One of my most popular posts is one that I wrote about situational awareness. I think it's something that we all need to keep in the forefront of our minds every. single. day. Being situationally aware should be second nature to you whether you’re walking to your car after work or travelling to a new place. The husband & I love to travel, especially to other countries. We've been fortunate that our lives allow for that type of adventure & we’ve been to some pretty awesome places. One of the questions that always seems to get asked of us when we return from visiting a foreign country is “did you feel safe?” On the other hand, it always seems that someone we've talked to has a story about how their bag/wallet was stolen and because of that one incident that particular country/city is deemed “unsafe.” In reality when you get down to the meat of the story, it could have been avoided had they been more aware of their surroundings.
I figured that since we just got back from our trip to Asia that I would share more tips pertaining to situational awareness when you're traveling. These tips aren't just for traveling in a foreign country as they can and should be applied to anytime whether you are traveling domestic or abroad. However, I do think it's even more important to ensure that you have your wits about you when traveling to foreign countries. Unfortunately, no matter where you go there are people that are up to no good. In foreign countries, they prey specifically on tourists that are not familiar with the city. Someone who might be busy reading a map, not paying attention, or walking around with their head in the air looking at all the sites. Yes, you should be enjoying the sites but don't let being naive ruin a fun experience. Most thieves that prey on travelers just want money and your belongings. Mugging & pick-pocketing is a pretty common crime in all areas but in some foreign countries there are groups formed that look for easy targets.
Situational Awareness Tips When Traveling
Be mindful of your physical appearance. You want to blend in and look like a local. Do some research ahead of time to see what the local fashion is and if there might be any cultural clothing rules at your destination. This doesn't mean you have to buy a whole new travel wardrobe but maybe you want pick up one or two new items or possibly swap out an item you were planning on bringing. You also want to dress to suit your activities. Meaning, as cute as your wedge sandals and long maxi dress looks, does it really make sense to wear it to visit the Parthenon?!
If you must wear jewelry, keep it to a minimum. If an arm or hand full of diamonds doesn't attract attention then I don't know what does. I'm not saying not to wear jewelry just tone down the bling.
Leave the designer items at home. You don't want to attract or call too much attention to yourself especially if you're traveling alone. So maybe you should leave that Chanel backpack at home and get something a little less flashy. I usually use a bag that can be worn as a backpack or crossbody. Something that is comfortable and roomy enough to hold a camera, water, wallet, and other things I might need but will also look cute with anything I wear. You can still find something stylish that doesn't scream “look at me” with my expensive bag. If you're like me when I travel, then you’re out and about usually all day long. I'm not always sure what the environment is going to look like where I'm going and it might involve me having to put my bag on the ground, it might rain, or I might have to check my bag with an attendant or stow it in a locker. The last thing I want is my designer bag getting ruined.
When it comes to choosing & carrying your bag, make sure it has a zipper so it can be zip closed. If you're in a crowd then move the bag to the front of your body. For men who may only carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket. Alternatively, you can use a travel belt to keep your cash & cards secure.
Besides using the tips I mentioned, use your street smarts. For example:
When withdrawing cash from an ATM do it in the daytime and quickly slip it into your wallet.
Walk with your head up like you know where you are going. If you get lost, pop into a store to ask for directions or find a small cafe with wifi and take a minute to have a cup of coffee and figure out where you need to go.
Don't walk down a dark, sketchy looking alley. If the area is desolate, that might be a sign that it should be avoided.
If something or someone seems odd or out of place, then remove yourself from that situation or area.
Don't leave your belongings unattended. All it takes is one second for you to turn your back. While you may have just scored the best view at the local cafe, the minute you put your bag down to save that table and go pay for that coffee, your bag can be gone.
If you have questions about an area you want to explore, ask the hotel concierge about it. If you're AIRBNB'ing then ask a local. Locals are good to ask about what places to avoid and can sometimes give you a good lay of the land. But also, be smart about who you ask.
Be aware of scammers looking to trick you into giving them money. If you've ever been to Paris then you might be familiar with the "bracelet scam" (you can read about it here.) The husband & I watched these scammers for a good twenty minutes one afternoon, preying on tourists and eventually getting money for these bracelets they were able to tie on your wrist with a quick slight-of hand. Not to mention, some scammers might only be there to get you distracted while someone else in their team pick pockets you.
Plan your day and route in advance. If you know you are going to be playing tourist for most of the day, take some time in the morning or the night before to figure out where you are going and how you will get there. This is a great opportunity to get specific directions from the hotel or a local but also it keeps you from standing out when you're wandering aimlessly or having to constantly look at your phone's map. If you do you need to consult your phones map or directions, step to the side to get your bearings.
If you're traveling to a foreign country where there might be language barrier, learn or write down some travel phrases that you might need. There are plenty of apps now too that can translate. Also, ask the hotel if they have an address card. Some hotels have a small business card that has the hotel's address in the local language along with a note that says something along the lines of 'please take me to...' You can give this to the taxi driver should you need. You can also ask the hotel or a local to help write down anything specific or directions you may need.
Speaking of taxis, make sure you know ahead of time the names of the authorized taxi companies. A lot of foreign countries have men just hanging out at taxi stands or outside establishments asking people if they need a taxi. Most of these people are not authorized or licensed 'taxi' drivers. They are like the non-uber Uber drivers. Most of them probably don't mean any harm and are just trying to earn some extra income but why put yourself in that situation and take chance. Trust me and I'm speaking from experience, it's the worst feeling being in an unofficial taxi driver’s car. All I kept thinking was, “please don't murder me” and “this is where I die.” Totally bad move on my part but lesson learned.
Situational awareness is all about taking in your surroundings and avoiding potential threats while you are out and about. It’s not letting yourself become a target. Whether you are traveling alone, with a spouse, or with a friend you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep these tips in mind.
Do you have any other tips or advice in regards in this area?
Disclaimer: The information provided here is based on my opinions and for informational use only. I am not an expert in this field and any items/services/products/advice mentioned in these posts should be used at your own discretion and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. You can read more about my privacy & disclosure policies here.