It’s common sense, right? Don’t get scammed, robbed or ripped-off when traveling. Of course, you can be victimized anywhere but it can be a real hassle when you’re far from home. Good news: These safe travel tips can help make your holiday a little more stress-free.
Safe Travel Tips
First, plan your trip. This means finding a cheap flight. Next, think about what to pack and what to leave home. Finally, learn how to recognize a scam when you see one, so you can avoid it. This short video will help with the basics.
Leave valuables at home
Do not bring irreplaceable jewelry on your travels. Also, leave non-essential electronic devices at home (one should suffice). We have the similar advice for cash and credit cards; only bring what you need (two cards is plenty). Don’t risk having something you love lost, stolen or broken.
Carry-on bags: When you travel, place anything of value in a carry-on bag that stays close to you at all times. You can also keep valuables on your person.
Checked-bags: Some airlines rules (contracts of carriage) do not allow valuables in checked-bags and will not cover these losses if the items go missing. The definition of ‘valuables’ is pretty loose, too; it can mean anything from sunglasses to medication. If you plan to travel with anything you cannot lose, pack in in a carry-on or in your pocket.
At your destination: If you’re staying at a hotel, and don’t want to carry valuables, consider locking them up in a safe. As for wallets, always stow them in front pockets; it makes it harder for pickpockets. As for purses, never dangle them by straps from the back of a chair.
Please, no flashing of cash or cards or jewelry. When you need to pull out some money or a credit card, be discreet. In other words, behave as you would at an ATM. Use your hands to shield PIN numbers and hide the amount of currency you’re getting. And don’t forget to pick up your card when the transaction is completed.
Pickpocket scams are common the world over. Many are ‘distraction’ crimes: First, a thief distracts a victim, then takes the victim’s money. A partial list of some of the better know scams:
Take my picture: You’re in front of an iconic monument and a friendly local approaches. “Would you like me to take your picture?” You then hand the local your phone, whereupon the photographer takes off! If you want a photo and a selfie won’t do, consider asking a fellow tourist. Not long ago, a fellow in an Ohio State University cap was spotted in Rome taking numerous photos for a group of tourists. Maybe they figured if you can’t trust a guy from Ohio, who can you trust?
Excuse-me collisions: You walk down a city street and accidentally collide with someone. You both make your apologies and continue on. Only then do you notice your wallet is missing. Or a man walking between tables at an outdoor café bumps your table, spilling a glass of wine. Again, apologies are made and the spill mopped up. Then you realize your phone which had been sitting on the table is gone. Tip: Do not make long lingering apologies. Do not place anything of value out on a table unless you have your hands on it.
Bracelet weavers: You’re in a crowded tourist district when a local asks if you’d like him to weave you a bracelet. It really doesn’t matter what you say because he’s already grabbed your wrist and begun to weave. The weaver keeps up a steady patter of conversation designed to distract you while his confederates gather around to pick some pockets and purses. Always say, no thanks to the bracelet or other freebies, and keep walking.
Tip: If you do become a victim, contact the local police right away.
Do some research
Research only takes a few minutes. And it’s worth it.
If traveling in another country: The U.S. State Department has a travel section with country-by-country listings that include information on staying safe. Read before you go. Many other countries have similar advice (and warnings) on government and official tourism sites.
If traveling in your own country: Find information about your destination by searching [City Name] plus the words “visitor safety”. You’ll find lots of useful information.
Use common sense
Your secret weapon is your own common sense. Use normal precautions and stay alert to your surroundings just as you’d do at home. Example: If you come to a dark and deserted street while out walking on vacation, and you feel uncomfortable, do what you’d do at home – turn back! Or, if you’re waiting in the taxi line at the airport and someone suddenly offers you a very cheap ride in what’s clearly an unlicensed cab, just say no. The dark street and the cheap ride may be perfectly safe. But why take a chance?
If your trip includes a bump in the road or two, big deal. Bad stuff can happen to the savviest of travelers; what matters is how you deal with problems. Avoid what you can and roll with the minor stuff. Now relax and have a wonderful time.