Top 5 general travel safety rules

Here are some obvious but crucial things to keep in mind while traveling.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. If you are too drunk, hungover, haven’t slept well, in a foul mood or very hungry/dehydrated, you are likely to be less aware of your surroundings and reducing your chances of having a fun and safe trip. If you are not feeling well, request your traveling partner to spot your valuables until you are back to being healthy. If you are traveling alone, get some rest, postpone your travels to recuperate.
  2. Avoid speaking to strangers in public areas. This means, ignore those trying to offer you help or asking for your help at train/bus stations, public parks/roads. We love bonding with locals but avoid contact at touristy spots or public areas.
  3. Follow the crowds and avoid dingy/shady lanes. If you are ever not sure where to go or how to exit from a place, always ask someone around you or follow the crowd until you spot the next sign for directions.
  4. Keep your wallet and your phone in their regular places and every so often tap to check they are still there when you are out in the public. When we didn’t keep them in their regular spots, we’ve panicked and unnecessarily got stressed out thinking we lost them.
  5. Carry your hotel info with you just in case you get lost in the city and need help to get back. Especially important in countries like China where they barely read/speak English. Do not carry the room card envelope which has your room # on it. In the event you do get mugged or pick-pocketed, you don’t want to give your thief bonus points and let them steal your valuables in the hotel room too. I typically either leave behind or toss out the room key card envelope which has my room number on it.

Read below for detailed information on safety for specific things such as Hotel safes, Backpacks and what to do when your stuff is lost/stolen.

Backpack safety

We love to explore cities using their public transportation and feel like we always get to know the place a lot better when we either walk or use metro/subway systems. It’s sometimes challenging but also fun figuring our the routes in new cities especially when you don’t know their local language. More on this later. Public transportation comes with lack of safety especially in countries like Italy and Spain that are notorious for pick-pocketers. I was once conned at the Paris Nord station and had my backpack stolen from me. Here are our tips on making sure your backpack is safe

  1. Obvious but most important of all, avoid carrying excess weight or heavy backpacks. Not only do they attract too much attention but they also wear you out and in turn cause you to not be fully aware of your surroundings.
  2. Zip your backpack all the way to the end (either left or right) but not the center. The reason for this is because your periphery vision allows you to see movements on the sides but very difficult to see when it’s in the center at the back of your head.
  3. When riding a bus/train or at an event where it’s extremely crowded, carry your backpack in the front.
  4. If you sit down and feel the need to remove your backpack, always hold onto one handle of the backpack. When I sit down at a restaurant, I keep my backpack under the chair but I put my foot through one of the handles. In the event someone tries to snatch it, at least it’s stuck around my leg. Also, it makes it difficult for me to forget and walk away from a restaurant or a bus stop when I have my backpack tied to my leg.

Hotel Room Safes

Most hotel rooms that are 2 stars and above come with a safe. Here are a couple of tips on making sure you are doing everything you can to keep your valuables safe in your room. Fortunately, we haven’t had a problem with using safes so far but a friend of mine had his watch and his wife’s jewelry stolen from their hotel room safe once.

  1. If you have very expensive valuables, you are better off requesting the front desk at the hotel to keep them safe rather than keeping them in your room safe. Make sure your expensive valuables like jewelry are insured before you leave for your trip.
  2. When you check-into your room, make sure your room safe is bolted to the closet/wall in the room so no one can pick it up and run away. If your room doesn’t have a safe that’s bolted, request to be moved into a different room that does have a bolted safe.
  3. If it’s a pin based safe, of course make sure you test out your passcode with an empty safe. If the safe is faulty, you don’t want your valuables to be stuck inside.
  4. For pin based safes, after customizing it with your own passcode (ex:9876), check to make sure default codes such as 1234, 0000 do not unlock the safe.
  5. Always carry along an extra lock like this one. In the event your hotel doesn’t have rooms with bolted safes or has very small safes, you can put those valuables in your suitcase and lock it up to the closet. If you aren’t comfortable leaving your belongings in the hotel, I recommend using a hidden carry case like this one.

When your stuff is lost/stolen

  1. Easier said than done but try to relax, breathe and not panic. The thief might have stolen your bag/valuables but don’t let them steal the rest of your trip. Avoid those thoughts of going all James Bond to chase and hunt down the culprit who did this to you. Instead, walk it off, talk to family and friends and let out your frustration. You are alive and that matters the most.
  2. Without wasting any time, file a formal police complaint at the nearest station and request for a copy of the report in English. This will be required at consulates/embassies if you are trying to replace your passport and also for filing any insurance claims.