Five Tips from Experienced Travelers on How to Stay Safe while Traveling
While waiting for my train to Toulouse from Toulouse station, I felt something tugging at my coat. Immediately, Smart Travellers reached into my jacket pocket and grabbed hold of my phone; panicking, I turned around to see the man behind me holding it – with what seemed like only his hands! Without thinking twice, I hit him in an effort to retrieve my phone but quickly realized it had been taken by another passenger – who ran away as quickly as he’d come back around the corner. With full force, I pulled it away and shouted for its return; knowing full well that this man would catch up to get away quickly enough so as not to get caught and pulled it from his hands before running away.
I made a mistake and was distracted from my phone as I waited to board the train. After several months in Toulouse, my comfort level had increased considerably and so it was easier than usual for me to forget to put my phone in my jacket pocket and continue with my business. Luckily, the thief who was behind me felt no pull on my jacket; otherwise, I never would’ve boarded the train; instead he headed straight for me with an iPhone in hand.
Though I was lucky to get my phone back after being pickedpocketed, this isn’t always the case. To remain aware and take extreme precautions when traveling, it’s essential to be alert and smart. Even if you feel scared or threatened, be alert and smart – otherwise your trip could quickly turn sour with theft or assault. These five tips will help ensure your safety – as Rick Steves said “Don’t travel afraid, but travel cautiously”.
Do some preparation before leaving on your trip to prevent theft or loss. Print multiple copies of essential documents and store them all digitally in the cloud – this way, you can access them remotely.
Make a list with serial numbers, makes and models if you are taking electronics. To keep track of everything packed in your suitcase, snap pictures from both inside and outside to prevent forgetting what was inside. My suitcase had everything but images taken earlier in the trip that could not be recalled later; replacing only my camera could replace those images. Upload photos regularly and back up important files regularly – leave valuables in your hotel room so they are safer than on the streets!
Be Warned of Common SCAMS
Traveling abroad can lead to being scammed. Scammers come in many forms, from teens and adults alike, and they have the ability to fool even the most intelligent travelers. I’ve experienced it firsthand – distracted by someone else while my partner steals your wallet or when a small child asks for assistance while their sister zips up your purse. Thieves are resourceful and always find new ways of deceiving unsuspecting tourists, so be wary of these common tricks that thieves use on unsuspecting travelers.
- Deaf women often ask you to sign a false petition Smart Travellers or donate money. This is especially common in Paris. Keep moving and avoid eye contact.
- You might be approached by a small child or someone offering you their baby. Keep your focus on the prize and protect your possessions.
- A found ring occurs when someone approaches you to inquire if your ring has been lost.
- They may attempt to rob or distract you by asking for the location of your ring.
Someone may ask you to assist them with a demonstration. A common scam involves attaching a friendship bracelet on your arm; either to trick you into paying for it, or your partner can steal your money while you’re distracted.
Salesmen who attempt to offer deals that appear too good to be true often do so because it sounds too good to be true. Be wary of any salesperson who attempts to push you into something you think is too good to be true!
Are you being pushed by someone and your bag falls to the ground? They may offer to help pick up your belongings, but what happens if something goes missing after they take it from you? If this occurs, make sure that someone knows about the loss before proceeding with any rescue attempts.
Someone drops something on you (ketchup and fake pigeon urine are common examples), then attempts to clean it up. My friend in Brazil had mustard on his pants after being sprayed by a scam artist who then attempted to clean it up while trying to steal his wallet while he was distracted. Luckily, he was aware of the scam ahead of time.
- Older women may slip and fall on sidewalks or in elevators. Although it may seem cruel, you can step back and let others help while keeping your valuables secure.
- Be wary of anyone who seems too eager to assist; their motives may differ.
- Street games (dice, magic tricks), which require participation by others.
It is reasonable to assume that street disturbances, fights and arguments are taking place. They likely aim to draw in a distracted crowd with easy targets.
There are plenty of scams out there. But you don’t need to be scared or paranoid; simply stay calm. Avoid engaging with strangers in tourist areas or on streets that appear too good to be true. While most people are kind, be wary when traveling in unfamiliar environments.
Take your time getting off the bus or train. Do not rush and forget your passport or bag. Make sure to inspect your room for any forgotten items before departing.
Avoid areas that appear dark and empty at night. Even if no one else is around, someone else might be there.
Keep your belongings close to you while dining out or taking a break in the park. Your purse or backpack should always remain with you at all times. Secure the bag to yourself by looping a strap around one arm or leg – this will prevent someone else from taking advantage of you while you’re not looking.
Be alert when in large crowds. Thieves often find easy escape routes among transit users, coming up to you to rob and then suddenly they are on their way away from the crime scene. Keep your purse and backpack close by you when taking subways or buses; this will prevent thieves from stealing them. Put cash into a front pocket for added protection.
Avoid major tourist attractions. Pick pocketing is a major issue at Paris’ Louvre, where staff went on strike last year due to the persistent petty theft incidents. Don’t let the Mona Lisa distract you from your work or your wallet get taken. Be mindful when visiting these tourist hotspots.
Fashion Over Function
While we all want to look our best when traveling, sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice some aesthetics for safety. Wearing something ugly won’t do anyone any good and no one else will ever know. Investing in functional travel accessories that protect yourself and your belongings is worth the investment – whether that be money belts or purses that look stylish while traveling or functional travel bags that protect both of you from potential dangers during transit.
Consider wearing a money belt or neck pouch. They may seem silly, but these items can keep your passport, rail pass and driver’s license safe underneath your clothing if you forget or get distracted. Your vulnerability can be reduced significantly with this simple precaution. Keep it on when staying in hostels or taking overnight trains – otherwise it won’t do any good if it isn’t tucked under your clothes. For easy access, keep some cash in your pocket and fill up the money belt with more cash plus your credit/debit card.
Your expensive bags and jewelry should be left at home. Not only is it possible that they could get lost during transit, but having such valuable possessions attracts thieves and makes them easy targets for theft.
When traveling, a backpack or purse made specifically for traveling is the best option. These bags typically feature lockable zippers, hidden pockets and cut-proof straps – ideal if your purse gets taken from you like mine did in Barcelona – though I wish that had been my only travel accessory!
If you find yourself the victim of theft, don’t panic. With proper preparation (see travel tip #1), all documentation necessary for recovery should be accessible. For assistance at the hotel or local tourist office, consider reaching out to family and friends back home for support.
Don’t let your frustrations affect you or those around you who are trying to help. Bad luck can happen to anyone – even experienced travelers! Keep doing what needs doing and moving on; everything can be recovered or replaced if needed. A ruined trip is not worth all the effort it took.
Filing a police report is useful when filing insurance claims and replacing passports and cards. Although completing it in Barcelona proved challenging, it was fascinating to observe law enforcement operations abroad. You can file your report online and bring it directly to the station; this was what I did in Barcelona to save time.
Your passport can be replaced at the nearest consulate or embassy. To locate one near you, find the location here or reach out to your hotel or local tourist office for assistance. To make things simpler, look online and complete any necessary paperwork beforehand.