Travel Safety – A Simple Guide
We all enjoy travelling and it is very easy to get excited and let your guard down when visiting a new country. A different culture, different language, different surroundings all add to the thrill but the fact is, as a tourist in a different country, you are an easy target for criminals. Maybe, we are just too trusting and think the best of people but sadly, when you are travelling or visiting a new country, you are very vulnerable.
Whenever you are visiting a foreign country, always remember and never forget, you are in a different country and different laws and regulations apply. Free support that you receive and take for granted in your home country, may cost you a small fortune in your chosen destination.
As a tourist in a foreign country more often than not you will stick out like a sore thumb and this alone leaves you exposed to crime. There are many reasons why you as a tourist stand out from the crowd and hopefully this article will help you eliminate some of them.
Travel safety should be a priority when you are visiting new places and you should always prepare for the unexpected. Most people travelling live a fairly comfortable and privileged life in terms of having a home to live in and a little spare money to enjoy a few luxuries. Let’s face it, if we have enough money to be able to travel, we can’t be that poor can we? However, many of the countries around the world sadly have people who are far less fortunate than you and I. Many of these countries that attract large volumes of tourists sadly attract large amounts of thieves and criminal gangs too. This is no coincidence and is simply down to the fact that tourists are seen to have money and generally carry money on their person, along with many desirable items to thieves such as cameras, mobile phones, ipads, tablet, laptops and video cameras. This very fact makes you the traveller a very desirable and vulnerable target for these thieves.
This guide is not designed to make you fear travelling but it will hopefully make you think a little more about your own travel safety and how you can minimise your risk of becoming a target for thieves that may be operating in the country you are visiting. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try protect your belongings, you can still fall prey to thieves but the harder you make it for them to target you, the less they will want to approach you.
Travel safety is all about common sense and as you read through the rest of the guide, you will realise this but unfortunately, so many people when travelling are so ignorant and arrogant and believe ‘It will never happen to them’. As a result of their ignorance, they choose to ignore any advice offered and believe they know best, then wonder why they were targetted.
There are certain steps you can take before travel that will help you safeguard your belongings whilst travelling and will also help you minimise your losses in the event of having your belongings stolen.
Obviously, it goes without saying that you should always ensure you have full travel insure before your trip that will cover you for the full duration of your travel. However, although this will cover you for the monetary loss of your belongings and generally replace the items you have lost, sadly it will not be able to replace those sentimental items such as jewellery and photographs. It will also not be able to replace any data that you may have stored on your laptop, mobile phone or ipad.
In today’s climate and ever changing world, there are so many different situations you need to be prepared for and try to safe guard yourself and your family against. These are such things as:
There are many countries throughout the world where you need to be extra cautious when travelling and if you are unsure or concerned about a certain destination you are travelling to or wish to travel to, a quick call to the Foreign Office should provide you the answers to your questions.
The Foreign Office can be contacted on: 0845 850 2829
The following list will help with your travel safety.
Take A Back Up And Keep Records Of Your Document
Before you even leave for your trip, it is a good idea to back up everything you possibly can and make a copy of all your documents.
- Photocopy your passport, travel documents and itinerary
- Take photographs of your passport and travel document
- Take photographs of the electrical goods you are taking with you such as camera, mobile phone, ipad, laptop or video camera. This will help if you have any item stolen and you need to provide information to Insurance companies.
- Back up all your data on your mobile phone and laptop and store it on a separate format such as an external hardrive.
- Ensure you have a copy of all your travel document in your email account such as boarding passes, car hire vouchers, hotel reservations, travel insurance. This will mean that should you lose them or have them stolen, you will be able to print more copies of them from anywhere in the world.
- Do not put all your bank cards in the same place. Separate them so that if you lose one, you still have other ways to get money. Putting them all in one place will only me you lose the lot in one go if your wallet or purse is stolen or lost.
- Ensure you have all the vaccination you require before travel
- Familiarise yourself with the local surroundings and take a little time to learn about the laws and regulations. Do your research and become aware of the any
dangers that may arise.
- Ask questions about crime and places to avoid. Find out if there are any scams operating in the area you are staying in, if there is, be sensible, use your
common sense and try to minimise the risk of falling foul of them.
Send an email to yourself containing photographs of your passport and travel documents. This will allow you to access your email account from anywhere in the world. Then, in the event of having your passport stolen, you will have a copy of it at hand.
Leave Your Valuables At Home
Do you really need to take that expensive watch, ring, necklace or bracelet? Wearing expensive jewellery only does one thing and that is attract thieves and makes you stand out from the crowd and become a very vulnerable target. Walking around with expensive jewellery on show is asking for trouble and if you can do without it, leave it at home!
Make It Harder For Them
Most thieves are opportunists and do not want to draw attention to themselves. They are looking for that easy target that they cansteal from with minimum effort. If you remember this and are vigilant on your travels, you will make it much harder for them and as a result, will put yourself in a much less vulnerable position. By taking a few simply steps to improve your travel safety you can reduce the worry of becoming a target.
Safety In Numbers
Many thieves work in pairs or groups and if you are walking on your own, you will be seen as a much easier target especially for thieves. Wherever possible, try to minimise the risk by walking in a pair or in a group. Try not to walk down streets that are dark or have bad lighting and if you do find yourself walking alone at night, try to stick to the main roads that are busy and well lit.
Keep Your Valuables Out Of Sight
If you are travelling there is no doubt that you will have luggage. The period between the airport and reaching your accommodation is when you are at your most vulnerable. This is when you will have all your belongings, valuables and documentation on your person. During this transition period, it is essential that you keep these items out of sight and as secure as possible. The last thing you want to be stolen is your passport.
