Berty and I just recently arrived back from our whirlwind trip to Paris. Before we went, we heard tons of stories about sneaky pickpockets and tourists constantly getting scammed in the city. I don’t know if you’ve ever had something stolen from you, but it SUCKS. Since Berty was photographing a wedding, we decided we needed to take extra safety precautions on this trip. We needed to travel safe because we had someone’s valuable wedding photos in our possession!! For your next trip, here are some tips we have for traveling safe in big cities all over the world. Read on!
11 Tips On How To Travel Safe In Big Cities
1. Use Common Sense/Trust Your Gut
If someone or some situation feels sketchy, it probably is. This long (but very thoughtful) article touches on why it’s important to listen to our inner subconscious. Your body and mind have ways of determining someone’s body language and genuine emotion. A.k.a. you can spot someone attempting to tell you a fake story. Keep this inner radar on especially while traveling. If your mind is trying to decide whether a choice is a good one or not, always stray on the side of caution.
2. Stay in Public Places
If you’re a first-time visitor, many people know the city better than you. Don’t follow anyone down a dark street or into a closed-off area. Even if they seem friendly, never agree to follow someone to a private place alone. Thieves will take advantage of your limited knowledge and already have an exit strategy ready to get away with your things. Don’t stray off into a street you aren’t familiar with!
3. Don’t Walk With Your Phone In Your Hand
I (Emily) am super guilty of this one in our neighborhood Seattle sidewalks. However, in places that are unfamiliar, it’s super important to be aware of your surroundings. Put your phone away and look up from your screen for anyone suspicious. My college neighborhood had a high property crime rate, and people got stopped on the street and their phones were taken constantly. This is especially important while traveling. If your phone is the only internet source you have and it’s stolen, it will make your trip a lot more complicated.
4. Write Down Tech Serial Numbers
I recently had a police officer come speak at my work about the importance of writing down all your tech’s serial numbers, and keeping them together in a safe place. Pawn shops and similar are required to write down serial numbers of purchased products, so you are able to look up whether your gear was stolen and sold. If in the horrible chance you are a victim of theft, here’s a website that rounds up resources for you to recover your things!
5. Carry a Theft-Proof Bag
Berty and I have two Pacsafe Bags. The kind that hide your zipper, and/or double hook it for extra protection. On our recent trip to Paris, I was able to pack my sling bag with our subway passes, passports, and money, knowing that no one would steal our property! If you don’t have a bag specifically designed to deter thieves, consider taking extra precaution like putting your zippers close to your body (so you can feel it when someone pulls on the tabs) or wear your bag at the front of your body. Which brings me to tell you to…
6. Put your Backpack on The Front of Your Body in Transit
Property can easily be stolen on public transportation or busy city centers. People are constantly moving and your property could be on another train before you can even blink! It’s wise to keep your items in the front of your body, with your arms over your bag. If you must separate with your things (say like a train or small airplane) or you need to have it on your back, consider something like this backpack mesh cover that keeps pockets and zippers away from sticky hands.
7. Stay Alert + Do Your Research
In tourist-heavy areas, there are a lot of scammers who are really good at what they do. Some use children as a way to make you pity them into giving money. Others can distract you from keeping track of your things. Even scarier are the kind of people who could spike a drink! Eek! Research your destination before you go to understand the most common tactics in that area. Here’s an article about the most common travel scams if you want to know more!
8. Hide Valuables (Or Leave Them At Home!)
You become more of a target for thieves if they see you with expensive items. Before traveling, switch out your designer purse for a less-flashy bag. Take cheap sunglasses instead of your Ray Bans. Consider leaving diamond earrings or other fancy jewelry at home. If you must take items, say, camera equipment, computers, or an engagement ring (hellooo destination proposal!), hide them away in a deep and inconvenient pocket. Never stick your valuables in a front pocket or anywhere else easily accessible.
9. Dress Like a Local
In order to look as little like a tourist as possible, do some research before heading to your destination. Learn about what locals wear, how conservative the country is, and what clothes can come across as offensive. I found this website to be extremely helpful when thinking about “blending in” to different areas of the world! I also look to HerPackingList.com because it gives country/activity specific packing lists, and sometimes a little blurb about that specific country. Dressing like a local will allow you to travel with more ease, and less eyeballs on you!
Extra Safe Tips…
10. Locate Your Country’s Embassy
If your passport is stolen, or there is a country-wide emergency, embassies are a great resource. Here’s a link to every country and their US Embassy locations! It’s always a good idea to have the closest one’s address written down in a small notebook in your possession.
11. Purchase Property Insurance
If you are going to be traveling with expensive equipment, consider buying short term travel insurance. Nomadic Matt has a great number of articles on this topic, check them out here!
Do you have any safety tips we left out? We’d love to hear anything you’d add to our list! Just leave us a comment below!
Thanks for reading!
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