Bad travel experiences range from minor inconveniences to terrible situations. Missing your flight or spending too much money is a minor inconvenience. Being kidnapped, robbed or jailed in a foreign country? Way more serious.
Basic safety precautions can help you eliminate yourself as an easy target. Preparation can reduce the chance of an attack. Most thieves and crooks don’t want to make the effort to actually fight. And remember, people aren’t the only danger. You can be robbed or attacked by animals as well!
1. Know Basic Self-Defense
Basic self-defense is important. You don’t need to be a black-belt or a boxing champion. Just a simple understanding of how to fight back for 30 seconds can be enough. Simple self-defense moves are good to know in general, but especially helpful in places where you’re not totally familiar with your surroundings. Having a confident — but not cocky — demeanor can help ward off potential threats. Hopefully you’ll never need to use any of these skills, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. (A few more resources – DIY Self-Defense for Travelers and Teaching Kids Travel Safety.)
2. Know Some of the Local Language
When traveling, most people will try to learn how to ask where the bathroom is because that’s a basic need. You should also learn how to call for help if you need it. A general understanding of the language and commonly used phrases is also important. Not only can it help you get around, but it can also help to alert you to potentially dangerous situations. (This is a good resource: Review of Top Translation Apps.)
3. Understand and Respect the Culture
Other cultures may not be as open or understanding as you would hope. Some places have very strict customs and even laws about how you dress, what you can say and where you can go. Violating those laws, even by accident, is not often viewed kindly. Additionally, tourists are often targets because they carry cash. Try to minimize your “I’m new here” vibe and blend in. Be friendly and understand that some things that are common in one culture may be frowned upon in another.
4. Drink Lightly
Inebriation is basically a walking sign to take advantage of someone. A drink or two is likely to be fine if you’re not driving, but taking advantage of your vacation to get clumsy and unfocused can be dangerous. If you do have to drive, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether. You’re less likely to sleep enough on vacation, and jet lag is a serious problem. Even a small amount of alcohol can make you sleepy, and the dangers of drowsy driving are far too easy to underestimate.
5. Avoid Isolation at Night
Places that aren’t well-patrolled or policed might seem like a perfect way to end the night, but they can be very dangerous. This applies especially to the beach. There are no lights, and the sound of the surf can easily cover the noise someone might make when approaching you. Beaches are rarely patrolled at night, even ones that are highly populated. If you really do want to go out at night to someplace secluded, don’t go alone. Always take people with you — the more, the better.
6. Be Aware of the Environment
This sounds so simple, but it’s so easy to forget. Especially with cell phones always fighting for our attention, it can be hard to maintain a vigilant mindset. Getting lost in something is how you become an easy target for pickpockets and robbers.
If you have a purse or bag, keep it on you instead of hanging it on a chair. This vigilance also applies to animals. If there are monkeys around, be aware that they like bright, reflective items that flash. Keep an eye on them if you can, because once they get something, they’re a lot faster than you! When hiking, be aware of wildlife. Bears, mountain lions and others aren’t likely to attack unless you make a mistake. Never offer food to wildlife or approach a baby animal. Even deer will attack to defend their young.
Travel is a wonderful, enriching experience and you should definitely try to do it as much as possible. Using common sense and staying alert will mitigate the majority of problems you can run into. Hopefully you’ll never need more than that, but if you do, it’s better to be prepared. Happy travels!
About the Writer: Kayla Matthews is a travel writer and blogger. You can also find her work on ProductivityBytes.com, Afar, Pink Pangea and Girl’s Getaway.