There's no doubt about it—travel is an eye-opening and exciting experience. It's easy to get caught up in the thrill of being in a brand new place. The world is, for the most part, a safe place for tourists. That said, don't let your safety be an afterthought. Preparing for the unexpected by doing everything you can to prevent worst-case scenarios minimizes the chance you'll encounter risky situations in unfamiliar places. A little extra precaution will ensure that your next trip will be a memorable one—for all the right reasons!
The more people you have around you, the less likely you'll be targeted by predators. Not only will you have more eyes on your valuables, but you'll have more people to help you chase after a thief—if it comes to that. A group is much more intimidating to opportunists than someone on their own. If you're traveling solo, it's always a good idea to make some new friends to explore with. Backpacker hostels are great for this. However, don't put your trust in the people you meet too quickly. Unfortunately, some scammers specifically target backpackers looking for a friend. It also goes without saying that you should never leave your valuables with someone you just met either, no matter how nice they seem.
Dressing to fit in with the locals is more than just about style—it's about safety too. When you look like you're "not from around here," you stick out like a sore thumb to thieves, scammers and worse. The less touristy you look, the less attention you'll draw from the wrong kind of people. In conservative countries, it's even more important to follow the local dress codes. Some places have clothing laws that are strictly enforced by the authorities. It's always best to look into dress code guidelines for whatever country you'll be visiting well ahead of your journey.
Make sure your body language projects confidence at all times. The majority of communication is non-verbal. When your body communicates that you're confident, potential attackers will sense it, and most will move on to an easier target. Keep your head up and walk with purpose. Look potential threats "in the eye"—just don't have a full-blown staring contest. Avoid looking nervous, worried, scared, or lost—even if that's exactly how you feel in the moment.
It's a mistake to avoid sampling the local cuisine when traveling. You could be missing out on what could be one of the highlights of your adventure. Nevertheless, don't let "travelers' tummy" put you out of commission.
It is almost always inexcusably dangerous to get too drunk or high when traveling. Keep your wits about you. When you're wasted, you're not all there, and anything could be happening around you—or to you. Not only do you make yourself an easy target, but you could also get in trouble with local authorities who might be a lot less forgiving than back home. That's not to say you can't enjoy yourself. Just be responsible, and keep close tabs on how much—and exactly what—you're consuming.
While it's always a good idea to have easy access to an emergency stash of money, it's never a good idea to have it easily accessible to thieves. Good hiding places for your cash include:
In an emergency, you'll want important information immediately within reach. Jot down emergency contacts, including local police and ambulance services. Save it in your phone, and write it out on a piece of paper—and laminate it—as a backup. You should also email your full itinerary to family and friends ahead of time, and check in every so often.
The aim of the game is to minimize easy opportunities for theft.
Local residents can be amazing resources, both for recommendations and for staying safe. Most of the time, the people you meet on your travels will be friendly and will let you know which areas are okay, and which to give a wide berth to. That said, if a stranger offers up unsolicited advice, always get a second opinion just to stay on the safe side. Trust but verify. Don't share too much with people you've just met, either, even if they seem friendly—that includes street vendors and shop owners. Never reveal your accommodations or your travel itinerary, or that it's your first time in the area. A little white lie here and there can keep you safe from opportunists. Taxi drivers are a mixed bag—some offer up invaluable knowledge of the area, while some won't think twice about steering you in the wrong direction.
No matter how careful you are, injuries happen. You never know when a first aid kit packed with a few basics on hand can help you—or the people around you.
Most travel safety tips are universal. However, there are several that are especially relevant to women, and some that are more pertinent to men. Women:
If something feels "off" about a person, place or situation, and you're not sure why don't dismiss it as paranoia. Our bodies see and hear things that fall below our radars of consciousness. This built-in danger detection system has kept us humans alive as a species for millions of years. Don't ignore your gut!
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