One of the things that concerns all of us is how safe we will be in another country or culture. While horror stories abound on the news, rest assured there are hundreds of thousands of people living and travelling all over the world on any given day of the year. They/we have wonderful experiences and come home, or not, safe and sound. Safe foreign travel is based on two principles. Know before you go and situational awareness.
1. Know Before You Go:
The U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs has an up-to-date safety website. Just key in the country you are interested in and they will tell you all they know to help you decide whether or not you want to go there. If you key in Mexico, for instance, it will tell you about the drug cartels, kidnapping, and other risks. It also lists all the Mexican states and tells you whether there is a travel advisory for that area and why. Google search U.S. Passports and International Travel.
Go online and research several newspapers for the town you want to visit and see what is happening in that area. What are they concerned about? Try to find an online ex-pat website to see what they are talking about.
If you are going on a cruise or tour-group, ask the guides or travel desks what parts of the city are safe and where you should avoid. Most popular cruise ports have a very safe tourist area – know those boundaries.
2. Situational Awareness:
A display of wealth is definitely a no-no. Take limited amounts of cash. Only use an ATM inside a bank or a very public area. Kidnapping can be anything from holding you up at an ATM machine for instant cash, car jacking and kidnap, to full-blown kidnapping because they think you are wealthy. Avoid jewelry and expensive watches. Leave the Rolex at home and get a Timex for travel – they both tell time, after all! Only keep the cash you think you will need for the day on your person.
Do not take a short cut through an alley or off the main roads. Look around you and be aware. We have a friend who keeps a mini mag-lite flashlight on a wrist tether when she travels. She is never in the dark and has a small weapon if needed.
Be careful when you buy things that you are not announcing to the world that you have money to spend. If possible, have your purchases delivered to your hotel or carry a large folding tote to store your purchases.
If someone wants your bag – give it to them. It’s just stuff. It’s not worth an injury or your life.
Dress modestly, speak softly, try not to stand out. Also, knowing a few words in the local language will go a long way in explaining what happened or your situation. As they said on Hill Street Blues: “Be Safe Out There!”
What do you do to stay safe? Learned any lessons? Comment below and we can all learn from each other.