Many a seasoned traveller will tell you that the hype about “unsafe areas” is usually overblown. Nevertheless, adhering to common travel safety tips should be your priority.
To that end, this article is not meant to scare anyone out of travelling. But being prepared for the worst is better than losing a laptop, a camera, or your life while on the road.
Also see: Top 10 must have items in your backpack
Let’s look at a few ways to help you take a trip that’s memorable for all the right reasons.
Travel safety tips when preparing for your holiday
Do your research
Before you even pack your bags, research the area you are travelling to. Read traveller reviews and blog posts and collect emergency numbers for the nearest embassy, consulate, police station, hospital etc.
When booking accommodation, whether it’s a five-star hotel or a backpacker’s hostel, ask the front desk for good sources for local advice. Most often, the people familiar with the area will be able to tell you which areas to avoid.
Share your plans with a trusted friend
Once you have your travel plans in order, share your itinerary with a friend. If you’ll be away for an extended period of time, ask them to check in with you regularly, or arrange to contact them at specific times.
You can also share your live location with family and friends via the Google Maps app. That way, you can leave a digital footprint behind of the places you’ve been. Remember to turn on your GPS.
And while it’s prudent to share travel details with your friends, don’t share too much with strangers. This includes social media.
If you really need to check in or tag a particular location on, say Facebook or Instagram, share photos and the location later that day, once you’re out of the area.
Get the right bags
There a many anti-theft bags on the market, from backpacks with hidden zips to hidden cross-body bags to wear under your clothing. A nifty little invention is those scarves with a secret zipper pocket ideal for a passport, phones, cards and money.
In addition, invest in RFID technology to prevent scammers from copying your bank cards. These could include bags with RFID pockets or wallets with RFID technology.
Store relevant documents in the cloud
Scan all your important documents and keep copies in the cloud, in apps like Evernote, or email it to yourself. This includes your passport, credit cards, travel insurance, any receipts you may need, etc.
Get travel insurance
Especially useful if you need to travel with a laptop and a camera. For international travels, World Nomads is an excellent place to start as they offer short-term travel insurance for people who work while they travel.
Shop around and find insurance that works for you. In addition, get health insurance to cover you for accidents, injuries, trips to the hospital, etc. The Expert Vagabond covers the different type of insurance options.
Travel safety tips when out and about
Don’t look like a tourist
Looking like a tourist could make you a target for scammers and thieves. In addition, wearing the right type of clothes is also a sign of respect. For example, it’s illegal to walk topless in the streets of Barcelona. Yes, for men too.
Don’t be flashy when you travel – this is useful everyday advice too. Don’t flash your cash and don’t walk around with that selfie stick. Other ways to not look like a tourist is to eat where locals eat and use public transport.
Carry a decoy wallet
Another good travel safety tips is to carry a decoy waller. You will probably never have to use it, but should you end up in a situation where someone wants to forcibly take your wallet, give them your decoy wallet, filled with expired cards and a small amount of cash.
And of course, it should go without saying, don’t keep any form of identification in there. Keep the decoy wallet somewhere it would be easy to reach, like the outer pocket of your backpack.
Separate your cash and cards
Keep your valuables – phone, camera, passport, etc. – together but keep your funds separate. Split it up. So, for example, keep one credit card and a few notes in the inside pocket of your day pack, and keep another card and few notes in your wallet.
Should you lose your wallet, you will have still some funds to get around. Oh, also, don’t travel with large sums of money. Again, this travel safety tip is good everyday advice too.
Protect your data
This includes everything from securing your hard drives to keeping track of your devices and being prudent when using public networks. We wrote a nifty little guide about it over here.
And yes, be wary of public Wi-Fi. We know public Wi-Fi spots are convenient. It’s also convenient for hackers to steal valuable information, including your identity and bank details.
And the final travel safety tip: Carry a first aid kit
Last but not least, carrying a first aid kit should always be in your arsenal of travel safety tips. Anything can happen, from scrapes and bruises to bee stings and burns.
There is a smörgåsbord of compact travel first aid kits available online. I personally have one the size of my fist with plasters, headache tablets, burn gel, a bandage, antiseptic, small scissors and a tweezer.