If you’re travelling on a budget then there may be times when having to stick to a small budget can put you in situations that others may not dare to venture.
More often than not budget accommodation is located in the less desirable parts of town. Backpackers are easy targets for people to make a quick buck. It’s no secret that your backpack is likely to contain all your personal belongings and possibly even a few electronic devices so not a bad prize for any would be thief.
Taxi drivers have been known to take advantage of lone travelers, preying on their unfamiliarity of the local surroundings. So for all of those budget travelers and backpackers out there here are a few handy tips to keep you safer on your travels.
When taking taxis from an airport to your hotel, travel in the more expensive regulated airport taxis and ensure that the drivers have official identification. Never take a taxi waiting outside the airport grounds or pick a lift in a private car.
I know this sounds extreme, but it is by far better to be safe then sorry.
When traveling from your hotel or accommodation to the airport, go with a taxi recommended by the hotel.
Again, taxi’s can be very dangerous. I can’t express that enough.
Try not to arrive in a new city or town late at night. This can just go wrong in a number of ways. It is much easier getting checked in during the day time and security at night in certain areas is just horrendous.
Exude confidence, walk purposefully and try not to appear as a tourist. A thief or attacker may think twice if they think that you may fight back.
Learn the basics in the local language before you arrive. Don’t expect that people will speak English.
English is becoming more widely spoken these days, but you want to be sure. You should always check on these things before your arrival. It’s a good idea to printout a few copies with your hotels address on it in the local language. If all else fails then you should at least be able to get back to your hotel.
A money belt is great if it is an option that you willing to look into. There are many different styles of money belt. One of the most popular is an “over the shoulder” style wallet on a strap that you were underneath your top. This makes it very difficult for a thief to make off with your valuables.
Avoid going on your own to remote areas or ruins where tourist would be expected to go. Seek local advice or take a guide. Travelling in a group is always a good idea.
Read the guide books before you arrive and talk with other tourists to find out which areas are best avoided.
Make sure that you have eyes on your drinks at all times. It’s easy for someone to slip a pill into your drink to drug you before taking advantage of your altered state.
When leaving discos late at night take a taxi home no matter how close your hostel is. Outside most discos you’ll find a street vendor selling cigarettes. Usually these people know all the taxi drivers and can recommend a safe one.
When arriving in a new town, keep to your original plan and stay in the hostel that you have decided on. Don’t let the taxi driver persuade you that your hostel is fully booked and that he knows a cheaper and better one. He’ll be working on commission and the hostel probably won’t be in a safe part of town.
Even better, when arriving by plane or train in a new city, try to reserve your hotel in advance, preferably with a hotel that has an airport or railway station collection service.
Don’t wear expensive looking jewelry when you’re out and about even if it’s a cheap fake. An opportunist thief won’t know the differ and may decide to target you.
On public transport have your day pack close to you at all times, preferably with the straps around your legs or padlocked to the luggage rack.
In some countries you may find that your backpack will end up outside of the bus, either on top of the roof or in the external luggage compartments. On long distance buses ask for a receipt for your bags. On short rides just keep a careful eye out each time the bus stops to off-load bags.
In the event of having your bags stolen, stay with the bus – you will probably require a declaration from the bus company accepting responsibility for the loss in order to claim any money from your insurance company.
Leave your valuables in your hotel safe when making day trips or longer tours. Obtain a receipt not just for your money belt or wallet etc. but for all its contents, with each item listed.
If you have to leave your passport and credits cards together, place the credit card in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. This way when you return you will know that nothing has been tampered with. If the envelope has shows signs of being opened then it’s best to call your bank and have it replaced and the old one cancelled.
If planning on going to market areas, crowded streets, carnivals etc. don’t go with all your valuables. Leave them in the hotel. It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport just in case you need identification.
If you’re planning on buying something expensive keep your money safely in a money belt. Try to be discreet when opening it! To protect small change in your pockets you can stuff a handkerchief in after.
If the pavements are really crowded, especially in market areas, it may be better to walk along the side of the road and out of the reach of any pickpocket. Just make sure that the road is clear first.
Walking fast may help as well. Any would be thief would have more problems getting to you and it’s likely to be more obvious if they do try.
Avoid any unlit and deserted streets late at night.
If you suspect someone is following you, stop and stare them in the eye until they go. If you really get a bad feeling about a place, go with your first instincts and leave. Bag slashing is rare nowadays but for added safety you can wear your day pack on your chest.
If it’s on your back try to walk without stopping. If you need to stop, sway your pack gently from side to side so that you can feel if anyone is tampering with it.
When putting your bag down on the floor, to take a photo or just to sit in a café, remember to put your foot through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won’t forget it! This is the most common type of theft – tourists forgetting bags in cafes and on returning to ask if anyone has seen it, you’ve guessed it, it’s gone.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with some trusted friends or family and then keep in contact with them on a regular basis. That way if something does happen they’ll know where to start looking.