Travel safety should be uppermost in your mind, whether you are visiting a popular city or a third world country. There are several steps you can take to minimize the risk of having your personal possessions or identity being stolen. Find out how streetwise you really are by checking out our 10 safe travel tips.
1: Put Local Maps on your Tablet or iPhone
Nothing advertises you are lost and disorientated more than standing on a street corner struggling with a paper map. While kindly locals may take pity and offer directions or even a lift, so too do opportunistic thieves and those looking for an easy target to mug. A good solution is to download a map onto your handheld device so you can refer to it offline. Another solution is to take photos of your map and turn them into PDF format which can be read discreetly on your smartphone or pocketsize tablet.
2: Hotel Address
Whenever you check into a new hotel, pick up a business card from the front desk and carry it with you. It is the easiest way to remember the name and address of your hotel, whether you are walking or using a taxi. It also has the hotel phone number on it in case you need it. This is particularly appropriate in countries such as China, Japan or the Middle East where taxi drivers can only read addresses in the local script.
3: Avoid Logos and Designer Labels
When you travel you can be stylish without showing off your financial status for eagle-eyed muggers to target. Avoid designer luggage, backpacks and expensive camera cases that mark you out as a wealthy tourist. Similarly, leave the Rolex and other valuables at home and use travel jewellery. They lower the risk of you being mugged and can easily be replaced if lost and stolen.
4: Pack a Flashlight
If you are travelling to a third world country where electricity is intermittent, a flashlight is a great idea to add to your packing list. Rough pavements and dark streets are not easy to navigate at night, and a torch could stop you falling down an uncovered drain, or worse.
5: Booking Ahead
In off-the-beaten-path destinations such as Central and South America, always have a hotel room booked and try to arrive before dark. It is far safer than rambling around an unknown town at night trying to find a place to stay.
6: Leave a Note
If you are travelling alone and are going hiking or taking a trip, you may not be missed for a while if you do not return promptly. Write a note indicating where you are going and when you plan to return. Leave it in a prominent place next to the bed or on the desk in plain sight. Housekeeping will soon notice if your room remains unused and will be able to raise the alarm in case the worst happens.
7: Phone for a Taxi
Always use your mobile phone or get your hotel to call a taxi so there is a record of your journey. There are many unlicensed taxis on the streets in undeveloped countries just waiting for to be hailed and although they may be slightly cheaper, they are probably uninsured for carrying paying passengers. You are far more at risk using a private taxi than using a licensed cab booked through an official source.
8: Never Accept Food or Drink from a Stranger
Although most people you meet are genuine, it is wise not to accept food or drink from a generous stranger. At best it could have been unhygienically handled and at worst it could be spiked. When socializing in bars and clubs, drink from the bottle, and keep it with you at all times, just to be on the safe side.
9: Use Discreet Luggage Tags
Choose luggage tags that have a flap covering your name, address and phone number, which are all an identity thief needs to know to wreak havoc with your credit history.
10: Never Carry Packages for Others
More than one person has been duped into carrying drugs or smuggling illegal items by “doing a friend a favour”. If anyone asks you to carry a package or post an envelope, you should refuse. It is such a common means of transporting drugs that it is a customary for travellers to be specifically asked at airport check-in whether anyone has asked you to carry something for them. Although you might want to seem helpful, it is just not worth the risk.
Hopefully, like the majority of tourists, you will have safe travels, but there is no harm in taking extra precautions, just in case.