One of the best ways to keep your valuables safe is wearing a money belt. Money belts are very cheap to buy and provide you with peace of mind. They can be worn under your clothes and are not visible to anyone. You can use your money belt to keep your passport, credit cards and money safe while you are travelling to and from the airport.
Once you have reached your accommodation, it is recommended to make sure you leave your valuables in a safe place. Many hotels and apartments offer safety deposit boxes and if you have one available, it is wise to make good use of it. If you do not have one available, ensure you do not leave your valuables on display when you leave your room. Unfortunately, items do go missing from hotel rooms and if you leave your valuables on display, you are leaving yourself open.
This also applies to you when you are walking around the towns or cities.
Carry As Little On Your Person As Possible
Try to carry as little on you as possible by only taking a small amount of money (just enough that you will need) out with you. Once again, you can keep your money in your money belt which will be out of sight under your clothes.
If you feel the need to carry a wallet or purse, ensure that you do not keep it in your back pocket. If you have and inside pocket, keep it in there or a pocket that you can button or zip up.
If you do want to take your phone, camera, video camera or laptop with you, ensure that you do not put it down on tables or bars. Thieves are opportunists and are looking for the ideal and easiest moment to strike. If they see a valuable item unattended or left on a table or bar, then you can guarantee it will not stay there long!
Secure your Luggage
How much is a small padlock? Not a great deal of money and they provide you with a little more security which makes it harder for any thief to enter your luggage. A simple deterrent such as a padlock could be the deciding factor that deters a thief from targeting you. If you do not have padlock, then you can always thread a cable tie or a keyring through your zip loops to secure your zip.
If you are in a café or restaurant and you have your bag with you, don’t make it easy for someone to snatch or grab it. A good habit to get in to, is to put your foot or the leg of a chair through one of the straps of your bag so that it is secure and cannot be stolen.
If you are at the airport or on the beach and you are taking a quick nap, always clip the bag on to you or place your arm through the strap. Ensure that your passport, money and travel documents are hidden away (in a money belt) and never leave your bag unattended or loosely on display in public places.
Check Before You Leave
Always get into the habit of checking the area to which you have been sitting before you leave. This applies to airports, restaurants, cafes, bars, the beach or any other public areas such as benches and parks. Always take a good look around before you walk away from the area that you have been sitting. When you are vacating your accommodation always double check to ensure you have not left any belongings behind.
A common place where people leave their belongings is on the overhead racks on aircrafts, trains, coaches and public buses. Always take a moment to stop and think before jumping up and jumping off!
Look Behind You
Thieves can work in groups and sometimes they will watch your movements, especially if you have been to the ATM to withdraw money. It doesn’t take a second to take a quick look over your shoulder every now and again to ensure that you are not be followed. If you believe you are, it is best not to approach them but inform someone or if possible, the police.
Take a note of Your Accommodation Address And Be Familiar With Your Surroundings
When you are in a new country, it is easy to be distracted by your surroundings and atmosphere and it is very easy to forget where you are, especially if you have a few drinks. A good idea is to pick up a business card from the accommodation where you are staying. These cards will have the name and address of your accommodation and in the event of you becoming lost or forgetting the name, you will a quick reference in your pocket.
Also, it is a good idea to make note of a few landmarks that are close to your accommodation, which will help you navigate your way back.
Be Careful Who You Befriend
Ok, we all like to meet people and make new friends, especially the locals in different countries. This is just one of the reasons why travel is great. We all like to soak up new culture and try different cuisines but it pays to be a little careful with whom you actually become friends with. Although the majority of people you meet on your travels are
genuine, sadly there are always a minority whom wish to entice you with their friendliness and charm, in order to take advantage of you.
Don’t accept food or drink from strangers if you have not seen them buy it or if it comes already made or open. Also, be very sceptical if they themselves are not drinking or eating it!
Never go off with strangers, even if they do seem genuine.
There are many scams in operation where people are offered food and drink and then taken elsewhere.
Every country you visit has its fair share of beggars and it is very easy to be emotionally suckered into giving them money. Nobody enjoys seeing people homeless or suffering and there are correct channels that you can use to help these people. The sad thing is, that many of the beggars (especially children) you see on the streets are actually forced into doing it by adults and the sad thing is, the children do not see any of the money themselves.
The other negative about giving money is that you are encouraging them to beg and you will also have to get your wallet or purse out in public. Some of these beggars are actually members of organised crime rings and are there as distractions. Once you have taken your wallet or purse out, they will be others watching to see where you then put your wallet or purse. You will be followed and then pickpocketed.
Why Put Up A Fight And Risk Your Life
Ok, it is natural instinct to defend yourself but if you have followed all the simple steps above and you are travelling with the minimum amount of valuables on your person or have a minimum amount of money in your wallet, that does not contain all your bank cards, is there any point putting up a fight and risking your own safety?
In many countries, poverty is the way of life and what may seem nothing to you is a great deal to someone else. Life is cheap in some third world countries and there comes a point where in some cases, it is just easier to hand over what you have and walk away unharmed.
If you go out with a minimum amount of money on you and you have left all your valuables an additional money in your accommodation, it means that the only thing you can ever lose is the money you have on you at that one time. If you are unlucky enough to be mugged and are asked to hand over your money, is it really worth the risk to fight? You do not know what weapons they may be carrying, you do not know how many other people may be with them and you do not want to be left injured in a foreign country.
Implement these simpe travel safety tips and minimise the risk of becoming an easy target.