When you travel it’s so important to remember that where you are going is full of people exactly like you. People who go to work, who fight with their families and love their favourite coffee shop. The media can make the world can seem really scary, but it really isn’t that bad.
It makes me so sad to think that people might not travel the world because they think the second they leave they are going to be mugged or kidnapped or ripped off. The world is so magical and there is so much to learn from seeing how others live.
Of course this doesn’t mean not being cautious and I have a few tips below for being safe without being silly:
Keep an eye on the news
Most hotels have wifi or newspapers so just keep half an eye on what’s going on - especially if you’re going to multiple places. We were about to travel to Paris on the eve of the Charlie Hedbo attacks. When we saw the terrible news we immediately checked what was going on in terms of travel and also checked in with our families to let them know what was going on. We still went to Paris and I have very fond memories of our time there - but we were far more conscious of regular check ins with family and keeping an eye on flights.
I don't think you need to strap your belongings to yourself but you are more likely to be pick pocketed in tourist areas, so be discrete and aware of your belongings when you’re in tourist attractions. In addition the police in some places (such as France) can demand evidence that you are allowed in their country at any time so keep your passport on you (or other travel documents).
Scams are real! Here is a list of the most common ones, and Lonely Planet also has useful information. We’ve never been scammed badly; we once ended up paying 10 euros for a rose in Vienna (we had just gotten engaged so we were suckers for romantic gestures) and donated money to a “deaf and blind charity” (again about 10 euros) that definitely wasn’t a charity. The one that we managed to dodge but could see people being suckered in to was the “gladiators” offering to take photos with people outside of the Colosseum, and then immediately demanding payment. Don’t feel too bad if you do get suckered in, just don’t ever give credit card details or real information to anyone and try to get out of any scam without giving over too much money.
Although you shouldn’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells in different cultures, it is worthwhile doing a little research before you go about anything you should be aware of, such as:
Being conscious of any photos you take. Many landmarks and tourist sites are culturally, historically or spiritually significant, and it’s important to be aware of what kind of photos are respectful to the original intention of the location.
Be aware of any important etiquette; are you expected to cover your head in religious locations? Is there a polite way to greet people (or an offensive way you shouldn’t greet people)?
Keep some cash in your bags at the hotel as well as photocopies of your passport and other photo ID and for the love of god purchase travel insurance. If you don't keep all your eggs in one basket it will be less terrifying if something does happen. Also if you're travelling in a group make sure all of your phones are unlocked to make calls overseas.
Don’t tell taxi drivers or other strangers too much about your travel plans. I was actually the worst for excitedly telling taxi drivers that we’re heading off on an adventure for a few weeks until my husband pointed out that means they know the house (and all our belongings) would be empty for weeks. Don’t be like me, be vague in any descriptions of travel plans or accommodation.
Don't be an idiot
Don’t take stupid risks you wouldn’t take in your home country. If that alley looks super creepy and you’re by yourself don’t walk down it. Most places are no more or less dangerous than your home town so just act like you would at home.
Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo