How to stay safe while traveling should be on every traveler’s mind – whether you’re a well seasoned traveler or a brand new one, safety is important! For the new traveler though, most of these tips will be new to you and are something you should keep in mind throughout your travels. The more you are aware of your surroundings and taking safety precautions, the more it becomes second nature and (typically!) the safer you will be!
*Disclaimer: Travel & life are unpredictable. These tips will help to keep you safe compared to if you were not implementing these strategies, but nothing is ever 100% and there is always risk involved!
1. Split up Your Money
Always try to split up your money in order to keep it safe while traveling. Keep your cards in one place (like your wallet), maybe some cash in your bra or a money belt, and a backup card in the safe back at your accommodation. You never want to leave all your eggs in one basket, so that if you do end up getting robbed or pickpocketed, you won’t be totally left out in the rain with NO money in a foreign place.
2. Consider a PacSafe Bag or Money Belt
A PacSafe Bag is a bag designed for travel and designed to keep your stuff safe. They have special inconspicuous locking zippers, making it hard for a stranger to unzip your bag, they also have slash-proof wiring throughout the bag and straps so nobody can cut your bag loose and run away with it.
A money belt is also an option – this belt is kept under your clothes and is inconspicuous. You can use your money belt as a place to store extra money that is safer than a purse because no one knows it’s there.
3. Know The Areas to Stay Away From
In all cities and areas, it is important to stay away from the “bad areas”. As a traveler, it can be hard to know where each sketchy place is in a city and you could accidentally find yourself there if you’re oblivious! When you arrive in a new place, always ask employees at my accommodation for tips (receptionists at hotels or hostels), you can ask the guide on a free walking tour, or you can head to the tourist info center. Staying away from these areas will definitely help you stay safe while traveling.
4. Don’t go out alone at night
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but just be smart! Don’t start walking around in a random place at night alone. Always take a friend with you or someone you trust. If you are a solo traveler, try to find people to go out with (this is why hostels are great!) and make safety a priority while you travel.
5. Act Confident
The more confident you act, the less of a target you are. Pickpocketers and such are looking for people who are confused, lost, or don’t really know what’s going on, and you don’t want to portray that that is you (even if it is). If you find yourself lost, still act with confidence. If someone approaches you and you have a bad feeling, make it known that you know what you’re doing. If you need help and you have a bad feeling, head into a nearby store or hostel where you can ask an employee for help, instead of a random on the street.
6. Keep your bag in front of you as much as possible – Especially in busy areas!!
This. This is one of the most important tips. I have not done this in a few locations and have had locals come up to me (multiple times, in different cities) and tell me to do this. ALWAYS keep your bag in front of you – ESPECIALLY if you are on public transportation!!!! This is the PRIME time for people to open your bag (especially a backpack) and take whatever they want out of it. There are SO MANY stories of this happening to travelers. And it seriously sucks!!! So just keep your backpack or purse or whatever it is in front of you as much as possible. Obviously, if you’re walking around or on a bike or whatever, then it’s harder and it’s probably fine. But if you’re on public transportation or just standing around, and especially if it’s a busy area, there are no excuses!!!
7. Travel insurance
It is just always a good idea to have travel insurance. If you find yourself in a situation and you need to go to the hospital, or your bag was stolen, or literally anything happens, a good travel insurance policy will usually help you. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation that could have easily been solved if you had just bought the travel insurance!!! Plus, you’ll have peace of mind throughout your travels.
8. Keep your valuables concealed when not in use (& in a safe place)
If you’re using your cellphone, don’t just walk around with it in your hand and then stick it in your back pocket. I have had locals come up to me on the street and tell me to put my phone away and to make sure it’s in a safe place. In some areas, they will watch you put your valuables away, and if it’s in an easily accessible area (like a back pocket) it’s SO easy for someone to just come up and take it. And they will. So put it away safely!!!!
This also goes for nice cameras if you have a nice camera. DON’T walk around with it on your neck!!!! That draws SO MUCH attention! Snap your photo, do what you need to do, and then put it away in your bag, zip it up, and then keep your bag slightly in front of you. You increase your chances of staying safe on your travels so much more when you do this.
A good rule I use is that if no one else has their valuables out, maybe you shouldn’t either.
9. Have photocopies of all important documents
This is a good rule of thumb for any trip you are taking to safe safe. Before you leave on your trip, make sure to have copies of all of your documents (passport, credit card, driver’s license, etc.). That way if something does get stolen, you will at least kind of have ID and it’ll be helpful to solving the situation. (If this happens go to your country’s embassy).
10. Go out with people you trust
Staying safe is important, but you still want to have fun. Now it’s usually okay to hang out with people you aren’t too familiar with and traveling is all about meeting people. Just be smart, be with at least one or two people you trust or have had a few conversations with, and don’t do anything super sketchy. Trust your gut, try to stay in public places, and always keep safety in your mind.
