Travel Tips: Safety Tips for Travel
- Stay safe by avoiding poorly lit areas and less-travelled roads, especially at night and when alone. Avoid travelling at night in countries with a high-crime rate. If you are out late at night, let someone know when you expect to return or reach your destination.
- Do not board unmarked cars that claim to be taxis. Take only those clearly identified as taxis with official markings.
- In some countries, trains and buses along popular tourist routes fall victims to well-organized, systematic robberies. This is more prevalent when travelling through the countryside and rural areas with law-and-order problems and occurs more commonly at night, rather than during the daytime.
- Alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. In trains, extra police are often assigned to ride on routes where crime is a serious problem.
- Avoiding Theft:
- Be attentive and aware of your surroundings. Be wary of sudden movers and strangers who follow you or look at you intently. Show that you are paying attention — head up, eyes looking around, acknowledging people coming and going. Thieves generally want easy, unaware and lost-in-their-thoughts preys. Attentive, purpose-filled walkers are not any of these.
- While walking along a road, keep your belongings, even your shoulder bag on the side away from the road to prevent drive-by snatching.
- In several countries, thieves operate in a gang of two or more. They operate not by direct attack but by creating chaos and distractions and making away with your belongings kept or slung loosely about. Some of the known styles used by robbers include:
- Jostles and bumps: they jostle you, bump into you and make away with your wallet and goods even as they apologize before you realize anything is amiss
- Interactions – The really smart and talented ones ask you for directions or the time, or simply strike up a friendly conversation and make away with your wallet and luggage with this one. The modus operandi in this scheme generally involves hypnotization, vapours and such and not only takes victims by surprise but leaves them bewildered and blank about the robbery or similar occurrence.
- Distractions – Posing as good Samaritans, gangs often draw your attention to a non-existent stain on your clothing or a stray currency note that they themselves have dropped. Once you are distracted, they move-in with concealed weapons and make away with your valuables. Or else, while one keeps up the pretence, his/her companion makes away with your valuables.
- Groups of vagrant children also create distractions to pick your pocket, keep a tight hold on your belongings, especially your wallet and walk away. Better still, be alert and avoid trouble even as you see it come.
- If mugged, give up what they ask without a fight. Your life is priceless, your wallet and watch are not.
- Do not accept food or drink from strangers, they could be criminals and anything offered by them could be laced with drugs or sedatives, that, once ingested, could render you unconscious.
Safety – Self-driving:
- If you plan to rent a car, research your options in the destination well in advance. Some countries have left driving and some have right. You do not want to be surprised in your tracks.
- When actually renting, opt for the most common vehicle that you see plying on the local roads.
- Ensure that the road is in good condition
- If possible, request the removal of any markings that reveal the car as a rental car.
- Opt for air-conditioned cars that you can drive with the windows closed.
- If you are on the road, in a parking lot or a gas station, beware of strangers who point and indicate that your tyre is flat. When you stop and get out to look, they too stop in order to assist you. The only thing is they assist you with losing your valuables, by pointing guns. Or, direct you to a workshop just a short distance off the road, with which they are hand-in-glove for forcing travellers off the road.
- Some criminal minds are more direct than others are and cause harm by driving you off the road, rear-ending you and trying to cause an accident, or simply smashing car windows and windshields and making away with the car and/or valuables. Your presence inside the car is not a deterrent.
- Keep car doors – front and rear, locked at all times. Wear seat belts – they are more for your safety than for anything else.
- As much as possible, avoid driving at night.
- Keep your valuables out of sight – in the trunk or below the car seats and do not forget to take them with you when you alight.
- Use designated parking places to park your car, day or night.
- Never stop to pick up even innocent-looking hitchhikers.
- Do not get out of the car if there are suspicious looking individuals nearby. Drive away.
Safety – Airports:
- Reach airports much before the boarding time to prevent missed flights due to delays in security check, baggage check-ins and other procedures. This is an important rule-of-the-thumb especially if your luggage exceeds baggage allowances or you need to declare anything at customs, are carrying medical equipment or need assistance.
- Do not joke around with airport officials at airport security checkpoints, immigration or customs. Post 9/11, nothing is a joke. Even joking with fellow passengers or muttering under your breath about security and bombs can land you in trouble. Just be straightforward and answer any questions asked. Agents can make your life miserable if you fail to cooperate. Keep your passport with you at all times!
- Do not carry anything from anyone you do not know too well, it might be illegal and you may land in trouble for giving a helping hand if not worse.
Safety – Packing:
- Use a sturdy luggage that cannot be pried open easily.
- Pack a set of extra clothes in your carry-on luggage for emergencies including delayed flights or lost luggage
- Stash money, cards and valuables in different areas and not as a bunch. That way even if you lose one wallet or bag, you still have the rest. This is necessary, especially with a bunch of credit cards and wads of cash. When everything is in one bag or wallet and that is lost or stolen, you are in big trouble.
- Pay attention to what you wear. Try to dress like locals so as not to stand out in the crowd. The best bet would be jeans and shirts in most metros. However, in rural areas, even an urban native would stand out.
- Refrain from packing valuables in your check-in luggage. The valuables can easily disappear from the luggage, even if you have hidden it in-between layers of inconspicuous looking clothes or bags.
Safety – Hotel:
- Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
- Do not leave cash or other valuables lying about in your hotel room while you are out. There is a safe in your room for a reason. Use it.
- Do not enter an elevator if there are suspicious-looking persons inside, especially if you are alone.
- Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room and know the exits. In case of a fire, the elevators are not safe and knowing exactly where the fire exits are will save your life. Best tip – count the number of doors between your room and the fire exit and note the direction – comes handy when you have to navigate a smoke-filled corridor on all fours.