Staying safe while traveling abroad
Exploring new places is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in life, but it can also be one of the scariest or most frustrating when you end up in bad situations. I’m no stranger to pick-pockets, not-so-great taxi drivers and sketchy neighborhoods after having visited over 30 countries. It’s easy to end up in scary situations, but it’s also easy to avoid them by keeping in mind some safety tips while you’re on the go. Here are the top five tips for staying safe on your next trip.
Copies, copies, copies!
I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to make copies of all your important documents! This includes passports, visas, licenses and credit cards. Having copies of the fronts and backs of your documents can help you expedite the process of getting a new one in the event that your passport or visa gets stolen or lost. I lost a credit card while traveling several years ago and since I had the number on a printed document so I was able to still make purchases on the card online whenever possible to save the cash I was carrying around.
Stay off your phone when you’re walking
How many times have you come to a crosswalk and pulled out your phone to check wechat or take a selfie? Well, I probably won’t be the first to tell you to get off your phone. Don’t assume that just because there are people around that you will not get mugged. You are a very easy target as a tourist in a new city and distraction is just another thing that makes you an easy target. On my last trip to China, I was walking on the street and responded to a text. I put the phone back in my pocket and moments later, someone stole it. If I had avoided messaging my friends while I was wandering around, my phone would have still been with me. Since I wasn’t paying attention, I was a very easy target for a thief.
Carry only what you need
Just like staying off your phone when you’re walking, the same logic applies for carrying unnecessary documents or cash. In the event that you are robbed, it’s a lot better to have $15 stolen from you than $500 and your passport. My recommendation is to carry your wallet as well as a “fake wallet”. I was mugged in San francisco and since I carry a fake wallet with an old, expired credit card and $10, that is all the robber took from me. I always carry a little wallet with me like this one here. It’s small, can fit in any pocket and is easily accessible for me int he event that someone tries to rob me again.
Hotel room safety is just as important as safety on the street
There are a few things I do everytime I get to a new hotel, especially if I’m traveling alone. First, I always request a room far from the elevator and stairwell. I personally do not like to be near points of exit and entry, particularly a stairwell if I’m traveling alone. Along the same lines, if a hotel front desk agent says my room number out loud when I travel alone, I request a new room if there are other guests checking in around me. I do not want to give any reason for someone to come to my room that is not supposed to be there. I also always make sure to familiarize myself with the hotel layout (always printed on the back of your hotel room door). In the event of an emergency, I know where to go and how to get there.
Communicate with your friends and family back home
I know that it can be difficult or tiring to deal with people back home when you are traveling, but sometimes it’s important to do so. For example, if you are headed out on an epic adventure tour, I would recommend letting someone who is not with you know what you are doing. I know it might seem silly, but you can never be too careful, especially if you are about to embark on an adventure where you could get hurt. Anytime I do something crazy like a cliff-jumping trek in Puerto Rico or a horse back riding adventure in the hills of Costa Rica, I always send a quick email or text to a family member back home letting them know what I am doing, where I am going and that it will be a 2, 4, 6 hour adventure. It not only gives your family peace of mind, but it can be life saving in the event of an emergency.
At the end of the day, it’s important to stay vigilant and prepared for any situation when you’re traveling. While it’s easy to be distracted by the romance of a new city or the beauty of where you are, you have to keep in mind that you are not in the comfort zone of your home and anything can happen. Throughout my travels around the world, I have definitely had negative experiences: I’ve had my phone stolen, I’ve lost identification and I’ve been mugged. But because I’ve learned to prepare backups, carry around a “fake wallet” and follow some basic safety principles I’ve set for myself, my trips have ended on a positive note and I’ve been able to move on and enjoy the rest of my holiday with minimal effort on my part.