It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that people want to know how we’ve avoided street crime while travelling.
Thankfully, about the closest we’ve come to terrorism was touring the World Trade Centre memorial in New York City – a sobering experience just the same.
But, we do take some common sense steps to help reduce the chance of things like being mugged, robbed or pickpocketed.
Most of the steps are done before we even leave home.
When planning, we spend time researching dangers in the areas we are considering visiting.
WikiTravel is an excellent resource with information about local laws; areas to avoid and why; and cultural customs.
There are also several Apps that can be used to keep tabs of what’s happening in the world.
We like Safeture, a free app that can keep you up to date with general safety and trip advice; have access to emergency numbers; get local travel alerts in English; and share your location so friends and relatives can stay notified of your movements.
We also keep an eye on travel advisory notices issued by government and airline security requirements. The Australian government has a website called smarttraveller, with a range of information and advice.
In the past, when choosing a destination, we’ve always checked to see if there was a reciprocal healthcare agreement with our government, which would provide emergency care if we needed it.
We also obtained the contact details of our national embassy in each country we intended to visit. If there isn’t an embassy, we found out which other country’s representatives would help us in an emergency. All this was done online.
And then we finalised travel insurance; making sure that the company we chose covered pre-existing conditions and had a free 24-hour telephone reporting number available from anywhere in the world.
We made sure all this information was on a couple of electronic devices, as well as taking the time-honoured step of leaving copies of the itinerary, passports, tickets, travel insurance policies etc with someone at home.
And, finally, we checked if special care needed to be taken with local food or drink in the countries we were to visit – and we registered our travel plans online with the government in case of an natural disaster or similar emergency.
On the road
Once travelling, we have always kept as many of our valuables as possible in money belts worn under our clothes and next to the skin. Sometimes, we carried a dummy wallet to hand over to any mugger.
Rather than a handbag, Sue now wears a cross bag with a zipper and we lock valuables in our luggage each day before securing the luggage to the bed post with a retractable cable.
Because we’ve always tried to use public transport where possible, we doggedly refuse to be parted from our bags, holding them with us at all times.
While we are using our credit card, it is never allowed out of our sight.
Neither have we ever put anything of value in either the front or back pockets of our jeans.
Probably the most important step for us has always been trying to always stay vigilant in crowds; going on hyper-alert anytime there was a commotion or disturbance; and moving on if a stranger started acting overly helpful for no good reason.
If we are uncertain of directions, we never stop in the street or at a transport station to study our phones, but keep walking with a purpose until we can enter a cafe or shop.
Keep it in perspective
And, finally, it helps if you accept that, even with the best preparation, things can and sometimes will go wrong. It’s wise to decide in advance what will be done if flights are missed or bookings have been messed up.
Being prepared helps keep us safe; is good for the sanity; and allows any hiccups to become just another part of the wonderful travel experience.