How can I improve my Safety when Travelling?
A common question we get asked is; what can I do to improve my safety when travelling? We have been working in the travel safety industry since 2002, and have come up with three key points you need to consider to dramatically reduce the risks when travelling.
We have trained experienced travellers to deliver insightful presentations, discussing their travels and sharing important safety techniques and awareness strategies on how to keep safe when travelling.
Let’s start with knowledge. In the sense of knowledge about where you are going and what you are planning to do. Research is always number one. Any place we want to visit there is usually an interest that makes us want to find out more, ultimately the more you know the better your experience.
Research is key
- Find out about common crimes
- Areas to take extra care
- Top safety tips
- Annual events
This information will give you an insight into the place you are planning to visit. The more aware you will be of the potential dangers the safer you become.
Research insights from experienced travellers
Official websitesI have prepared for my trip by looking through the official 'Visit' website of my destination. This site has shown me all the local advice for tourists: what the hotspots and highlights are, lots of local places to eat, and overall has allowed me to form an itinerary of what I could do whilst there.
ScamsAfter looking at Safer Travel, I now have a good knowledge of scams and how scammers may approach tourists. Card games, like 'find the lady', and street performers are fun to watch, but I will steer clear of being directly involved - just in case.
Local NewsBy keeping up to date with the local news of my holiday destination, I know which areas to avoid and what crimes are the most common. I have a realistic understanding of what to expect, and what not to do when I go.
Dodgy Wi-FiResources on Safer Travel has warned me of free Wi-Fi from unknown sources. Apparently, free unlocked connections could indicate danger if not tied to an official location. Hackers can set up unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public locations and people will thoughtlessly connect for a quick internet connection. This can give them access to your passwords and online accounts - watch out.
Armed with the knowledge of the possible risks, common crimes and relevant safety tips its raised your awareness and enables you to spot possible hazardous situations before they unfold. There are a few simple techniques that will help reduce your risk when travelling.
Raise your awareness
- Recognise body language & warning signs
- Be aware and present in busy places
- Keep calm and know where you are going
- Understand people’s intentions
Being aware at the right times can dramatically improve your safety. If you are in busy areas keep an eye on your belongings and the people you are travelling with.
Being aware of different cultures
Being aware of differences in culture is important for any trip. A big example of that is when visiting Spain, don’t get caught out by the different opening times for shops and restaurants. Everything shuts around midday, due to the heat, so make sure you’ve gotten some lunch beforehand. I would advise keeping a little bit of food in your accommodation and using this time for a rest. Don’t be those people banging on locked doors and getting huffy just because they didn’t do their research. The Spanish also typically don’t eat their last meal until well into the evening (think after 7pm at the earliest), so plan out your days and dinners accordingly. You’re a guest in their country so do as they do.
Reducing your chances of getting mugged
Regardless of how safe a city is, sticking to busy populated areas is the best way to avoid getting mugged. For example, Newcastle is quite safe and often busy so wandering around night or day should not be cause for fear. However, always try to choose main streets to be doing this in. There are lots of narrow side streets that are cut throughs or where the establishments keep their bins – if you’re going to get mugged, it will be in places like that. As a local, I know when to cut through and when to take the long way round.
Certain countries- particularly in Central America and Europe, have a lot of taxis based scams, such as overpricing, taking overly long routes to run up the price or telling you they have a broken meter. Try to research what reasonable taxi fares are around the city or ask locals. Some cities also regulate prices and post them on their official website. To combat these types of scams, I always negotiate fairs before setting off. Just a general ‘it should be X price right?’ or ‘it should take X time to get to the destination?’. By non-confrontationally asserting that you’re aware of the general price or area, the taxi driver will be less inclined to try to scam you.
How to avoid pickpockets
Key tourist destinations, like London or Rome, are full of pickpockets, who know tourists will be carrying valuables around as they explore. When in busy areas, like the Rome Metro, I kept my arm tight around my big handbag so no one could slip their hand in and take my purse. My friend was less aware and had a large amount of her money and her EU medical card stolen.
How you handle a situation is very important and can dramatically change the outcome. If you recognise the dangers early enough it will give you time to process and decide on the best course of action. There are a variety of defusion techniques that you can use to alter a potentially dangerous outcome.
How to handle a situation
- Take a step back
- Watch your body language
- Stop, breath and assess
- Respond and defuse
Understanding a persons intentions is vital in defusing a potentially hazardous situation. Consider your reply carefully before you respond.
Insights and responses to certain situations
Staying safe whilst drinkingWe all love a good drinking holiday, especially in student heavy cities such as Austin, Salamanca and Sydney. Of course, any big night out comes with certain risk factors: the later it gets, the more chaotic things can be. Stay as a group and try not to become toointoxicated. Have a pre-made/pre-agreed time and method for getting home. I’ve always found that booking a taxi in advance is a good idea. Walking around in the day time so you have a well-lit and sober mental picture of where everything can also be very helpful. Whether you’re home or abroad, always keep an eye on your drinks and who is near them. If things start to get too rowdy, you can always leave and find another bar. Its all about being sensible and doing small mental risk assessments as situations change.
Responding to ‘aggressive selling’Aggressive selling is where you will be approached and pressured into buying something from them, such as them placing a bracelet on your wrist. I’ve found the best way to deal with this is to very calmly decline and, if they refuse to be handed to item back, place it on the floor in front of them then walk away. This may cause them to shout and cause a scene but, as long as you don’t entertain their antics, they will eventually stop and move on to someone else. The best thing you can do is to not get upset or flustered – breathe and stay calm.
Keeping an eye on your belongingsLas Vegas is a place full of booze and money, so it’s important to be aware and to plan for bad situations. For example, it’s easy to put your bag on a chair or on the bar and get distracted by drinking and having a good time. Someone can just come and swipe up your bag without you noticing. If you kept your phone and some money inside your jacket pockets also, then having your bag stolen is much less of a disaster. Distributing you money and being aware of your valuables is always a good idea.
Being pressured into buying or using drugsDrugs are something that every city has in common, whether it’s in the nightclub scenes of LA or there’s dazed individuals walking around at midday in Manchester. If you are offered drugs at any point, politely and calmly decline and remove yourself from the situation. If they do not take that initial response well and you are unable to just walk away, just lie! Say something non-confrontational that will make them leave you alone, like that you have a heart condition that would be severely altered if you took drugs.