I’ve learnt a lot about being safe when travelling the world over the past decade — sometimes the hard way. Here are some of my top suggestions for being safe while travelling.
The worst thing that can happen when you travel is to get sick, be scammed, or be robbed!
At a pub in Panama, a group of women stole my laptop from my backpack while I was distracted. Months later, I discovered it had reappeared. I had a good run of luck.
My iPhone was stolen from me in the street in Mexico City by a pickpocket. Fortunately, I got that back as well, chasing the thief down the road with a bottle of tequila in my hand! LOL.
Even if you never leave the country, awful things can still happen to you. When I wasn’t looking, my camera was taken in Miami Beach.
Travelling for so long has taught me to expect dishonest taxi drivers and tour guides, as well as false promises of assistance and the occasional fraud or swindle.
As a general rule, travelling around the world is a rather safe experience. Let me be the last person to frighten you! However, it’s always a good idea to be ready.
As a result, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 travel safety guidelines to assist you to stay safe while on the road.
Tips for Traveling Safely in 2022
Travel Scams You Should Be Aware Of
No matter where you travel, there will always be those willing to take advantage of you and defraud you of your hard-earned money. Even if they’re obvious, there are plenty of cunning, professional con artists out there.
Although most people believe they are too clever to be conned, it does happen.
Travel scams that I’ve encountered include the following. I propose that you become well-versed in all of them, and then use Google to conduct a further study about the most common scams perpetrated in the area where you intend to travel.
In Cuba, for example, there was a milk fraud. A problem with Costa Rica’s “broken” taxi meters. Also, the renowned Parisian ring swindle There are frauds to be aware of in every country.
If you’re aware of the risks, you’ll be better prepared to avoid being defrauded of hundreds or even thousands of dollars (while suffering the kind of frustration and misery that ruins a dream trip).
It’s a good idea to write down some basic information in case
During a natural disaster, you may not have time to look up phone numbers for local police or ambulance services or the location of your country’s embassy. Alternatively, you may be unable to think clearly because of your level of tension and terror.
Keep your distance from those who would try to take advantage of you. Make an “Emergency Plan” for yourself to follow if things go awry by recording that information in advance. It’s a good idea to store it on your phone (I use the Evernote App).
You should also make a copy on a small card or sheet of paper, laminate it (you can do this at your local office supply store), and keep it in your wallet or purse as an extra precaution against water damage.
You can also keep a copy of your passport and other critical documents on a compact USB thumb drive.
If something goes wrong while you’re travelling, you’ll always have your paperwork with you and know exactly who to call and where to go for help.
Visit the State Department’s website
A travel warning page from the U.S. Department of State lists all known difficulties and current threats to visitors’ safety for every country in the world.
While the State Department is responsible for alerting you to everything that could go wrong, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case.
This means that their advice tends to be on the extreme side of cautionary. That’s something to keep in mind as you continue to gather information on the ground.
However, you can get a basic sense of what’s going on in the country you’re visiting, as well as specific issue regions you should avoid, by investigating travel advisories.
Although portions of Thailand and Mexico have problems, this does not mean you should stay away from those nations entirely.
You should keep your valuables in a safe place.
No matter how careful you are, there will always be something in your possession that you cannot risk losing or having stolen. For example, I take a lot of pricey camera equipment with me when I travel.
Your job is to reduce the number of easy targets for robbery.
Consider the fact that most travel backpacks are not secure. It’s easy to fall asleep next to a secured or even zipped bag under the impression that it’s a sufficient barrier to any robber. A slice in the side when you least expect it!
The material can be ripped or torn by anyone with enough determination unless it’s a slash-proof backpack. Using a sharp tool, such as a pen, is a common method of opening zippers.
Keep an eye on your valuables at all times and strive to make it difficult for someone to steal them without your knowledge. Use a small cable to secure your backpack to a train or bus seat when you’re on a route known to be a target of theft.
As a second step, inquire about safe storage options like a room safe or lockers at your lodging. When sleeping at hostels for backpackers, bring your padlock for your locker.
Insure Your Trip With Travel Insurance
For some reason, it’s always there when you need it. As long as you have a solid insurance policy, you may almost totally relax about the safety of yourself and your equipment when travelling.
People frequently inquire as to whether or not I am concerned about transporting a high-end computer and camera. When I didn’t have health insurance, I was. After learning this, I’m relieved. It will be replaced if something is taken.
Everyone should have some type of travel insurance, including health and property coverage. Why? It’s just that things happen. Regardless of whether or not you believe it will. In the end, no matter how careful you believe you are, it doesn’t make a difference.
