Travel is mostly a positive experience but sadly, the world is a dangerous place and there are people who want to take advantage of tourists who are visiting for the first time. In this guide, we’ll provide you with travel safety tips that will help reduce the risk of your dream holiday, turning into a nightmare.
Sadly, terrorism is a regular occurrence in many cities across the world. These horrific acts are often out of our control, but as travellers, it’s important that we are alert, especially in populated areas and tourist attractions. If you spot anything unusual including people acting suspicious, a vehicle parked in a strange location, or a package unattended, do not ignore it. Report your observations, without putting yourself in danger.
Every country has a government department that advises which countries are not recommended for their residents, i.e. in the UK, we have the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who provide up-to-date travel advice in every country in the world. Check this information before booking your next trip and only visit places that are not a danger to tourists.
Research your destination
You will see me stress this regularly in my how to travel videos and in travel advice guides here: research is critical to a stress-free trip. It all starts in the planning prior to you booking any aspect of your trip. Use Google maps to check out the neighbourhood near your accommodation, and use street view to find if there’s anything dodgy about the area.
When you’re new to a city you have no idea if the area is seedy, riddled with crime or a run down part of town.
Find out about tourist scams
Use your favourite search engine to find articles on common travel scams that occur, but do not let it put you off from visiting. Scams occur everywhere in the world, even your hometown, but being armed with this information will reduce the risk of you being scammed.
Forums are a great place to ask questions – communities like the Trip Advisor travel forums have local experts who happily give up their time to answer questions left by tourists. Visit the forum for your destination and ask any questions that you might have about the local area. Take a moment to search the forum though because it’s likely that your question has already been answered.
Theft & Pickpocketing
Theft and pickpocketing are common in most cities. Keep belongings close to you and in sight at all times. Do not leave items under or, over the back of chairs. Be careful about placing items on the table while you are deep in conversation because thieves are smart.
A common trick is to put a leaflet over your phone and talk to you about a tour, or, whatever they try and sell. When you say you’re not interested, they remove the leaflet along with your phone. Numerous friends over the years have been caught out with this trick, especially in Barcelona.
Try not to stand out
Do not walk around with items in your back pockets. Keep wallets, mobile phones and money in your front pockets. Make sure any bags are zipped up. The criminals will be looking for people who appear stressed, lost, or, are vulnerable. So, don’t stand on street corners looking at a map, keep calm if you are lost and go inside a nearby shop or cafe and ask for directions.
Whenever you leave somewhere, look behind you to ensure that you’ve not left anything behind. Over the years, this has become natural to me, and you will be surprised how many times I would have walked away without picking up my mobile phone or a bag. It’s so easy to do when you’re thinking about what you want for dinner, or, where you will visit next.
Don’t flaunt expensive items
It’s important that you don’t flaunt your stuff. If you are out on a shopping trip, rather than walking around with all of those designer bags, put the items into a backpack, or into one bag. I spend quite a lot of time in coffee shops, and use a MacBook Pro, so to avoid attracting attention I have a cover which hides that it’s an expensive laptop.
Trust your instinct
When walking around be aware of people around you, and observe any unusual activities, especially around popular tourist attractions. When it comes to engaging with people be aware of any weird mannerisms that might make you uncomfortable. Are they pushy, or, look shifty? One common trend I’ve noticed with scammers is that they speak English really well, despite being from a country where English isn’t the first language.
While I’m not suggesting every English speaking local is a scammer, it’s something to observe. From my own experiences, my gut instinct has never let me down and I am always weary of people, including other tourists.
Dine where the locals eat
So, we’ve covered crime, but what about other issues that could lead to an unsafe trip? The last thing you want, is to be ill in your hotel room, or worse still, admitted into a hospital, so it’s important that you are careful where you consume food and drink.
My advice when choosing a place to eat is to check out reviews online and go with my rule that if no locals are eating there, avoid it like the plague. Seriously, locals are only going to eat at places that have a good reputation. Food poisoning can happen at any restaurant, but you lower the risk if you select places that have good reviews and locals frequenting them.
Use common sense
Let’s be honest, 90% of incidents that occur to tourists are due to a lack of common sense. Don’t walk down a dark alley or street alone in the early hours. Don’t get drunk to the point that you have no idea where you are or how to get back to your accommodation. Don’t flash your wallet and money around in a bar, and don’t be obnoxious or pick fights with people. Think before you act is my advice when travelling abroad.
Always remember that the world is a much safer place than we give it credit for, the majority of the world’s population is caring and helpful, so don’t let what you hear and read in the news put you off from exploring the amazing planet that we live on.