How To Stay Safe When Traveling

Traveling is a challenge. You might end up in precarious situations without wanting to. Nevertheless, sometimes it might not be your fault (e.g.: you’re walking into a street where the police suddenly starts a raid – wrong place, wrong time – That happened to me in Paris). I myself am fairly young and I am already traveling parts of the world on my own. There are a few precautions you can take to keep yourself safe from any unwanted surprises etc.

Drug addicts on the open street in Downtown Eastside, Vancouver (source: vancouversun.com)
  1. Ditch expensive jewellery

Nobody will see you on the streets and think “I am going to rob that person” unless you look like someone worth robbing. Take your essential jewellery with you but avoid expensive jewellery which catches one’s attention. Costume jewellery is alright as long as it is not too striking. You would not want to draw unnecessary attention. Therefore, leave the golden hoops, the platinum Rolex and the diamond necklace at home, especially when traveling to countries which are known to be criminal, such as South Africa.

2. Hide your money

When paying, turn away. Especially when you are in poorer countries, such as Morocco, Sri Lanka etc. and you are buying something at the market or negotiating a price, you do not want to open your wallet in front of them and let them see how much money you have. Always turn around when you are getting money. Also, when you change currencies at a bank, put the money away whilst you are still in a fairly protected place instead of walking outside and fiddling your money somewhere into your jeans pocket with everybody being able to see where you are now keeping it.

3. Cover up

In countries with which you are not familiar yet, do not show too much skin. For example: a) You’ve already been in France a lot, you know how the country and its cities work. You can dress however you like. b) You are walking through Colombia, wearing a jeans, a shirt and a jacket. Yes, people will probably look at you because you seem foreign, but it still feels okay. Even though you are walking through a narrow street home, you will probably get home safely. c) You are still walking through that exit street, but with a mini-dress that shows a lot of cleavage. The men’s looks start to feel filthy, you are hoping that the looks are the only thing you will feel.

4. Avoid dubious places

Since travelers try their best to escape the overrun sights – but only after sitting in a corner gazing at it and watching the scene the tourists are causing – and find their own little spots to lose their hearts in, we often take the road less traveled. Nevertheless, these roads should not lead to suspicious people or dubious places. Whenever a road is suddenly dark or there are too many drug addicts etc., turn around. When I was in Vancouver, I wanted to go to Chinatown. The fastest way to get there was through a street where many drug addicts were – they only lay there, not doing any harm to anybody. But I was strongly sweating after a few steps and my gut told me not to continue walking, so I turned around and postponed my Chinatown visit (I made it there by subway another day).

5. Carry something defensive with you

This may seem a little weird at first glance, but you should always carry something to defend yourself with with you. Whether it is pepper spray or a large, heavy bottle – always have something similar with you. A heavy bottle, best filled with liquid, can be a great weapon to e.g. hit somebody on the head with when he/her is assaulting you. Pepper spray can also be a great defence weapon. I once had to walk home in Vancouver at 1:30 a.m. because there was no bus anymore, and the walk lasted for about 35 minutes. I felt safer with the pepper spray in my pocket, even though nothing would have happened to me.

6. STAY STRONG

In whatever situation you find yourself in, keep walking upright and stay strong. This is my biggest and most important advice. Never let anybody think that you are insecure or afraid, never make it seem as if you were scared to walk down the street or get into the train late at night. When people sense your insecurity, you are automatically vulnerable and more “attractive” to anybody who is looking for a victim, because other people’s fear makes the assaulter feel more superior. Always walk with a purpose, avoid intense eye contact and make an impression of strength.

Stay safe.

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