How to Travel Safely When the Rules Don't Protect You
Do Your Research Before You Go
Before booking a trip, do your homework on the destination. Check government websites for travel advisories and warnings. Read recent news articles to understand potential safety risks. Search travel forums to see what other travelers have experienced. Being informed ahead of time helps me identify and avoid dangerous areas or situations.
I always check visa and passport requirements for the country I'm visiting. Some places require travel documents long before your trip. Not having proper paperwork can ruin your vacation or lead to legal problems. It's better to know the rules so I'm fully prepared.
Learn key phrases in the local language that pertain to health, safety and directions. Even if I don't speak the language fluently, knowing how to ask for help or report an emergency empowers me. Apps like Google Translate allow me to communicate essential information.
Use Common Sense Precautions
Simply being alert and aware of my surroundings goes a long way towards staying safe. I avoid ever letting my guard down, even when I feel comfortable in a new destination.
I don't wear expensive jewelry or watches that might attract thieves. My clothes are modest and I keep valuables secured in a hidden money belt under my shirt. I try to blend in versus stand out.
At night or in unfamiliar areas, I don't walk alone. I stick to well-lit, populated streets and use ride share services after dark. Staying in groups improves safety in numbers.
If a situation doesn't feel right, I listen to my instincts and remove myself. I don't take unnecessary risks for the sake of adventure. My personal safety is the top priority.
Have Contingency Plans
Part of traveling safely is preparing for the unexpected. I always have backup options in case something goes wrong.
I carry a small first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic and other medical essentials. Knowing I can treat minor injuries provides peace of mind.
I memorize emergency numbers for police, medical and fire assistance. If I have a safety concern, I know who to call. I also notify someone at home of my detailed itinerary.
Importantly, I confirm my health insurance covers me abroad. Otherwise, I purchase a temporary international policy. This protects me from paying thousands in medical bills if I become ill or hurt far from home.
Having contingency plans empowers me to handle unforeseen circumstances. With preparation, I can still travel safely even when the rules don't protect me.
Trust Your Instincts
Ultimately, my best protection is listening to my gut. If a place or person seems dangerous, I don't ignore those instincts based on a false sense of obligation or politeness. I remove myself from the situation immediately.
On a bus in Peru, a fellow passenger made unwanted advances and refused to take no for an answer. I trusted my intuition, got off at the next stop and took a taxi instead. Inconvenience is better than risking harm.
Other times, I've cancelled tours or left accommodations early when things didn't feel right. You shouldn't have to stay somewhere or with someone who scares you. Don't worry about wasting money or offending someone. Your intuition exists to keep you safe.
Over the years, I've learned when to be cautious versus paranoid. But I always listen to my sixth sense. My life and well-being aren't worth ignoring warning signs for.
Have an Exit Strategy
When traveling, always scope out exits and identify escape routes. Whether at my hotel, a restaurant or other location, I take note of all the ways to get out quickly.
If an emergency occurs, I won't have to think or look around. I'll know exactly where to run and how to get away. Having an exit strategy empowers me to leave unsafe situations fast.
I also research backup airports or border crossings near my destination. Political unrest or natural disasters can close transportation routes. Knowing alternative ways to exit the country provides reassurance.
With an exit strategy, I can react quickly in a crisis. I don't have to waste precious time deciding what to do. Preparation and awareness enable a fast response.
Travel in a Group When Possible
There is safety in numbers when traveling. Tour groups or even pairing up with a partner improves security.
Criminals often look for solo, vulnerable tourists. Traveling alone, I can be a target. But sticking with others means watching each other's backs.
I've backpacked in groups through South America and Europe. We looked out for suspicious individuals, created distractions if needed, and prevented harassment. Having companions kept us all safer.
When booking organized group tours, I vet the company's reputation. A trustworthy guide provides local expertise you can't get traveling independently. They know how to avoid dangerous areas.
Traveling in a group isn't always possible. But when I can, having others around me boosts security and reduces risk.
Trust Your Intuition
No guidebook or website can replace your own common sense and intuition. If a place feels unsafe, get away. Don't ignore that instinct to be polite. The authors of travel articles don't know you personally or have your best interest at heart.
On a solo trip to Thailand, I took a wrong turn down an alley. Two strange men approached me and set off alarm bells. I turned around instantly, even though it meant a long walk back to the hotel. Avoiding potential harm was worth the inconvenience.
Other times, I've abruptly left restaurants or theaters due to suspicious individuals nearby. My subconscious recognizes threats even when my conscious mind doesn't. Those instincts exist to protect me.
Experienced travelers learn to differentiate between normal foreignness versus real danger. It's a sixth sense that keeps you secure. Always trust your gut above all else.
By following these tips, I've stayed safe in places from Brazil to Egypt. With vigilance and preparation, you can travel confidently even when no one else has your back. Don't let fear hold you back. But let prudence guide you. Adventure smart and trust yourself.