The unpleasant side of travel that people don’t talk about as much is the potential dangers of venturing to a place you don’t know. If you are traveling alone, don’t understand the local language, and appear like a lost tourist, you can become a target. Pickpockets, hustlers, scammers, corrupt business owners, and shady people can take advantage of your ignorance. Traveling should be a fun experience. Some of this sounds like common sense but I always hear stories about people getting into trouble because they did not do these things. Let’s talk about how to stay away from disasters.
Group Travel or Solo
Traveling with a partner or group is a good idea for those who are not very savvy. You can look out for each other. Someone in your group may be good at languages and be a translator, another person might have good instincts and street smarts. Put together, your group can protect itself from dangerous situations. If you’re traveling alone, do your research before arriving. Know which areas are known for criminal activity and avoid them. Learn about common scams locals pull on tourists. Definitely learn some local language basics.
Keep a Low Profile
Understand the economy and living conditions of the place. Don’t wear flashy watches in a poor neighborhood. Leave the chains and bracelets at home. Don’t carry a designer bag in areas where the annual salary is the cost of the bag. Dress down. Accessorize with inexpensive sunglasses and watches. Keep your wallet and phone in your front pants pockets where you can feel them. Dress nice, but casual. Don’t make yourself a target for thieves.
Don’t ball out and carry stacks of cash. Pay attention to signs and prices when you get in taxis, go to bars, or pay for anything. Some countries have a negotiation culture when it comes to prices. Learn to haggle. You will likely get the “foreigner price” which is always way higher than local price if you don’t negotiate. Use a currency convertor app and learn about the local currency system. Understand which denominations of notes and coins are used. If you use ATMs do so inside of a hotel, bank, or legit business.
Carry only enough money for the evening out. Drink in moderation and keep your drink in your sight. Never buy drugs. Use common sense with the ladies. Depending on the area, you may get picked up by working girls looking to drug and rob you. Don’t get drunk and go somewhere you’ve never been with people you’ve never met. Be respectful. Gangs and organized crime syndicates operate everywhere. Like it says in the 48 Laws, don’t offend the wrong people.
Keep your passport and other valuables in a secure location. Don’t dress like a tourist with the backpack, big camera and all that gear that makes it obvious you’re on vacation. If people ask you personal questions like where you are staying, who are you with and so on, you don’t need to answer them. Drink lots of water.