“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”- Gustav Flaubert
It is no secret that travelling broadens owns mind’s horizon. No matter how many books you read, there are some things, some experiences that are too beautiful to be explained using words. Only when one witnesses it, one believes it. Some destinations are about absorbing every moment through the eyes, into your mind palace. Such is the beauty of travelling and almost everyone loves to travel. The most exciting part of a traveller’s lifestyle is also the trickiest one.
There are no set rules or routines. Travelling is all about breaking the monotony. One can do whatever one likes to do. Here comes the tricky part. Every new land has its own set of good and bad and a traveler has to be well aware of it. As much as the seeing new destinations feel like a movie, this is not. One has to keep his/her eyes and ears open at all the time. Any kind of accident ruins the entire trip. Hence, it is always advisable to be extra cautious while travelling because one becomes more vulnerable in unknown surroundings. No matter if you are travelling with a group or alone, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Know your Destination
The start has to be right so that everything else that follows falls into its place. As much as we would love to be surprised, it is always better to do some research prior to travelling. It is important to know the area where you are putting up and the adjacent areas. It is recommended to do some quick Google news search on the destination just to be updated in case of potential health or safety issues. There are certain things that you cannot learn until you arrive at the place but being well informed makes you better equipped. Once you are at the destination, it always helps to talk to a few locals. They would be helpful in filling up the information gaps. They would apprise you with the valuable information like shortcuts and safety, of course.
Beware of your belongings and surroundings
At times, we tend to leave our things unattended seeing others do the same. Now there is a difference. You are a foreigner unlike others who might be locals. Rogues identify the tourist easily. So, no matter how others are, just for your safety, you should try not to leave your belongings unattended. Big stations, airports, or any other busy spots make the best place for pickpockets. Tourist attractions are a paradise for pickpockets. These are the busy places where they find clueless tourists carrying a lot of cash distracted by the monuments.
It so happens that we tend to lose ourselves to the beauty of the place. As tempting as it may sound, it is also important to be aware of the surroundings and the people around you. Some people try and con the tourists by being nice to them or by deliberately initiating a conversation or by following you for a while. The solution is to be aware.
- Don’t be over friendly to someone you just got know
- Be skeptical of strangers, who make that extra effort to be nice to you, without any reason
- Never reveal your personal details like where you stay or where you plan to go next to someone you have just met
- It’s better not to eat or drink anything offered by a complete stranger
- Avoid sharing too much details on social platform
When we travel, we carry a different kind of bag or some belongings that we are not used to carrying in our daily life. Consequently, we tend to leave those behind. One must make it reflex that whenever he/she leaves a place, one must take a few seconds to double check everything- wallet, phone, bag, passport, ticket etc. This should be practiced even in daily life so that quick glance over the space becomes a habit.
Shed the tourist in you
Like the saying goes- When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Doing so will be very useful in keeping away the unwanted attention. It is also the best way to get the most out of any travel experience. Unfortunately, the rogues know the surroundings better than everyone else. They can easily distinguish a tourist from a native, hence it’s important to blend. At times, the skin color, features, height etc. can give you away but one can cover up with confident body language and a few words of the native language. Man or woman, if you exude confidence, you won’t be targeted easily.
- Don’t wear anything that will make you stand out
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or watches
- Avoid staring at maps every now and then. It’s better to have a good idea of the place you intend to go, beforehand. Knowing your destination will make you look confident.
- In case, you have to ask for a route or a place, it is better to go to a local who’d be in that place everyday like a nearby shopkeeper or a security guard. It is better not to ask for road directions from strangers but if it’s absolutely necessary, you should look for a couple or a family rather than someone who is loitering around
- It is better to avoid flashing big DSLR or clicking pictures with long selfie-sticks at every corner
Know the language
Language is bound to blur the lines and bring you closer to the culture of the foreign land. Learning a language helps you appreciate new cultures, history and cuisine. Learning a new language might sound intimidating but one should learn just the basics of the language in order to travel. This is also one of the ways to not appear as a tourist. The road signs can be written in the native language. Knowing the basics will help you find your way lest you be wandering around catching unwanted attention.
