During my time in Italy, I witnessed all sorts of trouble for tourists. I met someone who had all of his luggage stolen on a bus, I had a friend whose camera was stolen. I myself was harassed on occasion. And that was just in one country.
As much as we bask in the glory of new experiences and freedom—and we should—the fact is that accidents happen, and terrible people exist no matter where you are. Your American accent and new Canon Rebel are beacons to creative thieves. While we certainly shouldn’t go overboard, it’s important to take caution when traveling so you can enjoy your experience to the utmost.
Do not travel alone at night.
Solo traveling is common—and wonderful, by the way—but the phrase “safety in numbers” is a saying for a reason. Whether you’re a man or a woman, having a companion helps, as lurkers hide in alleyways, and sometimes in plain sight, looking for naïve travelers to cheat or rob. Don’t let traveling alone stop you from experiencing your destination at night. Meet a friend and bring them with you, but try to meet friends during the day.
Get travel insurance.
Most people ignore getting travel insurance after their college years, because by then it isn’t a requirement. What many fail to realize is that accidents can happen after the age of 22, and the government is under no obligation to help you if you haven’t done your part. Travel insurance options vary, but getting the most basic of coverage can be the difference between a successfully mended injury and endless medical bills. Several travel insurance options also have clauses for lost or stolen items, such as phones, cameras, and other valuable items. US Passports & International Travel has plenty of recommendations for insurers to go with.
Know the tricks, and be prepared.
Sometimes, a man will come up to you trying to sell you something, while his friend comes behind you to clean your pockets. Sometimes, a person will casually walk by your dining table and steal the iPhone 6 you left out. Sometimes, a thief will take advantage of the large crowd and slip his conniving hands in your purse, taking your wallet with him.
Thieves do it all. They wait, they lurk, and they attack when you give them the chance to. Make their lives harder by coming prepared. Don’t walk around with a open bag. Make sure you’re carrying a purse with zippers, and keep your belongings in the innermost pockets. Don’t keep anything in your pockets, as this is one of the most common ways for thieves to steal your cash. If you’re a backpacking traveler, keep your valuables deep inside so thieves can’t unzip and grab on-the-go.
Do not put anything down anywhere.
It’s fascinating how trusting humans can be. If you think leaving your phone on your restaurant table while you run to the restroom is a good idea, you’re asking for problems. Thieves have been known to take items from your bare hands, so there is certainly nothing stopping them from doing it while you aren’t looking. Thieves at home and abroad are calculating, cunning, and have no shame, so don’t put anything past them. It’s better to be overly cautious than under-prepared.
Know some basic language.
If something does happen, the first thing to do is to find help from the police, or the owner of a nearby establishment. If you’re in a non-English speaking country, it’s a bit difficult to explain that your money has been stolen if they can’t understand you. Bring a language book with some key phrases, and brush up on your commands and questions before boarding that plane.
Don’t be afraid to yell.
If someone grabs you, yell. A woman grabbed my arm while I was waiting in line at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. She was looking for my purse, but I didn’t let her make it far. I shoved and yelled as loud as my vocal chords would allow, and the officers came running.
Look for the uniform.
It may seem overly cautious, but as you enter a new establishment, look around to see who’s in charge of keeping the peace. The officers are there to protect the museums, landmarks, and restaurants you’ll be exploring. Knowing where they are in an establishment helps to move things a lot faster should something happen. If you have any issues, you’ll know where to go to get help.