Avoiding Crime While Traveling
Criminals like easy victims: those who are alone, lost, distracted, in unfamiliar surroundings. Travelers, unfortunately, often fit this profile. Tourists also tend to be profitable victims of theft, carrying lots of cash, credit cards, and expensive technology. The best defense against crime, then, is to minimize this target on your back. These travel safety rules will help.
Try to blend in
Many thieves target tourists, so one of the best ways to avoid being a target of crime is to blend in. Abroad, this is obviously more difficult if you’re a six foot five white man in Korea, but trying to look like a six foot five white resident of Korea is better than looking like a rich tourist unfamiliar with the country.
Even when your race is not an immediately distinguishing factor, your style of dress, your weight, your expression of awe, what you carry, and-of course-your shoes will often set you apart. Minimize this by avoiding the average American tourist look of white sneakers, fanny pack, and camera around the neck.
If you’re in a conservative country, don’t show too much skin. Wear brown or black nondescript shoes. Don’t pack that American flag T-shirt.
If your instinct is warning you about someone on a lonely street in a non-English speaking country, stop talking with your travel companion before you get within earshot, because English will mark you as a foreigner quicker than anything else.
For travel within the US, dress isn’t so important, but there are still ways you can look more like a local. Walk confidently and don’t pull out your map or camera at every intersection.
Don’t showcase your wealth
The thousand-dollar camera dangling from your shoulder, the expensive jewelry, the wallet full of big bills, all will attract attention you don’t want. Keep your valuables out of sight and leave the Rolex home. Part of avoiding crime while traveling is being smart before you leave!
Be on your guard when walking with luggage
When you’re on the streets with all your bags, try to look as if you know where you’re going. Don’t go to the ATM while burdened with your luggage.
There’s too much to keep track of, giving thieves the perfect opportunity to ply their trade. Be wary of anyone approaching you to ask a question or talk to you while you’re laden down.
Carry a throw-away wallet
In your pocket or purse, carry a simple wallet which contains a day’s worth of cash, any public transportation tickets you’ll need for the day, a few old business cards or a fake credit card, and nothing else.
Most thieves won’t take the time to search the wallet until they’re away. Keep all other money and cards in your money belt or the hotel safe.
Though your throw-away wallet is designed to be lost, you’d still rather hold on to it. Train yourself not to constantly feel for it to make sure it’s still there. This shows pickpockets exactly where to go for. When trying to avoid crime while traveling you can protect yourself with smart, simple steps!
Only use official taxis
A guide book, the airport information desk, or your hotel staff can tell you how to identify official taxis. When possible call a company that’s been recommended or go to a permanent taxi stand.
In some places, unofficial taxis cruise the streets looking for tourists to take advantage of, usually by grossly overcharging, but occasionally by robbery or worse. Protect yourself and work hard avoiding crime while traveling by educating yourself!
Keep to busy areas
Especially at night, stay on well-lit streets with lots of pedestrian traffic. If you find yourself on foot on an abandoned street, walk purposefully and quickly, but not so quickly you look scared.
In parts of the world with civil unrest or high crime rates, be aware of which areas to avoid, be it a certain street or an entire lawless region, and keep away. If you’re walking alone and feel uncomfortable, and if you know enough of the local language to feign a one-sided phone conversation (Really? Yes. No. Where? Tomorrow.) consider pretending to talk on your cell, whether or not you actually have one.
Criminals targeting solitary individuals won’t consider you quite so solitary that way. If you really do have a phone, and even if you don’t, know the emergency numbers of the country you’re in. Pay phones in many countries will allow you to call these numbers for free. Keeping yourself safe while traveling has as much to do with preparation as anything else!
Be careful with new friends
Don’t go off alone with people you’ve just met, especially in pubs, bars, discos etc., especially after drinking. By all means try to meet people, but stay in public places, drink moderately, listen to your instinct, and stay aware of your surroundings.
Women, remember that behaviors you think of as innocent may be considered invitations in others countries. Ask fellow travelers and locals. Don’t be the next tourist to disappear after last being seen leaving the club drunk with two strange men.
Tourists have always been attractive targets for criminals. If you try to blend in and stay away from dangerous situations, however, that target will fade.
Travel always carries a degree of risk, but so does everything in life. Though petty theft flourishes in tourist areas, most travelers never run into a problem, and many popular international destinations have lower violent crime rates than your average American city.
Still, it pays to exercise caution, especially as an outsider. Wherever you travel, be it abroad or in your own state, keep your eyes open and have fun.