Cities Journal

Staying Safe Traveling

You might not be able to predict a tsunami during your beach vacation or a flood during your travels up the Mississippi River, but that’s no reason you can’t travel safely. Stolen passports, fake policemen, children pickpockets, and general mayhem may follow you on your next trip abroad.

However, there are several simple ways to reduce the chance you’ll end up locked away in a Turkish prison or find yourself on the banks of the Yangtze without a passport.

The Best Defense is a Good Friend

Avoid broadcasting your impending trip with the world through Facebook (you don’t want to tell everyone your house will be empty for the next week), but tell a few people about your plans. Perhaps a neighbor or a friend who’s going to look in on your dogs. If you find yourself stuck in a foreign country and need help, your friend may be your best lifeline for reaching the authorities.

Also, make a few copies of your passport and other documents (visa, driver’s license, plane ticket) and give one set to a trusted friend. Keep the other copies on you and hide the real documents somewhere in your luggage. If you fall victim to a pint-sized pickpocket on the streets of Paris, at least the mini thief will only get a copy of your passport instead of the real thing.

Tip: Keep expired credit cards; use them as bait in an old wallet.

Party Like You’re a Grandma

Whether you’re a grandmother or not, keeping a schedule like a stereotypical granny is a decent way to stay out of trouble while traveling. Thieves and criminals want to ply their trade in the dead of night, so if you’re visiting a local monument at 10 AM, you’re probably not going to have to deal with too many knife-wielding bandits.

Hitting the bars at 2 AM might invite a little more mischief. If you must absolutely ride the club circuit at oh-dark-thirty, make sure you’re with friends.

Don’t be afraid to break out the granny pack. If your clothing doesn’t have zippered pockets (you should always travel with zippered pockets), get a fanny pack or a bag that doesn’t have loose straps. Although hot temperatures might make it difficult to wear a jacket, a piece of clothing with zippered pockets near your chest is best to prevent theft.

They’ll Know You’re a Tourist

You can try to blend in all you want, but the local mischief makers will know you’re not from around these parts. However, that’s no reason to play the part of the noisy tourist. Get friendly with the local shopkeepers, and get their advice on where to go and how to do it. They might impart some wisdom regarding places to avoid. You might even find an amazing place to visit that’s known only to the locals.

Visiting the wild city of Rio, paddling up the Amazon, or hanging out in Mexico City might sound a little more adventurous than visiting Disneyland, but never assume domestic travel is safer than an international trip. The United States and its sedate citizenry aren’t immune to the lure of theft and chaos. Whether you’re traveling up the road or across the planet, always prepare for the worst, and you’ll experience the best of what the world of travel has to offer.

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