Being a tourist can be pretty daunting. You can’t be sure when you need to be on your guard, or when it’s safe to relax. While some places are known to be more dangerous than others, there’s really no rule book on the countries where you will experience tourist crime, as opposed to the ones where you won’t (bar maybe Canada). In fact, more often than not, the opposite to what one thinks is true!
With this in mind, we thought we would arm you with some precautions and safety tips - so that wherever you are, chances that you will face any threat as a traveller are kept as low as possible.
1 - Counterfeit Currency
As a tourist, it’s unlikely that you will discern a counterfeit note from a real one, as a local could. Counterfeit currency is a crime that occurs in many countries and the places you can receive the notes are manifold, from taxis to shops to markets. The best and surest way to avoid this scam is to exchange all your cash before you go (with ACE-FX!).
2 - Keep Phones Off the Table
While keeping your wallet hidden goes without saying (or should do anyway), we often forget about our phones, particularly as we are now so used to having them on the table while we eat a meal. This provides the perfect opportunity for a thief; so, when out to eat make sure you keep your phone in your pocket.
3 - Keep Your Bag Close
We tend to let things go on holiday - but possessions shouldn’t be one of them! Don’t put your bag on the back of a chair whilst eating; the seat next to you on the bus etc. Keep it with you, preferably on your person, at all times.
4 - Taxi Negotiations
Before you get in a taxi (particularly one from the airport), ensure you know roughly how much should be charged for journeys. This is a classic way that tourists get conned abroad - coming out of the airport all bushy-tailed and fresh-eyed and paying the extortionate prices offered to them by the lurking taxi operators. These days, the whole thing can be avoided by taxi Apps such as Uber. In general, I will use an App when I first arrive as the last thing one wants getting off a plane is to begin haggling a taxi fare. But I don’t only use Apps - this is the local taxi operators income and it is unfair to only spend money on corporations like Uber. Just make sure you’re armed with wits and some currency knowledge!
5 - Use Safe Travel Methods
E.g. not public transport. Personally, I love going on public transport in different countries - it’s a chance to gain an insight into the real life of the people and the place. But if you’re more wary, or going to a place that’s known as more dangerous, only travel by safe means - reputable taxi companies, hired cars etc.
6 - Money, money, money
First rule: don’t keep your money in one place! This is a rookie-error; if you do get robbed, it’s all gone. Spread your money between bags/your money belt/different locations in your luggage. If you’re really worried, bring one of the flat money belts that can be worn underneath trousers for total money invisibility! Additionally, bring a few different methods of payment with you.
7 - Get Organised
Arrive armed in knowledge (including our all-essential tips). Research where you are going - if there are bugs, bring spray; political strife, avoid the particular locations etc. Take all necessary documents, and photocopies of important ones such as your passport.
8 - Bring Stuff You Don’t Care About
Your favourite watch? New trainers? Necklace you got for your birthday? Leave them at home! Flaunting your wealth or the things you possess is a sure way to catch the wrong kind of attention. Bring things you don’t care about, and don’t wear flashy gear; as they say, better safe than sorry.
9 - Keep Your Wits About You
A lot of travel safety is simply common sense and remaining aware of your surroundings. Alone? Don’t walk home at night. Avoid empty streets. Stay near lights and people. Stick to tourist circuits with other tourists. If you are assailed by a robber, give them your wallet or whatever else it is they are asking for; don’t try to argue. Do not travel to unknown places on your own. If drinking, ensure you are with a group you can rely on. You got this!
A lot of the time, a place is not actually as dangerous as it is made out to be by websites and the media. Frankly, it’s hard to know for sure until you actually take the trip. For instance, Morocco: most assume this is one of the more dangerous places to travel to, and there are many preconceptions surrounding the country. However, whilst travelling there for six weeks, I experienced no safety threats at all (other than some rather aggressive haggling) and Morocco has a specific tourist police designed to look after tourists. So don’t believe everything you hear! (Except maybe this).