Safety Wing Remote Health’s ex-pat health insurance and TCP Photography Insurance’s photography/computer insurance can be useful if you plan on travelling for a lengthy period (such as a digital nomad).
Inquire With Locals for Help
To learn which areas are safe and which are risky, it is best to speak with a resident of the region.
In general, locals are welcoming and will alert you to risky places. There are times when it is best to seek the advice of someone you know, rather than someone you don’t know, to ensure that the advice you receive is accurate (or worse, are trying to scam you).
Depending on the driver, this might be a success or a failure. Some can be terrific providers of useful information, while others can be downright scumbags.
Generally, I’ve found that front desk staff at hostels and hotels are excellent resources for local knowledge.
Do not hesitate to ask them what areas to avoid, how much taxis should cost, and where to dine!
Become a Member of Your Embassy
The US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is designed to notify the local embassy of your arrival and provide you with the most up-to-date safety information.
All U.S. citizens and nationalities abroad can use it for free, and it’s an excellent resource for travellers looking for trustworthy, current safety information and an extra layer of protection in the event of an emergency.
There is also a Canadian equivalent of this known as Registration of Foreign Nationals Abroad in Canada.
If an emergency occurs, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the local embassy will be able to immediately contact you to convey crucial information or assist you in evacuating.
Send A Copy Of Your Route To Near And Dear Ones Via Email
Make sure someone else knows where you’re going and when you’re going there.
To ensure that everyone on the trip is on the same page, email the whole itinerary to a few family members (and double-check with them to be sure they received it). You can then check back in occasionally to see how things are going.
Make sure your parents know where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and when you’re expected back.
As a result, if I don’t return after I’m meant to, they’ll be able to alert the appropriate authorities, including the embassy.
Limit the amount of information you disclose to people you don’t know.
Don’t make your travel plans public on social media because it might be a map of your movements — just what someone with nefarious intents wants to see.
As a general rule, avoid disclosing too many specifics about your vacation plans or accommodations to new acquaintances. If a shopkeeper or street tout asks where you’re staying, don’t say anything.
If someone does inquire about your hotel, you don’t have to be unpleasant; instead, you might be ambiguous about the location you’re staying in. Alternatively, you can pretend to be staying at a hotel that you aren’t.
When you’re visiting a new place for the first time, you may be asked if it’s your first time there. To gain their trust, you can pretend this isn’t your first vacation. Because revealing that you’re a newbie could imply that you’re an attractive target for scammers.
Little tiny falsehoods don’t hurt when you’re feeling vulnerable in a new environment.
Be Careful What You Pose For Photographs
Because of the popularity of apps like Instagram and TikTok, tourists are increasingly participating in hazardous behaviours only to get more likes on their photos and videos. You hear about individuals going down cliffs or being attacked by wildlife weekly now because they were trying to take a great picture.
Be aware of your limitations! Make sure you don’t do something dumb that could get you into trouble or perhaps put your life in danger. A little bit of danger can be fun, but I try to keep it in moderation.
If it’s windy or appears unstable, don’t stand on the brink of a cliff. Anywhere you go, pay attention to the warnings and signs that are placed. Animals can be unpredictable, so keep your distance from them.
Don’t infringe on private property, put yourself in the shoes of the inhabitants, and respect the places you visit.
Spend a little extra money to ensure your family’s safety.
If you’re travelling on a shoestring budget like I was, it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of finding the cheapest options for lodging, transportation, and activities.
While this kind of transportation may be convenient, it is not always the most secure.
Cheap backpacker hostels aren’t necessarily the best locations to stay. Several of the places where I’ve slept had no locks on the doors, and they had the air of a makeshift sanctuary for drug users and other undesirables.
It’s not a good idea to hail a cab at night in a hazardous city and hope the driver doesn’t abduct you on a budget flight.
Travellers can benefit from spending a little extra money on things such as a higher-quality hostel or tour operator with a proven track record of providing safe and secure accommodations, transportation, and other amenities.
Keep an eye on what you’re wearing
You’re a target for scammers, robbers, and worse if you wear the wrong clothes while on vacation. To avoid unwanted attention from the wrong crowds, avoid seeming like a tourist.
Respect is demonstrated by dressing appropriately. There are rigorous clothing codes in many Muslim countries, and there are also rules in other countries that may catch you out (for example, walking topless through the streets of Barcelona is illegal for both sexes).
Despite this, it is possible to keep within the law and nevertheless insult locals by what you are wearing—and in the process, generate enmity towards you. Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand when you disregard local conventions.
It’s always better to dress more conservatively while travelling to conservative countries. If you are a foreigner, you are going to stand out, but not as much as individuals who do not observe the customs of the area.
