It’s been a hot minute (again… man, I pulled a lot of disappearing acts this summer!) I’m getting settled back into Shanghai and getting prepped for the new school year, I have Daisy on the blog talking about something near and dear to me– travel!)
Safety is key to an excellent travel experience, yet so many tourists make egregious choices that in turn make them targets. Throughout my travels to 30 countries and counting, I’ve only ever lost items due to neglect (knock on wood!). When people ask me how to keep myself sane and safe during travel, here’s what I tell them.
This is really general, but it’s an effective way to think about everything you do while traveling. While all of us would love to look fabulous in our travel photos, looking fabulous in a less-than-safe place is a great way to become a target. Be culturally sensitive, don’t stand out, dress simply and appropriately, and leave all expensive accessories at home.
If you must carry a big camera (which I of course understand), wear it across your body. Camera snatching does happen, and it’s quite unfortunate.
Another good way to become a target is by waving your smartphone or iPad around, looking for directions. It’s possible to be discreet even with expensive technology, but I recommend planning ahead. I’ll usually draw a quick map before I head out for the day, write down significant streets or landmarks to look out for, and carry the piece of paper with me instead of my phone.
If you must use your phone, try downloading Google offline maps before you head out for the day. Here’s a video on how to use offline maps.
If your digestive system is sensitive, then be careful with all food, even if it is cooked. Despite being deep fried, street food can still cause distress.
When it comes to eating abroad, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. I usually bring over-the-counter medicine just in case, but if I have a choice, I try not to risk having to use them.
It’s always a balancing act between having enough cash to avoid using a credit card, and having too much and risking theft. When you exchange money (which I recommend doing beforehand through your bank), calculate your daily spending and make sure you have a little extra. Keep most of that money in a safe, locked place (your hotel for example), and take out only what you need for the day.
In the meantime, let your bank know that you’ll be traveling, and whether you expect to make big purchases. Monitor the activity on your credit cards if you use them overseas.
If partying overseas is attractive to you, then I strongly recommend choosing your friends carefully. Only drink in the presence of people you’ve known for a long time– preferably the friends you’re traveling with.
And despite the lure of hip neighborhoods in the evenings, make sure you know how to get back to your hotel before you head out for the evening. It’s not always so easy to catch a taxi or ask for help once you’re there.
The availability of clean water for purchase varies from country to country. It’s better to be prepared with your own bottle of water before going out for the day. Despite the weight, having water can be a literal lifesaver worth every ounce.
Water purifying tablets are available at stores such as REI– if you have any doubt about the water quality where you’re headed, bring those along.
If you catch someone trying to pickpocket you, then by all means defend yourself– they’ll likely go away. However, if the situation is more serious, remember that losing your possessions is many times better than risking your life.
I’ve never encountered a situation this serious, but it’s worth knowing where to locate the nearest embassy if the local police department proves unhelpful.
One thing I’ve done when I’ve been lost is walk into the most expensive establishment I can find: a luxury hotel, a bank, or a department store. Often times you can find someone who speaks English there and can give you trustworthy instructions or at the very least hail a cab for you. They’re also the least likely to be duplicitous, since they probably don’t need anything from you.
These might sound intuitive, but you and I both know that there are tourists all over the world doing the exact opposite. Don’t be one of them.
Once these precautions become habit, you might find you’re enjoying travel a lot more– and are getting more out of the experience.
What are your tips for staying safe while traveling? I’d love to know!
Hi there! My name is Daisy and I love to travel. I also write the blog Simplicity Relished, where I talk about living simply, choosing courage, and traveling often. When I’m not planning my next trip abroad, I work as a tutor in Pasadena, California. I love fresh-cut flowers, a good macchiato, and laughing with my husband. Let’s be friends!