How to Protect Yourself in a Foreign Country
Traveling is exciting, but it still involves a certain amount of risk. Traveling outside your comfort zone and exploring an unfamiliar destination is inherently risky. This is part of what makes it so fun, but you still need to stay safe. If you’re traveling to a new destination, keep these tips in mind on how to protect yourself in a foreign country.
Keep Scanned Copies of Important Documents
Whether someone manages to steal some of your important documents or you just forget them in the hostel, losing your travel documents can be a major headache. To avoid this pain, make sure to scan and copy your passport, tickets, driver’s license, and any other documents you may need, like your travel itinerary or copies of hotel reservations. Make sure to scan the back of everything as well. This can make your life much easier if you happen to lose your passport or something of equal importance.
Try to Blend in
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself while traveling is to avoid standing out. Dressing like the locals and avoiding typical tourist apparel can help keep you from becoming an easy mark. Instead of dressing to impress, opt for a more casual dress code. This will help you avoid the attention of pickpockets or purse snatchers. As a bonus, dressing casually means you’ll probably be more comfortable. Just leave the bright white sneakers at home.
Stay in Well-Lit Areas
While experiencing the nightlife of a major city can be one of the more exciting parts of travel, it can also be risky. To stay safe, make sure not to venture too far into the dark. Staying out of sight can make you easy prey for criminals, so instead, stick to well-lit, crowded areas. If this means you can’t explore the part of a city you really wanted to see, just visit the area in the daytime instead. This is far less risky, plus you’ll be able to see more in the daylight.
Buy Traveler’s Insurance
Traveler’s insurance offers plenty of benefits. Whether you have a medical emergency or just need to cancel your trip early to return home, your insurance can help you recoup some of your losses. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. Different plans cover different aspects of travel, so don’t just pick the first traveler’s insurance you find. Make sure to compare a few different plans and decide on what you need.
Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash or Debit
If a thief steals your wallet, cash money is as good as gone. Even if you don’t carry cash, a debit card effectively gives them direct access to your bank account. Using a credit card while traveling offers much more protection. If your credit card is stolen, you can easily freeze your credit. This means that you might be inconvenienced, but you don’t stand to face the same losses as if your cash is stolen. If you do carry cash, be sure to scatter it among your belongings and not keep it stored in one place. That way, if you lose your wallet, you still have some money stocked away in your suitcase, backpack, even the soles of your shoes.
Let Friends and Family Know Your Itinerary
It’s never a good idea to travel without letting anyone know you’re leaving. If you’re headed somewhere where you may be concerned for your safety, this is doubly true. When your friends or family know you’re traveling, they’re more likely to answer a call from a foreign country. Send them a copy of your travel itinerary so they can keep track of the news in the areas you're visiting. If you need help for any reason, it’s good to have certain people know you may be trying to get in touch with them.
Keep an Eye on Your Belongings
This may sound like a given, but some people tend to leave their bags or luggage lying around. If you’re not directly holding on to a bag, make sure you keep a very close eye on it. Even seeing that you’re watching your luggage can be enough to deter a potential thief. Setting something down for just a few seconds might seem relatively risk free, but a few seconds is all it takes for someone to grab your bag and run.
Lock Your Bags
Locking your bags isn’t as easy as it used to be. If you plan to check them, you need to use a TSA-approved lock which, in turn, makes it easier for thieves to open your bags. That said, even the appearance of a lock on your bag can be enough to deter criminals. If you’re not checking your bag, you can use sturdier locks. You can also buy a lock once you’ve arrived at your destination to be safe.
Don’t Zone Out on Your Phone
One of the key aspects to staying safe no matter where you are is to be aware of your surroundings. You can’t do this if you’re busy staring at your phone. You may be used to losing yourself in your phone on public transit at home, but don’t do this while traveling. If you need to check your phone, try to get to a safe area first. If you’re traveling with someone else, have them keep an eye out while you post your photos to Instagram or update your friends. Otherwise, try to duck inside an alcove or similar space where your back is protected.
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