stay safe on your next trip with your travel tips
Take it from someone who’s been there – being mugged or stolen from on vacation is no fun. You don’t have to ruin your next trip by being over-cautious, but by taking a few precautions, you can make things safer for yourself.
Use the Hotel Safe: The most obvious thing to do but sometimes you can be lulled into a false sense of security or think your possessions aren’t valuable enough to steal. Don’t be! I had my iPod disappear from my suitcase in Vegas because I thought the same thing.
Split Your Cards and Cash: Another obvious one, but easy to forget – and it can seem unnecessary if you feel safe in a place. You don’t need to take all your cards out with you, so just take what you need for the day. If you bring your credit card, you probably won’t need your cash card, and vice versa. You may also find you get less sidetracked by impulse buys as well, so it’s all good.
Carry a Local Newspaper: Yes, even if you don’t speak the language. If you look like you could be local, you’re going to be less of a target.
Empty Your Pockets: You’d think it’s the first thing everyone knows about traveling, but you’d be amazed at how many people are baffled that they get pick pocketed when they carried their belongings in their pocket. Thieves are cleverer at this stuff than you, and they know how to get it out without you feeling it, however sensitive you think your derriere is.
Look Street Smart: If you’re somewhere very touristy, there are going to be a lot of potential victims for thieves to choose from, and they’ll go for the easy targets. I’ve spent a lot of time in Rome, and have seen a fair bit of (attempted) pick pocketing taking place both on me and on other people; and it’s usually the people looking distracted with a map, or carrying a backpack, or making things easy for the thieves. If you think you’ve been targeted, make your suspicions clear, by making eye contact and moving away from them or, if that doesn’t work, shouting. Ladies, remember to strap your purse across your body rather than carrying it in your hand.
Check Maps Inside: Standing in the street looking at a map not only means you’re distracted and a ripe target, but also marks you out as someone who doesn’t know where they’re going. Try and go inside to check a map – whether it’s a church, a café, or a shop – and whenever you stop anywhere, work out your route before you leave that place. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions, either.
Take Local Advice on Where to Go: Guidebooks and travel articles love to talk up the next big thing or area in a destination, but before you trot off there, check with a local whether it’s safe to do so – because your information might be out of date, a result of a guided tour group, or just wrong. I went against the advice of the people I was staying with in Havana and visited an area which all the guidebooks said was the real deal – and promptly got violently mugged at 2pm on a Sunday. Yes, a local could be scare-mongering if they tell you not to go somewhere, but they’re more trustworthy than a book. And take it from me – splitting the rest of your holiday between the hospital, police station and your consulate is pretty much a bummer.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Yes, going off the beaten path is one of the best ways to see a city, but just stay aware of your surroundings. And trust your instincts! If something feels weird, it probably is.
Think About What you Look Like: If you go to a bank or a bureau de change, no matter what you’re doing, be aware of how it might look – and that you might be more of a target afterwards (I was mugged right after I’d been to a bank to change less than $10). So take extra precautions to look like you know where you’re going when you come out.
“Derentalize” the Car: If you’ve hired a car, chances are it’ll show – if nothing else than by the fact that it’s cleaner and newer than the average. You can’t do anything about that, but you can remove anything the rental companies have put inside it – stickers telling you not to smoke, for instance, or barcodes on the window. Keep them in the glove box and stick them back on when you return the car. When you park it, that newspaper can come in handy to leave on the back seat.