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Travel Smarts: Keeping Yourself Safe

We travel to see the world, to enjoy, to relax. Getting into a fix or some snafu over carelessness or crime does not make for a happy travel experience. Here are some practical tips that can help you be safe wherever you go.

1. Be in the know

Before you leave, read up about the place you are going to. Familiarize yourself with their basic laws by visiting tourism websites or browsing through travel forums. You don’t have to memorize them, but at least know enough to keep yourself out of trouble. Read up on their customs as well, which can be handy and help you avoid offending the locals.

2. Be aware

Keeping your wits about you will help keep you out of trouble. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you, particularly in crowded areas. Always know where your belongings are. No matter how modern or safe a place is, there are always some people who won’t hesitate to take advantage of the hapless tourist. They can be pickpockets, vagrants, con-artists and so on.

3. Be cautious and trust your instincts

While you may not have Peter Parker’s Spider Sense, you do have your gut intuition. If you feel that something is wrong, it’s best to err on the side of caution than risk your safety. Say “no” if someone is persistently trying to make you do something, or if someone is pushing you to buy their wares. Shake your head, and walk away.

4. Make copies of important documents and information

Losing important documents such as your passport, identification, credit and debit cards, insurance and itinerary while you are out on a trip is a pain. Make colored photocopies of these and leave copies with family or friends back home. Keep copies for yourself and place them in separate locations in your luggage. Have them digitally scanned as well, and upload copies to your email or any online storage. Keep a high resolution copy on your smartphone, which you can easily pull up when needed.

5. Have emergency numbers on hand

To start with, these emergency numbers would include family back home (don’t forget the country and area code), your insurance company, the hotel where you are staying, your country’s embassy or consulate and so on. Store these numbers on your phone, but at the same time, have them written down in paper. Include the emergency or police hotline for your current location.

6. Be money smart

If you plan to exchange all your money to the local currency in one go, make sure that you keep it in a secure place such as a safe. Don’t put all your money in one location or wallet, and don’t bring all of it when you go out. Keep cash and cards separate, so in the event that one is lost, you’ll still have a back up.

7. Avoid trouble

Common sense tells us that the best way to avoid problems is to not seek them. If your country releases an advisory against a particular place, postpone any trips there for the time being. Avoid being a target as well. Dress simply, and avoid flashing your valuables when you’re out.

8. Leave behind unnecessary items

Some things are not essentials when you travel, despite being of sentimental or important value. Leave your jewelry, heirlooms and other irreplaceable items at home.

9. Respect the other people

In as much as you will be going about cautiously to avoid trouble, you should also treat other people with respect. This means locals, wait staff, fellow travelers and so on. It opens up a lot of opportunities, and creates experiences that you wouldn’t normally have. It also makes people trust you and respect you back and that definitely helps you keep out of trouble.

10. Transportation Safety

Familiarize yourself with the transportation system of the place you are going to. If you’re riding the train or the bus, mark out the spots that you need to get off to get to the places you want to see. Know their hours of operation as well, as some places do not have a 24-hour public transportation system. If you’re riding a cab, bring along a map. Ask your hotel for a number of a reputable cab company, and use their services throughout your stay.

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