10 Travel Safety Tips to Live By
Here are my travel safety tips that will help you on your next adventure. Fortunately, nothing too bad has happened to me on my travels only losing things by myself. Part of this comes from hearing tales of other people’s misfortunes and learning from them so that the same thing doesn’t happen to me.
A clever man learns from the mistakes he makes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others!
Travel Safety Tip #1: Don’t Let Them Distract You
The first part of any trick is diverting your attention, they will try to catch you with your guard down. It could be children, beggars or somebody in a suit.
They could throw something at you, stain the back of your shirt with ketchup, offer you flowers, shove a piece of paper in your face while begging for money.
It all begins with distraction, so watch out for this tell-tale sign that something is about to happen and keep your wits about you and guard your belongings.
Travel Safety Tip #2: Secure Your Belongings
You don’t have to keep things in your pockets, I often keep things zipped up in my jacket pocket and I have my jacket over my arm. This works well in hot countries or public transport where you suspect there may be pickpockets.
They can go through my pockets to their heart’s content but they won’t find anything as I am holding my wallet and phone in my hand as I clasp the pocket of my jacket and the rest of the jacket conceals what I am doing. I use a hoody with zipping pockets for this, just my personal preference.
Leave your valuables at home when possible. Read this for how I carry and how to manage money for travel.
Travel Safety Tip #3: Try Not to Stand out so Much
Pickpockets and scammers prey on easy targets, don’t make yourself an easy target, try to blend in with the locals at least a bit.
Don’t wear an expensive camera around your neck.
Don’t take pictures with your ipad – this drives me wild, please try to be a bit more discreet!
If nobody else around has an iphone or is getting one out and taking pictures, don’t show yours off and make yourself a target. Be especially cautious in poorer countries.
Learn from the locals, in places like the Philippines nobody carries their valuables in their pockets, this is because there is an abundance of pickpockets and robberies.
Travel Safety Tip #4: Be Careful What You Broadcast
Don’t get your travel map out and broadcast to the world that you are a lost tourist. First, duck into a store or sit down at a cafe and read your map, where nobody is on the lookout for easy targets.
Ditch the paper map after reading about these best free travel map apps.
Are you broadcasting: I know what I’m doing and where I am going or are you showing signs of I’m drunk and lost and clearly on my own. Learn some common sense and think about the signals that you are broadcasting.
Travel Safety Tip #5: Beware of the Friendly Local
In general, be wary of locals approaching you at tourist attractions. Ask yourself what do they really want and why are they hanging out at tourist attractions? If something seems unusual or unbelievably cheap, trust your intuition.
Usually, most people want to sell you something or they want money, they may not say this directly, but you can understand that quite quickly from the conversation or their body language.
Beware of attractive girls and guys who are there to lure you into bars at night. If it seems to good to be true, it definitely is a scam!
Travel Safety Tip #6: Avoid Pushy People
The guy offering you a rose or the woman offering you flowers, they all want money. In the best situation, they want to do business and sell you some flowers. In the worst situation, they want to distract you while their friend robs you.
People that grab your arm, touch you or do anything like this are trouble. Even if they are selling something it means that their product/service is so terrible that the only way they can sell it is by resorting to these tactics.
Examples are people who take your hand and start putting a bracelet around your wrist. It sounds so obvious when I write about it now, but he shook my hand and then pretended to read my palm before starting on the bracelet. At the same time, they will be talking fast and asking you questions like what is your name, where are you from. Anything to take your attention away from what is really going on.
I had this happen in Paris in front of a famous church 8 years ago, a guy started making a bracelet for me on my wrist, he said he was from the church. He made a joke about how he charges the Americans €50, but he would ONLY charge me €20. Bad joke and I wasn’t laughing.
He shocked me and I knew I had been played. When I said No, he got angry. I didn’t get my wallet out, as I knew that could lead to him grabbing it or taking notes out of it. I took off the bracelet, I got the coins in change out of my pocket and gave him some and walked away with a feeling of being tricked.
Travel Safety Tip #7: Discuss the Price Upfront
Anyone who approaches you on the street offering a service is probably not a good idea. Go instead for services that you have researched online and read the reviews of. If the service was any good, they wouldn’t have to pay someone to shout about it and tell everyone passing by.
However, if you must go for these tours in the spur of the moment make sure you discuss the price and details. For a product it is fairly easy, you can see it and touch it. For a tour service, ask questions like how long is it, what is in the tour and what isn’t in the tour.
Tuk-tuk, bicycle taxi, horse and carriage tours and all the related scams read my taxi advice for travel.
Travel Safety Tip #8: Guard Your Passport
Guard your passport and have a printed colour photocopy that you use first before showing your passport.
Don’t hand over your passport as security in places like Thailand for renting a scooter. It is better to give cash or something worthless like a library card or even a bank card. If you threaten to leave and go somewhere else usually the passport is no longer necessary.
For my other guide on travel safety tips for your passport see best travel tips
Travel Safety Tip #9: Think Like a Pickpocket
Pickpockets are not violent criminals, they look for easy targets, and try to get in and out as fast as possible. They don’t want confrontation, attention or any drama. If you see one in action, alert the target and draw attention to the pickpocket and they will run.
I have seen and caught three pickpockets in action. The first in Rome taking my father’s wallet, the second on a night bus in London taking a drunk strangers wallet and the third on a crowded tube in London going in a ladies handbag. I managed to stop all three with no confrontation, just by alerting the target.
Cash is the primary target for a pickpocket as it is easy to use and untraceable. Cards are useful to a pickpocket, but cash is far better. An expensive camera is more valuable to a pickpocket than a phone. Phone’s can be blocked and blacklisted, camera’s can’t. Laptops, tablets can also be blocked, but are easier to get unblocked than a phone.
Jewelry – This makes you stand out. Even if it is fake costume jewelry, a thief on a motorbike might not be able to tell, so better to leave those at home.
Pickpockets hang around the entrance and exit on public transport. On the bus they are near the door, they take your valuables right before the next bus stop. They steal valuables at the last moment before the bus stops or the door closes as they.don’t want to be caught holding your valuables.
Spot a pickpocket because they are looking down at waist level, checking pockets and bags. Normal people are looking at eye level on public transport or busy on their phones and in their own world.
Travel Safety Tip #10: Minimise the Risk of Bad Things Happening
You shouldn’t be worrying about these things all the time and let them ruin your trip. If you have read this, you are ahead of 80% of the tourists and travellers around the world already. You won’t be such an easy target if you put these travel safety tips into practice.
Simply leaving things at home and having some back up plans will minimise the risk levels big time.
For me money is replaceable as are credit cards, losing a phone or a passport is more annoying.
I did lose my phone once, but because my contacts were backed-up, my photos were also backed-up, it wasn’t such a big issue. By buying a relatively cheap Android phone (I can get five Android phones for the price of a new iPhone) I lost less than most people when they lose their phone because I was ready for the eventuality. I chose to buy a cheaper phone so that if it was stolen or gets smashed one day, I can replace it easily.
The attention an expensive phone gets you in poorer countries is not worth it.
I take my laptop with me everywhere, my files are backed up on external hard disks and the cloud.
Read this If you want 100GB of free cloud storage.
I lost my passport while in the States and this is the biggest pain I have had to deal with. Getting to the nearest British Embassy in Houston, Texas from Denver, Colorado to get an emergency passport. This required a flight, but how could I fly without a passport even on an internal flight? Long story for another time…
Happy travels and stay safe 🙂