Not all eggs in one basket, please!
The most foolish thing to do while travelling is to carry everything with you all the time. It is strongly recommended to separate the sources of cash. One must carry only the amount required for that particular day along with one card only. Some amount of cash and a credit/debit card should be kept locked in the hotel/hostel. Always carry a small wallet with just enough cash for the day. In case, you have to carry some extra cash or card, it is better to use a money belt underneath the clothes, which remains unnoticed to other people and inaccessible to the pickpockets. People who travel quite often could have a ‘make believe’ wallet. This wallet can have an expired credit card and a few other fake cards along with a small amount of money. If someone aggressively demands for the wallet, you can easily give away, without losing much
Photocopy/Scan the documents
It is better not to carry important documents like passports, driving license, ticket etc. with you all the time. It is advised to have soft copies of the documents. Even if you are carrying it, soft copies will be helpful in case you lose any of the documents. Also, having photocopies of the documents back in the hostel/hotel works like a back up plan in case you lose your mobile phone or laptop. It is wise to be doubly secured especially with the documents, as those are the proof of your identity in foreign land. It is also a good idea to keep bank and credit card phone numbers stored in your phones and in written as well.
Get a travel insurance
Forgetting to purchase travel insurance is considered as one of the deadly travel sins. It may not appear as a lifesaver but travel insurance plan ensures medical and evacuation emergencies along with 24*7 support. There are countries where medical treatment can be an expensive affair. If the traveler gets injured or falls ill during a trip, travel insurance pays to for medical transportation and treatment. The insurance covers all the medical requirements like necessary evacuations to transport an injured or ill person to the medical equipment. If one is robbed, travel insurance will provide the security that is needed.
Let your itinerary be known to family or a close friend
You may be a person of adventure but it is important to let your family or a close friend know about your plans including your flight numbers, accommodation, travel insurance information, credit card and bank account number. Mail them your final itinerary and make sure they have received it. This will relieve the fears of your loved ones and also be helpful in case you land in some trouble. They would be able to locate you or notify the embassy in case they don’t hear from you.
Universal rule is not to leave your drink unattended. In foreign land, one has to be extra careful with drinking. Getting too drunk, during a trip, can make you vulnerable. Having drugs can land you in prison, so it is advisable to avoid doing drugs, as it will also involve dealing with notorious people providing drugs.
Drinking numbs your senses and makes you dull. You let your guards down and people are present everywhere to take advantage of such situations.
- Ask for drinks from the bartender directly
- Drink slowly
- Have water in between the drinks
- Avoid drinking in empty stomach
- Know your drink
- Stay aware of the amount of drinks you consume
- Choose a safe place or bar
- Take a taxi back
Trust your instincts
There is nothing wrong in listening to your inner voice. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. The body senses signs of danger even before the brain is aware of it. So if you get some kind of intuition, try not to brush it off. Instead, pay closer attention to the situation.
There are a few other things that can contribute towards a safe travel
- Be aware of the flirtatious moves that people make. It can be a part of some scam.
- Be respectful of local customs It is important to know foreign etiquette to avoid any problem like receiving aggressive and angry response from the local people.
- It is advised to walk on the sidewalk against the traffic where you can see each and every vehicle approaching towards you otherwise people can steal your stuff while passing by you in high speed
- The more you hide, the more you save. It is recommended not to flaunt your wealth. Fancy smartphones, tablets, cameras, designer clothing and expensive jewelleries call for unwanted attention.
- Always carry a first-aid box
- As tempting as it may be, avoid walking alone in unfamiliar streets in the night time
- Wear your backpack facing front
Risk is an integral part of any adventure that you undertake. Travelling is, indeed, fun but being cautious makes the entire trip a good memory for you. One just has to be smart and wise in managing the risk. Life is too short to postpone what you love doing. Don’t let a bunch of thieves influence your travel diary. So, go out and see the world for yourself. You will end up discovering a new you.