So you’re on vacation, having a great time, soaking up the rays — whatever it is you do to relax — when you realize you’ve been had. You don’t know who, or how, but your passport is gone, your laptop is on a black market somewhere, and you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with no identification, no money, and no idea what to do.
If you’ve traveled, chances are you’ve thought about what would happen if you were robbed while on the road; It may have even happened some of you. Keeping yourself out of trouble doesn’t have to be a pain, and with just a few precautionary measures, you can keep yourself, and your valuables, safe while traveling. Remember that the point isn’t to travel in fear, but to take caution and be prepared. Here are a 5 tips to avoid getting ripped off while traveling.
Wear a money belt. Placing all of your ultra-important items — money, plane tickets, passports, credit cards — into a pouch that straps across your waste and under your pants keeps them out of reach of pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and backpack-bandits. Rick Steves has a decent one on his website for $12.95, and it’s totally worth the cost. It may seem like a pain to wear at first, but I can assure you that it’ll be more painful when you lose your wallet and passport and are forced to replace these essential items when you should be enjoying your time on the road.
Look inconspicuous — try to not stand out. Thieves target tourists, so the less tourist-like you come across, the less likely you’ll be targeted. This can be hard to do, especially when you’ve got a 50lb pack on your back — but a few simple changes in your dress can make all the difference in the world. Don’t try to disguise yourself as a local, because chances are you won’t fool anyone. Instead, minimize the amount of “loud” clothes you wear; avoid bright colors that stand out, or t-shirts with clever, English messages on them. When I’m traveling internationally, I usually wear drab clothing with no text or logos whatsoever. While this might not necessarily keep me from looking like a tourist, I will look less like one in comparison to other clothing-unconscious travelers around me.
Don’t get drunk alone. A lone drunkard stumbling down a poorly-lit street is a prime target. If you’re out partying in an unsavory or tourist-heavy area, stay in a group — even if you’re traveling solo. If you must walk alone, try not to appear as drunk as you probably are. Avoid stumbling, slurring your words, or shouting at dogs.
Keep personal gadgets hidden. Why advertise to everyone what an expensive camera or mp3 player you have? If you’re traveling with a laptop, avoid using it in crowded coffee shops or bustling Internet cafes. Have an iPod? Buy different headphones. Those iconic white strands coming down from your ears shout, “I have an expensive mp3 player in my pocket!” so pony up for a pair of black headphones. Who wants an old Walkman anyway, right? Enjoy your travel gadgets, but don’t flaunt them.
Learn the scams of your destination before you go. Tourists are scam targets pretty much everywhere in the world, so before you go, fire up Google and see what you find. For instance, searching for “India scams” brings up an entire forum dedicated to scams and annoyances in India. If you learn what’s out there first, you’ll quickly recognize the well-tested scam while on the road and avoid it without the trouble. You’d be surprised how many people leave for vacation without doing some research on this.
And get over the whole “I’m a traveler, not a tourist” bit. If you’re not on your home turf, you’re a tourist — it’s just a word. You know it, I know it, and the goonda trying to rip you off knows it. Swallow your pride and stay safe!