How to Stay Safe When Traveling

The most vulnerable time in your life when you are most likely to be a victim of an attack is when you are traveling in an area not very well known to you. Travelers are the focus of many criminals of the world for the following reasons:

  • Travelers are unarmed and don’t carry weapons. It is illegal to bring many weapons on public transportation such as buses or airplanes. Criminals know this too well and single out the tourist.
  • Travelers are easy to spot. Travelers have the habit of not blending in with their surroundings. They wear clothes that stand out from the norm. Shorts, for example, when everybody else is wearing long pants. Bright, colorful clothes those look fresh off the rack of the department store. Carrying of a camera around the neck.
  • Travelers have a false sense of security. When tourists travel abroad to developing countries from a developed world like the U.S., they make the mistake that the country they are visiting is as safe as the country they came from. Upon arrival, then do they realize the danger in the country they are visiting.
  • Travelers flaunt their wealth whether they know it or not. They wear expensive watches, necklaces, and carry large amount of petty cash.
  • Travelers are perceived to have deep pockets. People in developing countries do not have the luxury of traveling like you do. Therefore, they think that anyone who travels must have money. They often resent those with wealth and will make desperate attempts to take by force from those who have worked hard to afford to travel.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t travel?

Of course not. The point is that you must stay out of trouble by not sticking out like a sore thumb.

What should you do to stay safe?

  • Learn something about the place to where you’re traveling. The more you know about the area your visiting, the more confident you will be when you get there. Buy a map of the area and study it so that you can familiarize yourself with the streets and local landmarks if any. Or look it up on the Internet. Find out as much as you can about the local culture so that you can blend in and not stand out.
  • Find out what style of clothing people wear in the country you are visiting. Wear similar clothes to theirs, but don’t wear brand new clothes. That is a definite sign that you MUST have cash on you.
  • Travel in numbers. There is always safety in numbers for tourists. Go with your tour group and stay close as possible. Your tour guide will only take you to places where it is safe for you. Do not wander off from your group.
  • Take a self defense item with you such as a walking stick, or kubaton keychain. If you must fly, make sure the self defense weapon is permitted on the plane. Federal law mandates that pepper spray must not be more than 4 oz. if carried by passengers on their person or carryon. However, always check with your individual airline because not all airports have the same rules regarding small, personal defense items such as pepper spray or kubaton keychains. In the post 9/11 era, anybody who is perceived as carrying a weapon even if it is pepper spray may be detained, arrested, turned away, or asked to surrender it before flying.
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash. If you must travel, use credit cards or travelers checks. Those are easily replaceable and traceable if they are stolen and used against you. If you carry a wallet the length of checkbook and carry it in your back pocket, consider putting it in your front pocket so that no one can come up from behind you and remove it. Make it harder for a thief to try to pull a fast one on you. If you must bring cash, put it in your underwear or inside your sock or shoe, but use credit cards or traveler’s checks to make purchases.
  • Keep valuables out of sight. Even if you DO travel to a place you think might be safe, do not leave valuables in plain view for others to see. Some low-income people will try to rip you off or even kill you for a measly Rolex, credit card, or petty cash. Your life and your safety are not worth the advertising of your valuables for all to see.

Following these simple rules can mean the difference between having a safe trip and being a victim of an attack.

Fabiola Castillo: