Visiting a different country, especially on vacation, could be a fun and exciting experience. Some tourists often have too much of that fun and get too fixated on the new and exciting experience that they tend to forget that they are, the matter of factly, visitors on foreign soil. This truth is a dangerous fact, tourism departments have done their best in every country to make sure their visitors feel safe and secure, but there’s only so much they can do. There are plenty of crimes around tourism, some of them involving tourist sites, and more alarmingly, some directly involving tourists.
While a city’s police force or tourism department cannot ascertain the total safety of their guests, we, as tourists, can do a lot of things to help ourselves keep bad things from happening to us. Very simple things that we can put into practice, and would be effective in any city anywhere. Most sightseeing we do happens when we are just walking around a city, taking in the place and the people around us. This is where we are at our most vulnerable. Here are some things we can do to prevent our stuff from getting stolen as we walk the streets of a foreign place.
20 20. Do Your Research
This is the perfect time to put our Google skills to good use. Researching the country and city where we will be staying is crucial to making sure we are prepared for whatever comes our way while we enjoy our vacation time. Firstly, check what the first and second language is, more often than not, the second language is English, so we’re in the clear on that one. Maybe learn a few words in the local language, basic ones for greeting and for starting a conversation. Excuse me, hello, can you help me, thank you, these are all good and should be easy to remember. Check out local customs and practices too, good manners and what not to do around the local people. It’s always nice to show respect for the people of the country we are temporarily living in.
19 19. Avoid Looking Like a Tourist
Hey, it’s true, you are a tourist. But you don’t have to look like one. Not to mention, being oblivious to everything else around you except the sights and the views. This is the number one thing pickpockets and muggers sniff out when they scope their area for a victim. Find out what your route is before walking out of the hotel, don’t keep taking a map out and looking at it every 3 minutes. Having a map on an app doesn’t help either, that device is like honey to these bad bees. Stop walking around like you are lost and pointing at signs, streets or alleyways. Be a tourist, but don’t be such a “tourist”. You can enjoy the beauty of everything without attracting attention to circumstances and the kind of people we want to avoid entirely while on vacation.
18 18. Travel Documents
Ensuring you have at least two extra copies of your travel documents before going away sounds low-tech, but it is still the best way to be sure you are covered wherever you are. It’s not enough to take a picture of them and store it on your phone, if your phone gets lost or stolen, the copies get lost too. Keep the original with your other things, the first copy you should put in your bag or travel wallet, the second copy you carry around with you wherever you go, preferably not in your wallet, put them in your pants or jacket pocket. In the event that you’d need the help of the authorities, everything would be smoother if you have your travel documents to present rather than saying they got stolen with your other valuables.
17 17. Leave Valuables in the Hotel
Your hotel room is still one of the best places for keeping your things safe for when you venture out and enjoy what this foreign city has to offer. It is much safer to leave it in your room than take them with you, especially if you are going out for a city tour or for a leisurely walk around town, see a nice park or check out some museums. Take with you the things you need and leave everything else behind. At the end of the day, you’ll find they’re still safe in your room, right where you left them.
16 16. Wear the Right Clothes
A walk outside in the city jungle in a country miles away from home makes us want to dress our best, for the pictures and for the rest of the people to see, too, of course. But in this case, try to dress fashionably and suitably as well. Avoid loose fitting clothes, bring those tight pants on a walk around the city. Dress appropriately for the activity you will be doing outside, if there’s a lot of sitting around or walking around, if you’d have to run, jump, or be in a huge crowd, choose the right clothes that would make it easy for you to feel your belongings while enjoying the tour.
15 15. Awareness and Alertness
Responses to situations are automatic in everyone, it’s called stimulus. In our own environment, our home and our city, these work perfectly fine. But in a new environment, we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. Train your mind to be alert and aware all the time, especially when you are being a tourist in a beautiful country. Double check everything, tap or feel every pocket before you move before you leave a table before you move on from one tourist site to the next. Be conscious when in crowds, don’t even turn it off when resting, stay alert and aware all the time.
14 14. Spread your Cash
Earning money is not an easy thing, that’s why we set out on vacations because we worked hard. But money should not be a problem whenever we walk out in the street. It’s easy to take care of this issue. Spread everything around. Change them to smaller bills, then put some in most of your pockets. In your wallet, put bills in all the pockets of your bag. Pants pocket, shirt pocket, travel wallet, even inside your phone casing. You don’t have to fill every pocket you can think of, just don’t put all your cash in one wallet or one bag. In the unfortunate event that some Ocean’s 11-ish individual lifts your wallet, you still have plenty of cash spread all over your person.
13 13. Use a Money Belt
Money belts are a great idea if you don’t already know it. They’re easy to use, hidden (unlike fanny packs), and secure. It goes under your clothes, under the shirt for the men, and under the skirt for the women. It has enough space to carry your money, travel documents, and a few cards. Some travelers absolutely love this piece of equipment, they even say they do not travel without it. That just tells us it works. If you haven’t got one yet, buy one and try it out. It’s not expensive. You can even choose the size and the material for your convenience and comfort.
12 12. Trusting the Right People
Yes, it could be hard to put your trust in someone when you are in a different country. This is why it’s always a good idea to reach out to a friend, someone we may know that is living in that country currently. A friend of a trusted friend is good, too. If there’s no one like that you know, then be careful with the people around you. It’s always best to get help from hotel personnel, but only to an extent. Always approach a situation with enough caution, but don’t be paranoid. Strangers can be good people, too. Don’t freak out when someone approaches you on the street, don’t let your guard down, either.
11 11. Local People are Friends
The common thing about any country I’ve traveled to is the locals in it. Every local in every city or town, are always warm, nice, helpful, and willing to go out on a limb for the common tourist. During your stay, befriend some of them, you might even get invited for dinner in their home, that would be a huge honor and a nice treat, free dinner for one night! Listen to their advice about tourist sites, what to do and where to go. They always give nuggets of wisdom on everything you plan on doing in their city. One can never go wrong heeding the advice of the true blue locals.
10 10. Be Paranoid in the Streets
Have a healthy awareness of everything going around you in the street. Do not trust blindly every local you come across to ask a question, or that offers help. Walk against the traffic on the sidewalk side, of course. Watch out for people watching you. Maybe you are getting tagged or targeted and you are not aware of it. Trust that instinct, that gut feeling, before you turn into that small street into an almost deserted alley. Clutch your bags tightly and don’t take out your phones nonchalantly. Pay attention, that’s all you need to do in the streets, do that all the time and everything will be fine.
9 9. Don't Look Too Rich
Rich people can’t help it, they look rich even without trying. Luckily for the rest of us 99 percent, we do not have that kind of burden. On the contrary, we want to look richer whenever we go out. But try not to do that while on vacation in a foreign land. It may feel good to look nicer, but that sends out the wrong signals to the unsavory kinds of people. Keep that new iPhone in your pocket when in the streets, don’t stop and take pictures all the time with your new Canon EOS 1500D. Put that LV bag back on the table and use a tote bag instead. We are trying to attract less attention enough when we’re literally at least a foot taller than everyone else in the street.
8 8. It's All About Confidence
Exemplify what a person not to be messed with looks like when you are in the streets of a foreign city. It’s all in the walk and showing confidence. Be a nice person, but not naive. Show your good side, but let them have a glimpse of the crazy as well. There’s always that stare down with a stranger, assume everybody is sizing you up when they look at you. Stare back, but in a friendly, but firm way. You can be both a tourist having the time of their life and a person who they’d think twice messing with.
7 7. Extra Care at Night
Extra care is always a good thing. Do it, not just at night, but every time you go out in the streets, even if it would just be for a few minutes of walking. Take extra, extra care if you are walking out in the night, though. Whatever they say in blogs and forums, every city can be a little more dangerous when the sun sets. Avoid it altogether if you can, but if we absolutely have to, maybe call an Uber or a cab. Have the hotel call one for you, of course. But if you must, don’t go alone, walk in alleys with plenty of streetlight, go with the crowd, and start turning the other way if you sense something wrong.
6 6. About Cabs
All cities have taxi cabs in them, they may look different, but they all have drivers inside. These people have it bad because there is always a doubt placed in every passenger’s mind before they step foot in their cab. That’s normal for them, it’s part of the job. This is when your research comes to good use, try to talk to them in their language, that would kind of ease the tension, break the ice, show them you are cool. These people are locals too, let’s not forget. Don't hail one at random on the street, check their identification, medallion number, or any kind of registration number outside and inside the car. It’s best to just arrange for the hotel to get you one.
5 5. Don't be Clumsy
Never be what you are when in a different country, especially if what you are is a clumsy person. Check yourself, your pockets, your wallet, bag, jacket, other stuff you have with you, before leaving a place. In your neighborhood, people might keep it safe for you if you forget and come back, but in a different country, they just might not. Always have a big bag with you where you can put everything when you get rushed or have to go in a hurry. And most importantly, don’t show the people how clumsy you can get, that’s just another invite that you don’t want to send out.
4 4. Bring a Fake Wallet or Dummy A Phone
Good backups are necessary when traveling, that’s why we suggest having a fake wallet or phone with you when you travel. In cases of mugging, that bad guy is always in a hurry, they won’t check or ask you if it is your real wallet or not, so don’t worry about escalation. These are best used for when pickpockets try to snatch your wallet or phone. Keep the real one out of reach, of course, and don’t put anything real on the fake ones, either. Just make the fake ones look real enough for your real ones not to get snatched.
3 3. Don't Have Too Much Fun
Every tourist looks for fun on their vacation. The younger tourists like parties, drinking and dancing. This is all good, but remember that after the party, you have to head on back to your hotel. One can have all the fun they want on their vacation, but leave some for the trip back to the hotel, please. Always travel back to the safety of your hotel with enough sanity and consciousness to know where you are and where you are going. This is the moment where we are at our weakest, anyone, even the amateur thief, could get away with all your stuff without breaking a sweat. When out of the country, party hard, but drink moderately.
2 2. Let Someone Else Know Where You're Going
Letting someone else know what you are doing or where you are going is kind of an emergency back-up. You never know when they would need to contact you and for whatever reason, it’s best they know where you are. This is where that friend comes in handy, or a local that you befriended in the city. It’s good to let them know where you will be for the day, maybe share with them your itinerary, get some advice and other things worth doing at the sites you plan on going to, and more importantly, have someone else know where you are for the day. They almost surely will say no, but it is only polite to invite them. At the very least, inform the front desk where you will be for the day if there is no other option.
1 1. Use Common Sense
Some people would say this weapon, if rarely used, could go bad and easily backfire. I’m talking about our common sense. These unfortunate situations, when we look back at them after getting victimized, is that we could have done something to prevent it, or worse, we feel stupid and knew that we should have seen it coming or we could have easily prevented it, if only… Yeah, if only we used our common sense. That common sense saves us from a lot of trouble. But if it cannot be avoided, it’s also the presence of mind, in the worst of situations, to be able to still function and do what is best and what is needed. Most people freeze and zone out, that’s quite normal, the best course of action is to put your safety first above all.