Traveling the world can be the most exciting time of your life. To make your journeys safe and trouble-free, whether they be short or long journeys, it will be worthwhile to review the suggestions on offer. Perhaps a single piece of advice, applied at the right time on one of your trips, could be a lifesaver for you.
Regardless of where you plan to go on your next vacation or business trip, whether by car, boat, train or air, not all countries are the same when it comes to safety. I have traveled for many years, and I am always careful as to where I go anywhere within a foreign country. Even today, I often travel to the Caribbean, and I still keep my eyes open for anything unusual that might suddenly come up when I’m driving a car or walking through towns and cities.
There are some basic but important rules to follow when traveling that will help you avoid the following list of possibilities: muggings; beggars who come up to you late at night asking for money; local people stop you abruptly and ask you for directions; being invited by complete strangers to hitchhike with them; street vendors getting too close to be comfortable with their wares; “fortune tellers” approaching you to tell you your fortune, and many other strange actions.
Another common trick that I would like to inform you about is that the taxi driver uses the “change of denomination” trick so that you pay more for the fare. For example, you give them a $20 dollar bill for the ride and they exchange it for a $10 dollar bill and they tell you you’re short or you made a mistake. Always count your money well before giving it to any taxi driver; and the same goes for restaurant servers when you’re ready to pay the bill. Remember, with foreign currencies like the Mexican Peso, Venezuelan Bolivar, Japanese Yen, and others, you need to be even more vigilant when paying for anything, as it requires currency familiarity from the start.
The following tips will help you stay on the “safer side of life” during your travels; and they should also be a reminder that your life is worth everything! You may have heard some of my tips before, and hopefully others are new to you. However, all advice is good advice for the “good of conscience”.
1) Leave all your fine jewelry at home, if you can, otherwise store it in your room or hotel safe at your destination. Refrain from going out on the street advertising your “worth”. Wear fake jewelry on your travels, if possible. Whenever you order room service of any kind, or when the maid is cleaning your room, please put away all your valuables, eg: purses, wallets, watches, cash, royal jewelry, cameras, etc. Hide these items from view.
2) This is the advice I would give my daughter. If you are a woman traveling alone, or in the company of other friends, and you have just boarded your flight, she acts normally as if you were arriving home. For some reason, single women attract attention, especially in airports. Pretend that she knows what she is doing and try not to ‘feel or look lost’. Once you clear Immigration and Customs, and have her luggage, walk straight to your transportation. If you get disoriented (as I have many times), go to the information desk for help. If they’re closed, ask someone in uniform and a badge with her picture on it for directions. Police patrolling airports are also good at asking for help.
3) As soon as you leave Customs at the airport of your final destination, try to avoid contacting strangers who will approach you with anything, especially a ride into town in their car. They may even be other passengers who would like to share the fare, but who you don’t know about. Always take a taxi or bus from a reputable agency to get to your hotel alone or with friends traveling with you, unless the hotel you’re staying at provides transportation, which is best. The cost can be high if you need to take a taxi from an agency, but your life is worth much more than the fare, always! If you need to buy some local currency, it’s best to do it right there at the airport with an agency or bank, and not from complete strangers lurking in airports.
4) When you go out for a tour, carry only enough cash for the day to eat and pay for trinkets. Keep most of it in a safe place in your hotel Try to refrain from using credit cards on the street, unless you are shopping or eating in reputable establishments. My point is, be discreet when using cash or credit cards in public. You are only drawing attention to yourself; that is, in case you make a show of it.
5) When you rent a car, make it clear to the agency at the airport that you need to know exactly how to get to your hotel, or perhaps you need directions to another city. Tourists have pulled off the road in the Miami, Florida area shortly after leaving the airport, only to find themselves lost and in a dangerous neighborhood. A few years ago, a young honeymoon couple from Europe pulled off the main highway in the city of Miami to fill up on gas for their rental car. They were robbed at the gas station and the husband was killed in the process. They were headed to Orlando, Florida, which is about a four-hour or more drive from Miami International Airport. They never made it.
Always make sure with the rental agency that the car you are taking has enough gas to get away from the airport and far enough down the road to your destination. Check your rental car’s gas gauge to make sure it’s full to the brim, or at least shows three-quarters of a tank, before you pull out of the airport parking lot.
6) Ladies, when walking the streets of any foreign city, carry your bag on the side that faces the wall of the nearest building and not towards the street or avenue. I once witnessed a motorcyclist in a Latin American country reach into a woman’s bag, while the tourist was completely unaware of the problem. That’s how they do it. The rider will walk up to you, slow the bike down, balance for a moment, and then walk up and grab your bag. It will probably try to hold on to it, but the thieves are stronger and faster, and will just drag it to the ground. For some people in the world, hurting people is a common thing because for them life has no value.
7) As a tourist on vacation or on a business trip, when walking through a new city, follow the flow of foot traffic and be on the lookout for ‘locals’ approaching you asking for money or directions. somewhere, or some other strange thing. Avoid “fortune tellers” like the plague, because they will strip you of your jewelry ‘right before your eyes’. Never reach for your purse or wallet to hand money to homeless people on the street. Say no! and just keep walking. If they persist, just go to a commercial establishment and ask for help. If you don’t feel safe in a neighborhood, immediately take a taxi and get out of there to a safer place. I have done it many times in my travels.
8) In night clubs or discos, watch your drinks when you go to the bathroom, or when you get on the dance floor. If you’re alone, finish your drink instead of leaving the full glass on the bar or table. You don’t want anyone to drop some “foreign substance” into your drink. This advice applies to both gentlemen and ladies.
9) If you are accompanied by fellow travelers, always try to go out together and come back together, when going out to dinner, to dance, to the theater, etc., at least until you return to your hotel. Men don’t normally have this problem, but single women have disappeared from bars and clubs with strangers – and not-so-strangers – never to be seen or found again. It happens in the United States, and also in foreign countries.
10) Carry hand sanitizer with you (small bottle or wipes) or in your bag (talking to the ladies). Otherwise, wash your hands often with soap and water. You’re going to shake hands with a lot of people on your trip and you’d rather not have a bad cold or sore throat. Worse still is catching some “exotic” flu virus while on vacation. There is nothing sadder than being in bed with a fever while the sun is out, and all your friends have gone on tour, or better yet, they are tanning by the pool or on the beach having fun and drinking piña coladas. Wash your hands frequently, that’s the advice!
11) When venturing out to local restaurants, I’ve always found that avoiding salads or anything with mayonnaise saves me from ‘tummy aches’. Eating grilled chicken and boiled vegetables, for example, has been the best way to avoid indigestion or “bug” problems. At least he’s with me when I travel. A quick reminder for your benefit, try not to drink anything with ice in restaurants or bars. Mixed drinks have ice, and the ice is most likely made from tap water. Beef is also fine to eat, but again I recommend grilling and ordering well done. Almost anything that is grilled, including fish, is fine whether it is grilled or baked. The world’s leading hotels have excellent cuisine, and they take good care of food and water, in general, of course. Bottled drinks like beer, wine, soft drinks, and water are fine.
I feel that the most important thing when traveling is not to take anything for granted. Being aware of your surroundings is important so that you can have a safe and enjoyable trip. You want to go home happy that you have ventured into the world and that you have brought back great memories for a lifetime. It is a wonderful world after all, and I hope this article gives you enough guidance to keep you safe and happy on all your travels.