Planning to travel safely begins long before you board the airplane. In fact, there are many decisions you can make while packing your suitcase that will pay dividends for peace of mind once you arrive at your destination.
My goal when I travel, especially to popular tourist destinations, is to lower my profile and look more like a local. Aesthetically, the goal is to blend in. Avoid things that will make you stand out in the crowd: T-shirts, jerseys, and sweatshirts with big team logos will attract unwanted attention and identify you as a foreigner. The same rule applies to bright colors or patterns – in general, colors are darker and more conservative overseas. Of course, if you dress as if you have a lot of money, you will raise your profile and attract more unwanted attention.
When packing, keep in mind that thieves are looking for the easiest target. If it is obvious where your wallet, cash, or valuables are located, you significantly raise the odds of being a target. Wear clothing with hidden pockets; do not make it obvious where your wallet, cash or valuables may be. Expect an equally high prevalence of pickpockets, especially if your itinerary includes highly visited tourist destinations.
If you are carrying large amounts of cash, divide it up into several different pockets or an under-the-clothing pouch or money belt. In Skopje, Macedonia, I was on a first-name basis with the grade school-aged thieves thanks to my travel companion, who called them out while we were fending them off. The little pickpockets would walk up and pat my pockets to locate my wallet, but since I split my cards and cash between a front pants pocket, zippered shirt pocket, money belt, and concealed pouch, they were unable to find what they were looking for.
If you are thinking like a thief, then a purse will immediately appeal to you. A bag and its contents could be valuable and easy to run away with. Here are some things to keep in mind with your purse when you’re traveling:
Keep in mind the religious views and norms of the country or locations you visit. I toured the Vatican in the July heat and watched as security turned away dozens of individuals due to their wardrobe decisions. In Muslim countries, it is respectful and sometimes mandatory for women to dress conservatively; at a minimum, wear long skirts or pants, and, in some countries, women must wear a headscarf. Research the cultural and religious views of the country before you leave.
Dressing to blend in, concealing your valuables, practicing good purse etiquette, and being aware of religious and cultural considerations are great techniques to minimize your profile and drastically increase your personal safety while traveling abroad. In the end, there is always a risk that someone will separate you from your valuables; if so, having travel insurance can be the best thing to get your vacation seamlessly back on track.
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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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