Although I am an experienced world traveler I still fell prey to the invisible hazards of life on the road. No one is immune to these potential threats, but this should not deter us from partaking of this most enriching and rewarding pursuit, for traveling beyond the comfort zone of home can be a mind-expanding, sometimes life altering experience.
Obviously some countries are more crime-ridden than others and some more hazardous for female travelers. But generally, wherever there are tourists there are thieves and scams. Since foreigners are assumed to be ¨rich,¨ (after all, we can afford to take a vacation!) we therefore provide fair targets for the underprivileged and desperate in developing or third world nations where the polarity between wealth and poverty is most glaring. And unfortunately it is a reality that women are more vulnerable to crime and unwanted attention than our male counterparts. But no need to be paranoid, just be aware and prepared!
Common sense is always the best antidote to trouble, but there are some basic rules to help keep one safe and crime-retardant while getting the most out of your travel experience. For specific information or warnings about your intended destination, talk to other travelers, refer to a guide book and troll the internet where numerous websites addressing safety and health issues for all travelers (including those with special needs or circumstances) provide a wealth of information. In addition, up-to-date travel advisories are posted on the US Department of State´s website.
Here are some safety tips to help insure a fabulous vacation. Pack these along with your sunscreen:
* Research your intended destination to determine potential risks.
* Carry travel insurance to cover potential losses.
* Photocopy important documents and separate them from originals. When taking day trips, leave passport, airline tickets and other valuables in lock box at hotel.
* Carry traveler´s checks instead of loads of cash.
* Separate credit and ATM cards, cash and other valuables in your luggage.
* Carry cash hidden in a money belt worn beneath clothing OR — since many thieves are now hip to money belts — sew a hidden pocket in your bra where you can hide cash.
* Carry dummy wallet with a little cash to hand over in the event of a mugging.
* If mugged, do not resist.
* Carry purse under arm and never put down bags unattended. If you must leave a bag, make sure your traveling companion or a trustworthy person KNOWS he or she is meant to keep an eye on it (which is what happened to me!).
* Let your hotel or embassy know where you are going if you plan to venture off the beaten track.
* Don´t wander alone down empty city streets or in isolated areas, particularly at night.
*Don´t be obvious when consulting a map and try to know beforehand where you are headed. Looking like an OBVIOUS tourist is a calling card for thieves.
* If traveling on overnight trains or buses, lock your luggage and further affix it to your seat or nearby pole with a chain and padlock.
* When taking local transportation try to befriend a local seated beside you. He or she will often then take an interest in your well-being.
* Don´t draw unnecessary attention to yourself: Dress conservatively and appropriate to the culture.
* Leave flashy or expensive jewelry at home.
* Don´t share travel plans with strangers.
* Use ATM machines during day if possible, when other people are around.
* Don´t accept gifts or packages from strangers.
* Don´t accept drinks or food from strangers.
* Be especially alert in crowded areas such as train, bus stations, markets or during street celebrations.
* Know pickpockets’ tricks.
* Be aware of the the ubiquitous “diversion” ploy whereby one person engages you while the other is taking off with your daypack!
* Know the local laws and abide by them.
Stay safe but don´t stay home!