Safety can be an ambiguous term; everyone’s risk tolerance and comfort zone varies, especially overseas when in an unfamiliar environment. Here are my four favorite travel safety techniques that you can incorporate into your travel routines right now no matter your level of risk tolerance.
If something happens at night, you should know where to go to find people who can help. Be sure to keep an eye out for police stations or other security outposts. As you explore the area, check the hours of restaurants and other stores that are open late in case you need to find someone after-hours.
One of my best practices is to know multiple ways to exit your hotel, hostel, etc. However, it is also a good idea to establish multiple ways to get back to or back into wherever you are staying. Protests, demonstrations, or unsavory characters lingering by the entrance are all great reasons to opt for an alternate way in to where you are staying. This also applies to the metro; if you exit the metro and walk into a dangerous situation, the best idea is to go back into the metro and use a different exit or stop to avoid the issue and get to your lodging safely.
Do not let any door close behind you before you know what is waiting for you outside. This is particularly the case for a door that locks when closed. Fumbling for keys is the last thing you want to do if a dangerous situation is approaching. As you walk out of your hotel room, look down the hallway first. Before completely exiting the hotel or hostel, scan the street for signs of trouble. Instead of hopping out of a taxi as it stops, glance around; it is infinitely easier to tell the driver to keep going than it is to find another taxi if you don’t like what’s waiting for you as you get out.
This technique is most applicable at night and, no, you do not need to point at people or count on your hands. The majority of crimes committed overseas are crimes of opportunity; while physically looking around and actively acknowledging the presence of others may seem paranoid, it also shows a higher degree of awareness. The intent is to send a clear message to any potential attacker that you will not make it easy for them to sneak up on you, and that they should find another target.
Even if you are visiting a new city for a short period, it is worth practicing safety and awareness techniques. The goal is not to be untrusting and paranoid, but to rather develop habits that will make you (and your friends and family) safer whether you are at home or abroad. Not every technique is foolproof, and it is always a good idea to invest in travel insurance in case these "what if" situations do occur.
What are some of your favorite travel safety tips?
Former travel disaster, now a serial traveler, travel safety advisor, and author of The Travel Safety Handbook. Poster boy for learning from others mistakes. Now I provide travelers with the tools to focus on their travel goals; I advise business travelers,prepare study-abroad students and equip families with the knowledge to return home successful with memories that will last a lifetime, not horror stories. Follow JC on his blog at Travel-Safer.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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