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Traveling safe

I’ve never been robbed, but I know it can happen. I talked a little about this in the Travel Tips Roundup. Here’s what I said:

So here are some tips on not getting robbed. And more tips on not getting robbed. Everyone has their own favorite strategies. I’ll write mine up at some point. But my basics are to keep cash in multiple pockets, so if one gets picked I won’t be totally screwed; keep copies of passport and credit cards; look assertive, such as making eye contact and acknowledging people who look at me with a friendly nod; and leave any jewelry with sentimental value at home.

So here’s the long version. Note that I’m omitting some of the suggestions you can find by following the links above. I’m also ignoring suitcase safety, but the ladies at Go Girlfriend have it covered.

this T shirt says I stole this shirt

If you’re not careful, someone could steal the shirt right off your back! (Shirt from Zazzle)

Keep cash and important documents in multiple places.

Split some cash between different pockets. If one gets picked, you’ll still have the rest. You can also keep some cash in a money belt, in the pocket of a pair of jeans you leave in your hotel room, or in a hotel safe. Travelers’ checks are good, too, because if they’re stolen, they can be replaced. No risk.

I also like to use different pockets for different things. If I have a pocket of only one-dollar bills, and a panhandler asks me for money, I can just reach into that pocket and pull out a bill for them. I don’t have to stop and examine the bill or hunt through all the money I’ve got. Similarly, I don’t want to flash a huge wad every time I buy a snack from a street vendor. So I’ll keep a small amount of cash in one pocket and pull that out to buy a snack. This hides how much money I’m really carrying and where I’ve got most of it.

Other things I keep in multiple places are copies of my passport and my credit cards. With the credit card info I’m especially careful, because I don’t want someone stealing the copies any more than I want someone stealing the actual cards! So if I wear a money belt, I’d keep copies there, knowing nobody will rob me of the belt unless they’re already taking the cards too. And I leave a copy at home.

Look assertive.

If you look dazed and confused, it’s like wearing a “Rob Me” sign on your back. If people think you know what you’re doing, then you’re not such an easy target.

Ways to look assertive are to walk confidently; look directly at people who are looking at you; pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you; and act calm even if you’re lost and anxious. Paying attention to your surroundings is especially important if you’re also consulting a map, guidebook, or smartphone. At a time like this, putting your back against a wall also makes you less of a target, as nobody can sneak up behind you.

lost tourist examines a map

Mistake one: Obviously lost. Mistake two: face buried in a map, unaware of his surroundings. Don’t let me catch you doing this on one of my trips!

Use your voice.

Your biggest and most convenient deterrent is probably your voice. Criminals don’t want to draw lots of attention. You do. If you’re threatened, start yelling.

Dress for safety.

I have pants and shorts that make things harder for any potential pickpocket. Pockets that close with velcro, snaps, or buttons? Good. Tight pockets, where any attempt to get in will be impossible to miss? Good. Pockets in front, where you’re more likely to notice an attempt? Good. Wearing a longer shirt that hangs over your pockets is also good, because it means someone would have to disturb the shirt to get into a pocket, and they still wouldn’t have as good a view of what they’re doing.

There are anti-theft bags/backpacks, reinforced with wire so the fabric can’t be slashed. I also like the idea of anti-theft straps. These are reinforced with wire so they can’t be cut. I don’t have any of these, and I’ve never had someone try to slash a bag or cut a strap. But I still like the idea!

Loose, exposed pockets? Bad. Butt pockets that someone could pick behind your back? Bad. Making it easy for someone to grab your bag? Bad.

Stay safe!
Matt

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