One of the most popular questions travellers ask themselves about their destination and travel plans is “is it safe?“. The question of safety can cause people to be anxious and filled with worry. Worry is the ultimate kill-joy. But it doesn’t have to kill the joy out of your holidays and travels.
There are some very simple, practical things to be mindful about and to do to put your worries at ease so you can travel safely and enjoy it to the fullest. Whether you are travelling alone or with someone, or even in a group, here are tips to keep you and your belongings safe while you travel, so you can have a good time!
1. Have a Good Personal Bag
I always, always wear a cross-body purse that can only be easily un-clipped by the person wearing the bag (ie: me). There are some heavy duty bags out there that are also slash-proof, Credit-Card stealing proof, and more. I personally don’t like traditional or fashionable backpacks (travel backpacks are different) because I can’t SEE them. With a cross-body or messenger back, I can always keep a hand on it when I pass through very crowded tourist areas, or when I take public transportation. If you absolutely have to go with a backpack, then wear it facing forward whenever in crowded areas.
2. Never keep important Items inside Pockets
I had a scare in Paris in front of Sacré Coeur when a man managed to pull my Note 4 right out of my front jacket pocket. It was a stupid mistake, it was obviously sticking out, which is why I was targeted. Fortunately it is a heavy hunk of a phone, so I could feel it being lifted off me, but I never felt the man himself. He barely took a couple steps before I started screaming at the top of my lungs. He had nowhere to run, so he simply gave it back, without looking up at me and slithered away.
Never leave important things in your pockets. Unless they are zipper pockets or are inside the lining of your jacket, just don’t do it. Pick-pockets are good at what they do, and you don’t want to have to go through that experience. This includes wallets. I never let my husband carry his wallet in his back pocket. Yes, it might be tight to pull out, but it is SO obvious. It can easily be lifted in a tight metro car. So it goes right in my purse.
3. Get a Cheap Travel Phone
Communication is key to feeling safe and having help. You can either get an international sim card on your own phone (make sure it’s unlocked) or just get a cheap pay as you go phone when you land at your destination.
4. Be Assertive and Confident
This is key. Your body language is very important, and all those things we learned about standing straight, holding our head high, are to help us be and look confident. Not only will looking confident help keep you off the radar, but if you do come in contact with a thief or someone who means you harm, statistics show that those who are assertive and put up a fight usually discourage said predator from continuing with their plan. I know one girl who had already been robbed once on the Paris metro. The second time she confronted the man, gave him a good slap and he stood back and did nothing while she took back her purse and walked away.
Now, don’t take this to mean that if you see some shady people that you should challenge them, I still always recommend simply avoiding and running away from these situations all together. Simply put, don’t look lost and oblivious, don’t show fear, and don’t give over control. Learning self defense moves never hurt either!
5. Be Mindful of your Surroundings
This is something you have to train yourself to do and something to practice. This does not mean you have to sit in an outdoor cafe and suspiciously observe every single person that walks by or sits close to you. Just be mindful. I know I sometimes have trouble with this because I am a day dreamer and get easily distracted inside my own head. Fortunately I have an observant (read :nosy) husband, but if you’re by yourself, just take time to take in your surroundings, make note of what kind of people you see, is there security? Are there other tourists? Etc. Your instincts and gut will take over after that.
6. Have Someone Collect Your Mail
The last thing you want to worry about is getting robbed back home while you are abroad. Make sure to have a good friend, neighbour of family member to take your mail, maybe trim your yard. Better yet, have someone house sit! So long it is someone you can trust, you have one less thing to worry about. If you are stuck without a house sitter, you can also get a home security and surveillance system. With the technology we have these days, you can easily keep an eye on your home from a distance.
7. Bring Your Own Lock
If you’re staying in hostels, many of them have lockers and such to keep your belongings. Bring your own lock to keep your things safe. I normally don’t distrust other travellers, but it’s a smart and easy thing to do and you will have less hassle dealing with different kinds of locks.
8. Take Extra Caution At Night
Never walk alone at night. You could be in one of the safest cities in the world, this still is something that I think should be non-negotiable. Make a plan, like calling a cab. Make a friend or two at your hostel. Just make this second nature to make sure you always get to your destination after dark safely. If you are a pair of travellers, you’re more safe, but avoid parks, and out of the way streets and sketchy neighbourhoods. Even in Paris, I never went into a park after a certain time.
9. Keep Information the Old Fashioned Way
Getting lost happens sometimes. That’s fine. But sometimes you’re lost AND have no access to internet or your phone is dead/stolen/lost. It’s always a good idea to keep important information in a small travel journal, like the address of your hotel, a contact number of your hostel, your flight number and time. I usually print out all these things during the week before I head out, and it’s super handy, and honestly, it may be old school but it’s reliable.
10. Don’t Trust People with Clipboards
This is particularly popular in Europe, but if you are ever approached by an individual or a pair with a clipboard, walk away. These are either scammers or thieves. If they come in a pair, one will distract you with some kind of petition for a cause, while the other swipes something. If it is one person, they pretend to be mute and deaf and make you believe they are collecting donations for the School of the Mute and Deaf. I was approached by one of these individuals, and I was a broke backpacker. When I declined to donate, the young man grew visibly angry and even grunted, and because I spoke French, I ALSO knew he could HEAR me! After clearly telling me he could neither speak nor hear he gave himself away. So yeah, clipboards are bad.
11. Keep In Contact with Loved Ones
You don’t have to let the WHOLE world know you are travelling, but it is a good idea to let your close friends and family know and keep them updated as you go from place to place. I recommend on a daily basis, just a simple message, tweet or Instagram update will make everyone happy!
12. Join Tour Groups
If you’re travelling solo, this is a great tip. Whether it’s a free walking tour, a bus tour, a boat tour, whatever kind of tour that interests you and you can afford, take it! Not only will you learn so much from your guide, you will meet cool fellow travellers that can watch your back, keep you company and, of course, safer!
I hope after reading these tips you feel more informed and prepared for your next trip! If you feel at all anxious, don’t! That’s not my intention at all! Just follow the ‘better safe than sorry’ mindset when it comes to your safety, and avoid dumb decisions, and you will have little to worry about!
What safety tips and tricks do you know of? Do you have a story where you learned from your silly mistakes? Where any of these tips particularly helpful to you? Tell me in the comments below!