Travel Tips: How To Stay Safe When Vacationing Abroad
As great as traveling the world is, being a tourist makes you a target for all kinds of nefarious individuals. This post isn't meant to freak you out or make you paranoid. It's just a fact. The possibility of being pickpocketed or robbed shouldn't keep you from traveling. Those things could just as easily happen at home. Since travelers do stand out from locals though, it pays to be proactive. Below are some tips to stay safe when you're vacationing abroad.
1. Make Copies of Credit Cards and Travel Documents
First things first, before you leave the country make copies of your birth certificate, drivers license, passport and credit cards. Print them off and keep them with you. Also, email them to yourself or upload them to Dropbox. Having the papers with you or being able to access them online, will make the process of getting a new passport much smoother if you lose it or get robbed. It’s a good idea to travel with at least two credit cards. One card to keep on you to use and a backup in the hotel safe in case you get pickpocketed. You don’t want to be in a foreign country without any money. Also, put your actual passport in the hotel safe. No reason to carry it around with you. Just don't forget it on your way back to the airport!
2. Tell Someone Where You're Going and When You'll Be Home
Whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner, make sure someone back home has at least a general idea of where you are and where you’re going. It’s also a good idea for them to know you’re timeline for coming back home. Check in every few days by text or email. You can even use apps to help with this. Many hiking apps have friend alert features, and iPhones have the app, Find My Friends, built right in. Having a contact back home is especially important if you’re doing any hiking, dangerous excursions or if the countries government your visiting is unstable. If something terrible happens, your friends back home will know where you are and which embassy to call to get you help.
3. Travel With a Friend or in a Group
Solo traveling can be great, but it's not always the safest. If you're worried about traveling alone, go with a group or another friend. A group is less likely to be robbed or taken advantage of than a single person. If you do vacation alone, be careful when heading back to your room after a night out and be especially cautious around alcohol.
4. Act Like You Know Where You're Going Even if You Don't
When traveling in a foreign country, you're going to get lost no matter how much prep you do. A befuddled American staring at a map is an obvious target. Even if you don't know where you're heading, act as if you do. Walk with purpose. Pop into a store or cafe if you need help or need to consult your phone for directions. It's all too easy to get distracted and not notice dangers. Be wary of someone who is suddenly "too" friendly. You shouldn't be afraid to ask locals for help, but if someone is overly friendly and helpful, they might be trying pickpocket you.
5. Avoid Sketchy Areas
It’s not always possible to know where you should and shouldn’t be while traveling in a foreign country. You might miss a bus or metro stop, and suddenly you're in an unsafe location. Do some research and use common sense. If you feel unsafe, you probably have a good reason. If you find yourself in such a place, follow tip number four and act like you've been there a million times. Fake it till you make it and try to find some quick transport back to where you should be.
6. Research Common Scams
Before you travel, Google the city you're going to and the word "scams." You'll find the types of tricks people commonly use there to separate people from their money. Before we went to Paris, we read that pickpockets were prevalent. One method they use is to walk up to you with a clipboard and ask you to fill out a survey or ask if you speak English. Then a partner will try to snatch your bag or wallet. So when it happened to us; we knew what was up. Knowing what to look out for will keep you safe and make it harder to be fooled.
7. Make Safety a Priority Even if it Costs More
We are all about saving money and traveling cheaply. But you can't put a price tag on staying safe. You might save money at a particular hostel or hotel but is the location unsafe? It might be cheaper after a night out to walk back but would a cab ride be safer? Weigh the pros and cons but don't put yourself in an unsafe position to save a few dollars.
Nothing will ruin a vacation quicker than having something stolen from you. Being prepared and paying attention can go a long way to avoiding that. Have you ever been robbed while traveling? What are some of your tips to stay safe on the road? Leave us a comment below and let us know.