As a first step, check out Wikipedia’s broad guidance on clothing laws by nation – but don’t be afraid to narrow down your search to find someone you can trust, such as a local citizen or ex-pat who has lived in the country for some time.
“Tether” Yourself to Your Bag
It is because the criminal has the ability and time to flee quickly that these types of robberies occur. Slowing them down will help avoid the problem altogether.
As long as you maintain your bag attached to an immovable object at all times, and do it noticeably, robbers will think it’s too risky a job for them and leave you alone.
Using a carabiner clip is a simple and effective way. Even a simple leg or chair strap will suffice.
Keeping it locked up with a steel cable and padlock isn’t always necessary; it only has to be secured sufficiently that a quick grab-and-run is impossible.
Find out how to defend yourself.
Even if you’re not interested in becoming a black belt, it’s a good idea to take a few self-defence sessions. Krav Maga and Muay Thai are two great street fighting systems to consider.
Discover WHEN to utilize it next. If you’re capable of kicking someone’s ass, that doesn’t imply you should. According to Sam Harris, author of a book on the subject:
“Do everything you can to avoid a physical conflict, but if that fails, attack explosively for the sake of escaping.”
Getting as far away from danger as you can is a fantastic strategy to negate it. Give your phone to a masked assailant with a knife or a gun and run away. You’ll be fine.
Only use force if you have no other choice and your life is in danger.
Investing in a tactical pen can provide you with an additional layer of protection (and learn how to use it). When travelling through customs, it doesn’t raise any red flags for me.
Situational Awareness is a project.
Did you realize that nonverbal body language accounts for the vast majority of human communication? By projecting an air of self-assurance, you can avoid becoming a prey item.
Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings by keeping your head up and your feet on the ground. When you’re confident, your body language and eye contact tell potential assailants that you’re in control.
The majority of attackers will move on to a new target.
Making direct eye contact with potential attackers can assist deter attacks by letting them know you saw them and what they could be planning. Nonetheless, in other countries, excessive eye contact might lead to difficulties.
Keep an eye on your surroundings, move with purpose, and don’t appear anxious or disoriented (even if you are) – but avoid staring contests with those who appear suspicious.
Declare Your Destination to Your Financial Institution If You Plan to Use Your Accounts to Travel
Imagine the misery of completing everything correctly and securely, only to have your trip spoiled because your bank believes you are the burglar and locks down all your cards.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll be asked a series of security questions to confirm your identity. As a rule of thumb, you’ll receive a notification from the bank’s fraud detection team stating that your card has been flagged for suspicious activity and that all transactions have been temporarily halted until the issue is rectified.
The answer is straightforward. Most online banking services allow you to notify your bank or credit card issuer of your planned vacation plans. If your trip plans change, let them know as soon as possible, and make sure you use the service.
Additionally, I recommend using your debit card immediately after arriving in a new nation at the airport ATM, as this will alert the bank that you’re on vacation.
In case of an emergency, keep a little amount of cash on hand
Planning for the worst-case scenario is a good idea, but preparing for the best-case scenario is better. For this reason, it’s important to have an emergency fund held in a secure location.
Here are a few of my favourite areas to skulk around:
- Pants with a hidden pocket
- Behind a backpack patch.
- An empty chapstick container was used as a wrapping.
- At the back of the secret chamber (like this hair-brush or belt pouch)
How much emergency cash do you have on hand? As a general rule, I prefer $200 divided out into two separate accounts. Hidden in me and my purse are some of them. It’s a good idea to keep a backup credit card on hand.
What would happen if the situation worsened and all was lost? Western Union and Moneygram transfers can be used to send emergency funds to your friends or family members if they agreed to do so before your departure.
Hopefully, it won’t have to be like this. But these things do happen, and it’s best to learn safe travel techniques rather than to remain unaware of the possibilities.
Make an Effort to Remain Sober
Being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs while travelling is nearly always a recipe for disaster. As a result of being intoxicated, you’re not aware of what’s going on around you (or to you).
No, I’m not telling you to not have fun. Hell, I’ve accumulated a hefty number throughout the years. Make sure you’re drinking in moderation, stay conscious of how much you’re consuming, stay hydrated and fed, and don’t get out of control.
It’s a good way to get in trouble with the police, who may not be as lenient (or even law-abiding) as authorities back home if you’re doing hard narcotics. To say nothing of the fact that the persons delivering the medications — and the motivations behind them — may be malicious.
Similarly, if you’re a night owl who likes to party until the wee hours of the morning, don’t assume that foreign locations would be as lenient.
If you’re drunk and stumbling around in unfamiliar places late at night, you’re a much easier target for all kinds of bad things. Even places that are generally safe (such as tourist hotspots) become much less safe.