Personal Safety: 26 Ways to Avoid Being a Victim While Traveling
You don’t often think it will happen to you… You’re on vacation and everything is going great until you find yourself on a crowded bus or elevator. Everyone is packed in tight like a can of sardines. When it’s time to get off at your stop, you realize your wallet is missing.
Crime happens everywhere and anyone could be a victim. Out-of-towners often make easy targets for criminal activity. Not only are you in unfamiliar territory, you may be distracted by your new surroundings and large crowds of tourists – leaving the door wide open for a pickpocket or thief.
That’s why IT’S UP TO YOU to plan ahead and take the proper precautions when it comes to your own personal safety at home or abroad. Follows these steps to avoid being a crime victim while traveling.
For when you check-in
- When selecting your destination, find out if the hotel you’re booking is located in a safe area. Check review sites like TripAdvisor or Hotels.com, and read crime reports for the area where you’ll be staying. Once you arrive, don’t be afraid to ask a cab driver or the hotel concierge what the area is like, especially at night.
- It’s common for hotel employees like housekeeping to visit your hotel room. However, exercise caution. Don’t open the door for strangers. If someone says they are hotel employees, ask to see their ID or call the front desk to verify their visit.
- Once you’re all unpacked, store your most important documents and valuables in the hotel safe, if one is provided. This may include jewelry, extra cash, prescriptions, a copy of your passport, etc.
- If you’re going out, but don’t feel comfortable with the surrounding area or walking through the parking alone at night, request an escort to your car or have the hotel call a cab. They will graciously comply.
- Avoid posting to social media sites that you’ll be away from home for an extended period time. This leaves your house vulnerable to theft.
For when you’re on-the-go
- Before going out for a night on the town or sightseeing, do your research of the area and familiarize yourself with local attractions. The telltale sign of a tourist is someone constantly looking at maps and guidebooks with the nearsightedness of Mr. Magoo. Minimize your risk as a potential crime target and look like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going.
- Whenever you can, avoid walking alone. You are not a one-man wolf pack. There is safety in numbers, especially when traveling in unfamiliar territory.
- If at any point your feel like someone is following you, cross the street or walk in a different direction. If the person continues to follow you, go inside of a store or a well-lit public space like a museum or restaurant. Alert the clerk or security guard of your situation. Wait a few minutes and continue on your way. Yell for help if you need it.
- Look out for possible disturbances on the street like smoke, street performers and other commotion. These distracting situations can sometimes be used to cover criminal activities like pickpocketing or kidnapping.
- Don’t brandish large amounts of cash or expensive items in public. Donald Trump may be able to get away with that, but you might not. Displaying your wealth will increase your likelihood as a target for theft.
- Only bring the cash you’ll need for the day, leaving the rest in your hotel safe.
For when you drive a car
- If you decide to rent a car during your travels, always park in a well-lit area that has a lot of foot traffic so you and your car can be seen. Busy streets with plenty of witnesses makes it difficult for a criminal to drive off with your car.
- Before heading out, know where you’re going in advance. This will prevent you from asking for directions from strangers who may not be too keen on helping you get where you’re going.
- If you cannot remember the directions, use the GPS on your phone or in your rental vehicle (if one is installed).
- When entering or exiting the vehicle, lock your doors immediately and keep them locked.
- Keep your windows rolled up in slow moving traffic. This will reduce the chances of a criminal stealing items from your car.
- Never leave personal belongings or expensive items in plain view. Laptops, backpacks, briefcases, even birthday presents left in passenger seats are asking to be stolen. Place them in the trunk or glove compartment for safe keeping.
- Don’t stop for parked motorists or hitchhikers, especially at night. While you may want to help a person in need, your safety comes first.
- If you’re driving in an unsafe area and get a flat tire, continue driving – as safely as you can – to a safe location where you can change the tire or call for assistance. Exercise extreme caution if you attempt to change the tire on your own. Make sure other drivers can see you.
- If at any point you are approached by a criminal with a weapon, DON’T BE A HERO. Give them your car or any other possessions to increase your chances of leaving the situation alive. Contact the police immediately and provide an accurate description of the crime and the suspect.
Bonus personal safety tips to keep in mind
- Before leaving for a vacation, scan your passport and other important documents on to an online cloud service or send them to your email in case the physical copies go missing.
- Don’t follow strangers or people you just met – no matter how friendly they may appear. Always trust your gut instinct when people you don’t know try to insert themselves into your life.
- When approaching the door to your home or hotel room, make sure you have your keys out and ready to use. You don’t want to waste time fishing for your keys. Criminals may see this as an opportunity to strike and enter your residence. Lock the door behind you as soon as you enter.
- Don’t follow the exact same routine. Patient criminals will scout their next victim by looking at their daily routine. Switch up the times your leave for work or arrive home. You may even want to set up additional home security measures such as automatic timers for your lights if you won’t be home in the evenings.
- Protect yourself and your loved ones with an emergency assistance program like the like the Legionnaire Emergency Assistance Plus. This program offers 24 hour emergency medical and travel assistance – no matter where you are in the world.
It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a stroll through your own neighborhood or sightseeing in Milan, crime is everywhere. Stay alert and remain vigilant. By being aware of your surroundings and using commonsense precautions, you can help prevent crime from happening. It’s not paranoia, it’s personal safety.