I did several long-term traveling trips in the past and am traveling/living abroad for more than ten months now. Luckily apart from someone trying to steal my phone on a public square in Argentina, my money stolen in a hostel and some minor diseases, nothing bad has happened to me. Knock on wood!
In order to stay safe while traveling, you should take some precautions because as a tourist, you are often the first target, criminals go to. They have certain tricks to get your money out of your pocket and take advantage of people who are drunk or lost. Read the following paragraphs carefully, so something like this, doesn’t happen to you and you stay safe on the road.
How to stay safe while traveling: The Dos
1. Buy a lock.
I don’t understand people who don’t take a lock while traveling and staying in hostel dorms. I am currently working in a hostel and every now and then there are people who don’t have one, sometimes even thinking they can leave their stuff in the room unattended.
You don’t know the people in your room!
They can be your new friends or the sneaky thief who takes advantage of people like you. Only book hostels that have lockers and take a lock with you to actually store your valuables safely. If you happen to be in a hostel that doesn’t have lockers, it might be a good idea to buy a travel safe.
2. Be careful with your hand luggage.
Your hand luggage stores all the expensive and valuable things you own. Buy a back with a zip, otherwise you make it really easy for pickpockets. Don’t take a bag which hangs down on one shoulder. Get one you can hang around your neck. Additionally, always have the bag in front of you and not on your back, so you can always see when someone tries to grab your bag.
If you use a backpack, it’s good advice to take one which doesn’t look that expensive, new and shiny. That way you don’t attract so much attention for potential thieves. When walking through crowds in city centers or markets, take the backpack to the front even though it looks silly. Thieves mainly operate in crowded places where people are squeezed together and then steal your stuff in a very quick way out of your bag. People often only notice that they were a victim of theft much later.
3. Learn the language.
Not knowing the local language might cause some trouble from now and then. You are lost. People misunderstand you and you do not understand a word. Learn at least some basic things like asking for prices, directions, thank you and please. Always be polite and smile.
4. Let people know where you are going.
Stay in contact with your family and friends at home. Let them know where you are going and when you will be back. Your parents will be much calmer and you as well as you know when something happens, they know your plans and even though you are on the other side of the world it is easier to find you when they have an idea where to start looking.
5. Be cautious all the time.
Do always pay attention on your stuff and your own security. Never leave your bags unattended. Watch out for people who seem weird and might be dangerous. Do not trust people too easily but do learn to trust the right people. Learn to trust your gut. It mainly has the right sense for people. If you feel uncomfortable, leave. And if you feel comfortable do not lose all the caution. It takes time to really get to know a person.
6. Leave your passport & credit cards in the hostel.
I never go out with my passport and credit cards if not necessary. As you learned above to always book a hostel with lockers, you can leave it there. So in case you get robbed, you only lost some cash and have no further damage. You are still able to leave the country and have no hassle with getting a new passport and blocking your credit card.
When there is no need to have it with you, leave it in a secure place.
7. Read about common scams in your destination.
In many countries, there are common scams which are used by criminals to get your money. For example in Barcelona, tourists are often robbed in trains, subways or very crowded places. Pickpockets happen really fast with the person noticing it when it’s already too late.
In other places in Spain, they give you a flower in your hand and when you say you don’t want it, they don’t accept it and you have to pay.
In Istanbul, shoe cleaners will drop their brush, you pick it up and they say they want to clean your shoes now. You think they do it as a gift as you picked up the brush, but in the hand he will ask you to pay his service.
By knowing those common scams, you can often very easily avoid them. Have a look on this info graphic about common tourist scams in certain destinations and research beforehand.
8. Get travel insurance.
I already told you here that it’s important to get a good travel insurance. When you get sick on the road – let it be something simple like a cold or something bigger like broken bones – the travel insurance covers your expenses.
For Germans, I recommend the long-term travel insurance of Hanse Merkur which can be used for stays abroad for up to 5 years.
For other nationalities (or Germans as well), get your travel insurance fromWorld Nomads.
9. Get all the required vaccinations.
Do your research before you leave for traveling. Visit your doctors and get advice from doctors specialized in travel vaccinations. Get all the necessary vaccinations for the destinations you visit. Sometimes the submission of your vaccination card is required to enter the country.
You don’t want your trip (or even your life) to end earlier than wanted just because you didn’t get the vaccination against Tetanus, Yellow Fever or Rabies. Further reading:
10. Scan all your important documents.
Criminals won’t inform you that they are going to rob you beforehand. That is why you should take all the necessary precautions in case it really happens. Before going on your long-term trip, scan all important documents like passport, visas, flight tickets, driver’s license and insurance policies. Don’t only save them on your computer. Get an account on Dropbox and upload all important document to the cloud. This way you can get access to your documents on every computer on this planet.
11. Ask for dangerous areas and avoid them.
Do your research before traveling to a big city. Big cities are likely to have dangerous areas which should be avoided by tourists. Try to research those before you go, so your accommodation don’t happen to be in one of those areas. When arriving in your destination ask the person at the reception if there is an area where you shouldn’t go or if there is anything in terms of your personal security you should know.
12. Take a fake wallet.
When I don’t feel very comfortable in a place or am in a big city like Buenos Aires or Marrakech, I always take a fake wallet with me. That means a second wallet with a couple of dollars or money in the local currency in it. In case someone obliges you to give them your wallet, you can give him this one with only a little bit of cash in it and he will believe that you don’t have more money on you and leave. Especially take this with you when you carry your credit card.
13. Buy clothes of Clever Travel Companion.
If you still don’t feel safe, there is a company specializing in clothes made for travelers. Underwear and shirts with pockets to store your passport, credit cards and money.
Have a look at what Clever Travel Companion offers here on Amazon.
How to stay safe while traveling: The Don’ts
14. Don’t put your bag in the overhead compartments.
I heard stories of a lot of people losing their bags by storing them in the overhead compartments in busses. Just two days ago, I heard it from two people who arrived in the hostel I work in.
I don’t get why people do that. You don’t see your bag and have to be attentive 100% all the time. Just 5 seconds of being inattentive can cause you a lot of trouble and the loss of your bag.
Why don’t you put your bag between your legs? Put the straps of the bag around your leg and you will always notice when someone wants to grab your bag. Do so especially when traveling at night and while sleeping. It might not be the most comfortable way to travel when you have no leg room but it’s the safest way. And I think you want to keep your stuff, am I right?
15. Don’t keep your wallet in your jeans’ pockets.
This goes especially to all the guys out there who don’t want to take a bag with them and always put their wallet in the pockets of their jeans. Don’t do it! This makes it very easy for thieves to steal your wallet.
16. Don’t take your valuables to the beach.
Same counts for valuables taken to the beach, especially when you are going on your own. Either get a waterproof case for your phone/camera, don’t go in the water or leave everything in the hostel. Easy.
There are beaches which are safe but don’t be too secure. Always keep an eye on your stuff if it’s necessary to take it. If you are with more people, there should be always at least one person watching the bags while the others are in the water.
17. Don’t store all your money in one place.
A good idea is to put your money in different places of your bag. For example put some in your real wallet, your fake one and other parts of your daypack. If you have clothes of the Clever Travel Companion, put some money in there and if you’re sure your backpack is safe, you can also put some in there. This way you will never lose everything at once.
18. Don’t look like a tourist.
Avoid looking like a tourist. Try to dress appropriately. Don’t wear shorts and sleeveless tops in Turkey or other Islamic countries for example. Again, do your research beforehand. Avoid running around with a city map and your camera around your neck whenever possible.
Tourists are the main targets for pickpockets. When you show what you have, you can easily become a target. Of course I don’t tell you to stop taking photos or stop using a map. Sometimes it’s necessary but if you can try to remember the directions and only use the map when necessary. If you are not taking any photos at that moment, store your camera in your bag.
19. Don’t get drunk/take drugs.
Drunk people or people on drugs are a very easy target for criminals. Especially when they are walking around on their own. Don’t make it that easy for them. Drink moderately, so that you are still rational and know what happens around you. And if you’re drinking, try to go with friends or fellow travelers to avoid being an easy target.
I once met a French-Canadian guy who traveled a lot, also to Morocco – a country which seems to be more dangerous than others for outsiders. But where did they rob his money? In a small town in France where he speaks the language. Why? Because he was drunk and went home on his own.
20. Don’t go out on your own in the dark.
This is especially valid for girls. It might be safe to go out on your own at night in your home town. It might not be safe to go out on your own at night in your travel destination.
You probably know the area in which you live like the back of your hand. But that isn’t the case when traveling. Sometimes areas are safe during the day but dangerous at night. So avoid going out at night on your own. Always leave with a group or stay in when you don’t know if it’s really safe.
Have you had safety issues while traveling? What additional tipps do you have to stay safe on the road?