Street in Gastown, Vancouver
Street in Gastown, Vancouver

When Local Gets “Too Local”: 8 Tips for Keeping Safe While Traveling

Safety is typically a huge concern when traveling; even more when you’re visiting a new exotic location. There’s danger no matter where you go – every country, every city and every town will have it’s good and it’s bad. Los Angeles will pose different dangers than Nicaragua … and so on.

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Overall, I’ve always thought that “acting local” is the best way to go when you’re out and about in a new location. Blending in certainly has its advantages, particularly if you’re a seasoned traveler.

One thing you must remember is that acting too local can also pose some dangers. With that in mind, I offer these eight tips for keeping safe while traveling:

#1: Doing “Local” the Right Way

Study your maps and walk like you know where you’re going, don’t flip out your GPS or your map in the middle of the street. Dress like the locals and never walk around with your camera around your neck. Major cultural differences can make it hard to “fit in” but it’s all in the mood and the vibe.

© zoetnet

#2: On Laws + Etiquette

Although locals don’t really follow the law to the letter, make sure you know the basics on driving, smoking, religion, drinking, dress code, etc. Also, when visiting an exotic culture you can easily stand out by not knowing simple daily traditions or etiquette.

#3: Don’t Be a Target

Travelers are easy targets because they always carry money, they stand out in a crowd, and they are often blissfully unaware of the dangers around them. Find out beforehand where the seedy parts of town are and avoid them. There is safety in numbers so never walk alone at night, but don’t over-trust the crowds either.

If you see a group of beautiful women heading towards you ”¦ cross the street! Same goes for kids as sadly a friendly bunch of children can quickly do away with your wallet. Stay alert and don’t allow yourself to get distracted.

Street in Gastown, Vancouver
The Streets of Gastown, Vancouver © Kenny Louie (kennymatic)

#4: Watch Your Valuables

Never carry around your passport but do make sure you have a copy on you at all times. Don’t be fooled by locals that wear expensive jewelry, carry laptops or flip out their smartphones in public. Your laptop is probably your most valuable item when you travel, don’t take it out in public and always carry it in a normal backpack or bag other than a computer bag.

#5: Pickpocketing

Pickpocketing is everywhere! Do your best to use plastic, and if you have cash, never count or skim through it in public.

Ladies, never place your bag behind your chair, on the floor or any other place out of your sight. Use a bag that straps across your body as there’s less of a chance that someone will snatch it off you or pick at your backpack whilst you’re walking.

Gents, don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket ”¦ that just screams “take me” when you’re walking around a city.

Pickpocket © AntoineMeu

#6: On the Road

In many countries the locals are extremely friendly to travelers. Although this is one of the greatest things about traveling, safety must always be on your mind. Be cautious about people who approach you if you have car trouble and don’t pick up hitchhikers. Trust your instincts, never get out of your car or open your window if your gut tells you not to. When grabbing a taxi, always make sure it’s “official” and have them turn on the meter. Cab drivers can tell you’re not a local no matter how hard you try.

#7: Food + Drink

Not all safety precautions are theft related when it comes to travel. Do your best to learn about the foods of the country you will be visiting, if you suffer of allergies make sure you know what you’re eating. It’s great to try new foods and even exotic tastes, don’t be shy to ask what it is before you dig in. When it comes to drink, not all countries have clean tap water, always ask before you take a sip out of that faucet. Booze is a fun part of being in a new city or country, keeping an eye on your drink is something you must do no matter where you are. Also, avoid getting drunk in an odd town, especially if you’re there alone.

#8: When Heading Outdoors …

Beaches are always a popular destination but, before you dip in, ask the locals about currents, tides and potential dangers such as sea yarns, jellyfish sharks or even crocodiles. Same goes for rivers and even lakes, don’t be shy to blow your “local” cover to ask! Look out for anything that bites – some mosquitoes and exotic bugs can be pretty nasty and carry diseases.

The Bottom Line

Information is power, the more you research the destination you’re about to visit, the more you can blend in as a “local”. Many tourist boards and government websites offer safety tips about their country. Check forums, social media or books as there are many options available for you to read up on all there is to know about your destination’s culture, traditions and safety issues.

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