Last week, I shared tips about how to tailor your dress to minimize your risk of becoming an unsuspecting target. This week, I’ll go over ways to keep yourself safe while you’re out and about playing tourist.
1. Reading maps and guide books on the street (or anywhere in public) is a very direct giveaway that you are not from the town you are visiting. Frequent consultation of maps and guidebooks also let those who prey on tourists know that you may not be very familiar with the town or city.
Almost everyone carries a smartphone with them today and using one to guide you around town is far less conspicuous than hunched over a city map. To the extent possible, pre-load maps, documents, or download city apps on your smartphone prior to leaving your hotel. If you absolutely prefer to use the map or guide book, it’s recommended that you review the information prior to leaving the hotel or discreetly so as not to draw attention to yourself.
2. Stay aware of your surroundings. Take note of street signs, business names, and the routes you’re taking when exploring. If at any time you feel uneasy about a certain neighborhood or part of town, trust your intuition and leave.
3. If you are out after dark, stick to well-lit and well-trafficked areas. Avoid dark alleys or empty roads. Also, try to avoid being out alone after dark. Remember the old saying that there’s safety in numbers? It’s true.
4. As fun as it seems, avoid ad hoc protests, demonstrations, or other large rallies of people. It’s all fun and games until the riot police show up; then it’s not.
5. Carry the name of the hotel and the address with you at all times. If you need to duck into a taxi and cannot communicate in the native language, you can quickly share the hotel information and be on your way.
6. Be wary of individuals who approach you and offer to show you around, be your guide, give you a ride in their taxi, etc. Use your best judgement in these situations. If you engage their services, you should also be willing to compensate them as it will be expected.
7. Lastly, on the subject of taxis, always, ALWAYS insist that the driver turn on the meter. If they tell you the meter is broken negotiate your fare BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Drivers often use this tactic to hustle unreasonable fares once you arrive at your destination from tourists who simply don’t know any better.
Next week I’ll share safety tips for staying safe in your hotel in Part III of this series.