11. Don’t leave your stuff unattended – even if you’re with a tour group
Don’t leave your stuff unattended. I have heard stories from other travelers leaving their cameras or their bags on the bus, the tour leader says they will lock the bus, and then they come back and everything of value is gone. Or travelers will leave their bags on a bench in the restaurant and then hit the dance floor, but will still be “keeping an eye on their bags”. Just keep your valuable stuff with you if you want to make sure it’s in the safest place possible (or locked up back at your accommodation).
12. Be aware of common scams
Different cities have people with different ploys that are quite common. When you arrive in a new place, you can ask your accommodation what some common scenarios are that you should be aware of in order to stay safe, or a quick google search of each place and what to be aware of will help you out. Just be aware of your surroundings and act confident.
13. Take out money at banks – and in a safe location
The safest place to take out cash is at the ATM at a bank. Don’t go up to a random ATM and take out cash. Random ATM’s can be fitted with some device to steal your card information and that’s a situation you just don’t want to happen. So always withdraw money at a bank, if you can withdraw it with a trusted person around that’s good too, and just make sure you’re in a good area! (not some deserted place and not in a sketchy area of the city).
Something I always do is ask the employee at the accommodation you’re staying at where they take out money from (a common theme – I ask these people everything), but it is one of the main ways I stay safe while traveling!
14. Time your bank withdrawals properly
Don’t take out big wads of cash in the middle of the night! This is a pretty self-explanatory tip, but you would be surprised what I’ve heard from stories. If I need to make a big withdrawal (because foreign transaction fees are the worst), I usually try to plan to take out money right before I’m heading back to my accommodation, so that I can lock most of it up, and I try to go to an ATM that is near where I’m staying.
15. Download google translate (offline version) on your phone
If you find yourself in a pickle and need help, it is SO NICE to have google translate downloaded on your phone and with the offline version of whatever language you need. Once I was lost in Paris, and no one around me would/could speak English. I was so lost and on the verge of tears (not acting confident – yikes). If I had had this, I could’ve found my way so much faster and not have had a crying breakdown when I FINALLY found where I needed to go (and I was safe in my room). I was young and naive at this moment in time hahaha.
16. Download offline maps of the area you’re in on your phone
Offline maps are also so key to staying safe while traveling! A map is so helpful, and if you do find yourself lost or you’re just trying to navigate the city you’re in, an offline map will help you get where you need to go and you’ll find yourself appearing way more confident!
17. Have your bookings and addresses of where you’re staying in paper copy
If your phone dies or you lose service or whatever, having the booking confirmation of your accommodation in paper copy is so handy. Especially if the place you’re staying at has trouble finding your booking. Maybe you’re in the wrong hostel (similarly named place maybe?), then they can point you in the right direction. Or say you’re in a taxi or asking for directions and they have no idea where you’re trying to go or they can’t understand you, you can show them the booking confirmation or the address or whatever, and they can get you there SO MUCH EASIER instead of having to decipher what you’re saying or take a random guess on where you actually need to go.
This just covers all your bases, and then you won’t be on the street, in a random place, looking not confident and lost, and making yourself an easy target!
18. Bring a lock
Always have a lock, even if you don’t have any plans to use it. Let’s say you wanna lock your stuff up on a long layover cause your flight got delayed and now you have enough time to explore the city – lock it up at the airport lockers. If you’re staying in a hostel they will most likely have a locker for you, but locks are an extra charge – no worries because you have your own lock. Maybe you want to lock up your bag cause you’ll leave it in the luggage compartment on the train slightly away from where you’re sitting – no problem just lock it up. It’s always a good idea to just carry a lock around with you.
19. Hire a Guide for areas that are typically seen as “unsafe”
If you’re traveling somewhere and you’re not sure about the safety aspect of it, or you feel sketchy or creeped out and you’re struggling to enjoy your trip because you are so concerned about something happening or getting into an unsafe situation, just hire a reputable guide. Whether it’s for a day trip or a driver/guide for the whole time you’re there, if it helps you feel safe while traveling, it’s worth it. Do your research in advance and do what you need to do in order to feel safe and enjoy your travels.
20. Take Transportation That is Safe
If you’ve heard that a certain bus station can be kind of sketchy or it’s dangerous to have a stopover in a certain town late at night, just try your best to avoid that. Obviously, you can’t plan for everything, but do what you can to keep yourself safe while traveling and plan your transportation with safety in mind.
Staying safe while traveling is so important, and it can take a little bit of extra research or work to plan for, but in the end, the peace of mind of it all is worth it! Now of course I want you to enjoy your trip and not be worrying the whole time, so my biggest advice is to just be smart, be aware of your surroundings, and travel with confidence! You’ll learn things as you go and mistakes will happen. But traveling is not as scary as some people think it can be 🙂
Hopefully, these tips on how to stay safe while traveling helped you out and put you a bit more at ease before leaving for your big trip! Stay safe and have fun!
Send me an email or leave a comment if you have any other tips, suggestions, or just want to stay hi!