Traveling is one of the most transformative activities we can engage in. It expands our thinking horizons and allows us to have a better understanding of the small world we are part of. Traveling also carries risks, like most other activities in life.
However, that should not discourage anyone from traveling because the benefits of traveling far outweigh potential risks. Fortunately, there are certain strategies one can adopt to minimize the risks of traveling and make the most of this transformative activity.
Educate yourself: The countries of the world are full of ethnic, cultural, and traditional diversity. However, this diversity is not limited to desirable things only but also extends to crime & safety. The legal infrastructures are developed around the world to varying degrees, and the differences in economic and social development also mean that crime rates are not uniform across countries. Hence, it is important to educate yourself about the destination country in order to develop risk-minimization strategies. Some of these strategies may include avoiding traveling at night, avoiding secluded areas, avoiding areas with high degree of criminal activity, keeping information about national embassy and law enforcement agencies, and keeping your valuables safe to minimize potential of theft.
Travel insurance: Travel insurance is a wise investment because not only it protects against financially catastrophic events but also offers peace of mind. The benefits of travel insurance include evacuation services, medical emergencies, and 24/7 customer support.
Minimize opportunities for theft: One of the best strategies to minimize theft is to minimize opportunities for the thieves. The thieves do not hesitate to rob in public places when the tourist may be distracted. It is important to note that the thieves have often perfected their craft over the years so many of them are quite skilled pickpocketers. Some of the ways to minimize opportunities for thieves include using money belts that are hidden under the trousers or shirts, keeping an eye on belongings at all times, and never leaving the stuff unattended.
Avoid ATMs: ATM skimming is a common problem all over the world. ATM skimming involves manipulating the ATMs to steal card data. Even developed countries like the U.S witness episodes of skimming so one can only imagine how widely prevalent it may be in countries with weaker law enforcement and financial security. The prudent thing is to withdraw money inside the banks during business hours.
Protect important documents: Some things such as money and clothes are relatively easily replaceable while others such as passport are not. Hence, it is not only important to keep important documents safe but also to make copies of them in case the worst case scenarios materialize. The copies should be kept in separate places from the documents. One place to leep important documents safe is money belts that should be ideally hidden under the trouser or the shirt.
Travel in groups: It is preferable to travel in groups when possible, especially during the night. The group element increases personal safety as there is strength in numbers.
Avoid risky behaviors: Safety is a demanding task even under sound state of mind; it becomes much more difficult if one engages in risky behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse. It is easy for criminals to target individuals under the influence of alcohol or drugs due to impaired judgment. Similarly, one should avoid accepting things from strangers as they might have been tempered with.
Keep an emergency contact list: Emergencies are unpredictable by nature and they take various forms. Hence, it is important to keep a list of emergency contacts as it will make life much easier in a foreign environment. At the minimum, the emergency contact list should include info of bank phone numbers, debit card/credit card customer service numbers, insurance contact information, family contact information, national embassy, and important local institutions.
Rely on locals: It is a huge benefit to know a friend who is a local because they understand the native environment and can warn you of the greatest safety and security threats. If one does not have a local friend, it may be worthwhile to find locals that can be trusted and develop friendships with them. In addition to safety tips, locals can also make the trip more rewarding by offering information on the best-kept secrets.
Blend in as much as possible: One of the best strategies is to blend in with the locals as much as possible as this helps minimize drawing attention to you. Some strategies for blending in include dressing like the locals, asking for directions in reputable places only, and now keeping map and other tourist items in plain sights.
Learn about scams: Scams come in all shapes and sizes. Before traveling, it is important to learn about the most common scams in the destination country. These scams may include financial scams, romance scams, lottery scams, and trafficking scams.
Responsible technology use: Technology is everywhere and has become an important travel tool. This has also increased the risk of data and identity theft. It is important to use technology responsibly such as not using unsecure public Wi-Fi, disabling tracking apps, using secure phones, and minimizing or preferably avoiding social media.
Traveling is a rewarding activity. However, it should be done responsibly because there is almost nothing in life that is risk-free. Fortunately, there are several strategies one can adopt to make traveling a rewarding experience such as blending in with the locals, doing your homework, avoiding places with higher levels of criminal activity and/or security threats, keeping valuables safe, keeping an emergency contact list, and using technology responsibly.