If there's ever a situation to take you out of your comfort zone, it's international travel. In addition to all the new attractions to see, you get to experience different cultures firsthand. Travelling really opens your eyes to what the rest of the world is like. Personally, I'm a big travel fan and have spent a significant amount of time exploring other countries. But I always seem to come across people who are reluctant to travel overseas. They're scared, or they've seen the news reports that highlight how dangerous a particular country is. Some people don't even have a passport! Overall, I've found most places are pretty safe. Of course, there's always exceptions to the rule and the trick is to be smart and aware when you travel. Ask around and just like there's places in Detroit you wouldn't catch me walking around, there's probably "bad" areas in every city if you look hard enough. But that shouldn't stop you enjoying your trip. Today, I'm going to run through my top pieces of advice to keep you safe when you're travelling abroad.
Copy all your documents
This one seems obvious, but I've encountered more than one traveler who has been completely screwed because they had their passport stolen, yet they didn't have a copy anywhere. I've got a copy of every important document hidden in my luggage (it's folded down inside a waterproof ziplock bag that's taped inside the lining of my suitcase), and I've also saved these in my dropbox and have sent them on email to my gmail account. No matter what, I'll always have a copy of my passport within easy reach.
Keep a backup wallet
One thing I hadn't realized on my first trip abroad was the prevalence of pickpockets. I ran into a couple in Italy who had been robbed three separate times over the span of three days. Since then I've made it a habit to split my cash up. Some goes in the hotel safe, some in my wallet, some folded up in my jeans coin-pocket, and another couple of notes folded and tucked into the back of my phone case. If my wallet does happen to get lifted, I've still got enough money to get back to the hotel.
Don't be a target
It's unfortunate but there are thieves everywhere. The smartest thing you can do is avoid looking like a lost tourist, and be aware of what's going on around you. Don't walk down a dark alleyway because you think it's a shortcut back to your hostel at 2am. Walk back the way you know, down a well-lit street that's full of people. Don't start fumbling with your map, smartphone, bag and wallet all at once. If you need to get organized, walk into a coffee shop, order something, get a booth and get yourself sorted in private. Don't be unaware when you're walking through crowds. Wear your bag on your front and shift your wallet to your front pocket so it's much harder for anyone to get into without your knowledge.
Keep your guard up
Having a healthy dose of cynicism can do you well on your travels, as what's most likely to happen is you'll get "scammed." If people get up in your personal space, or someone appears to be far too friendly for no apparent reason, just walk away. They're out to rip you off. These type of thieves rely on distraction and trickery to relieve you of your belongings. Perhaps an accomplice is sneaking up behind to slash your bag and steal your purse, or they're guiding you into a dodgy bar or restaurant where you're going to face inflated prices and get muscled into paying a huge bill. Neither is good, so trust your gut and walk away if something appears to be too easy, or doesn't feel right.
Be careful how much you drink
I've spoken to my fair share of travelers, from backpackers to business travelers, and a common thread in almost every story of loss is alcohol. Getting blackout drunk in another country is a recipe for disaster, as the girl you bring back to your hotel room relieves you of your wallet, or you fail to notice the nice guy at the bar slipping your phone out of your bag and into his pocket as you order yet another drink. Keep your wits about you, and by all means have a good time, just be wary of getting crazy drunk.
Put expensive items away
Showcasing your wealth isn't a particularly good idea if you're travelling internationally. Thieves are on the lookout, and that expensive watch or the hi-tech camera around your neck screams "rob me." Put them away, even if it's more annoying to have to take your camera out of your bag each time you want to snap a photo, it's better than having someone jump you for it.
Get an RFID blocker
Thieves are getting more sophisticated, and we've got to take steps to combat the growing threats. One of the must-have travel items for your kit is an RFID blocker. These are simply a sleeve for your ID and credit cards, which stops anyone being able to scan the chip without your knowledge. We've got a free kit we giveaway to our readers, that's small and discreet enough to fit in your wallet, so you're protected no matter where you go. Get yours here
Buy a local SIM
If I'm particularly uncomfortable in a country the best thing you can do is buy a local SIM. For about $20, you can get enough data to track yourself on Google Maps, or lookup any information or translations that you need. Plus you can always call your hotel or the authorities. Once you've travelled a few times this will all become second nature. I've been to 40 different countries over the last ten years, and I've still never had anything stolen. The trick is to travel smart, trust your instincts, and if something feels a little off, simply walk away. That's how to stay safe.