Almost everything is easier to get into than out of. -- Agnes Allen


Like anything else travel is not without its dangers, especially if you want to do some adventuring. Serious threats to a traveler's well-being rarely happens. Much more common is theft, simple cons and overpriced merchandise or services.

While on the road you will want to take precautions against danger just as you do at home and then some. Cities around the world have their fair share of crime, but travelers need to be a bit more careful sometimes because they tend to stand out from the crowd and may be targeted.




It is good to know about possible dangers of the areas you will be visiting. Do your research before you go. The U.S. State Department has compiled a country by country listing of things to watch out for. I find it to be a bit paranoid, but it's good information and well worth reading:

U.S. State Department Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets

More excellent information is again available from the U.S. State Department's report A Safe Trip Abroad Be sure to study its advice carefully.

And also be sure to check out Tips for Traveling Abroad.

The best way to deal with trouble is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Prevention should be your focus in self-protection and then you should have a plan for what to do just in case something does go wrong.

Carry your money belt with you at all times. This should include your passport, some cash in the local currency and US dollars, your debit card and important phone numbers. Your money belt is your life-support system.

Carry only enough cash that you will need for a day or two. If your cash gets lost or stolen it is almost impossible to get back. Reduce risk by carrying less.

This also goes for other items. Carry as little valuables with you as possible and do your best to keep them out of sight. That $50 digital camera might not be a big deal to you, but in some countries that camera represents a month's worth of work.

Dress conservatively. Don't wear clothes that scream tourist, or which are expensive. This is especially important for female travelers in countries where women have strong dress codes.

Be wary in all dealings with your money. Every time you are going to pay for something or buy something you should be alert. Also pay attention to the change you are given, you could be short-changed or given counterfeit money.

Sometimes someone may try to scam you, or you can find a better deal elsewhere. Don't be anxious at all to hand over your cash and do so only when you are careful. Restaurants, street vendors, bars, hotels and tour agencies can overcharge you. People may try to make friends with you and then expect you to pay for all of the drinks and meals. Or you'll be told that someone is in the hospital and will die unless you hand over some bills.

If someone offers you a deal in which you invest some money to get a return on your investment, simply don't do it. I have never, ever heard of a traveler making money this way unless it was illegal. I have heard many stories in which the traveler gets ripped off. If it's not a scam, it's illegal. Avoid these offers like the plague.

When you are unsure about the price of something just ask someone who has nothing to gain from the sale about how much the item or service should cost. I frequently ask taxi drivers, hostel staff, store owners and others about general prices in which they have nothing to gain. They always freely give me the information that helps my pocketbook tremendously.

Ask questions about everything. Ask about recommended hotels, tour agencies and restaurants. Ask if an area is safe or dangerous. Ask how much a taxi ride costs from point A to B. Ask how much the bus charges. Ask lots of questions to lots of different people. This will educate you quickly and not only help to protect you, but can make you some new friends as well.

Do not accept to carry packages for anybody, even the ones you consider friends. That package could have illegal drugs or something else that someone wants you to smuggle for them. If you get caught, you take the fall.



Treat strangers as friends, but trust them as strangers. -- Mafia Maxim


Be skeptical about everything. Never assume that just because that girl is good looking, or that guy is a smooth talker that they have your best interests in mind. Some people will be genuinely interested in you, while others will want to take something from you.

Make it as difficult for thieves, scammers and thugs as you can. A criminal looks for easy targets. If you look like you're too much trouble than it is worth to try something on you, criminals will usually look elsewhere. The harder you make it for people to take advantage of you, the better.

If you do have a problem you can visit your embassy or consul and the local police. The police can be helpful, but sometimes they aren't worth beans. Your embassy may be kind enough to set you up with a room, meals and a ticket back home which you pay back later. The embassy can also replace your passport and make emergency calls for you.

Once you've arrived in a foreign country you might want to let the embassy know you'll be around to leave your itinerary with them (if you have one) so they'll have an idea of where you've been or where to find you in case of an emergency. For a database of all of the world's embassies visit Embassy World.

Travel or tour agencies can also be of help as they usually have someone that speaks English. Your hostel or hotel staff will probably be very helpful in making phone calls for you in an emergency. You can also make a collect call back home for a wire or Western Union money transfer.

Your Gut Instinct - LFTA

In wildland firefighter school I was taught to Listen for the Alarm, or LFTA (a nifty government acronym). This means to listen to your instinct; what your gut tells you. LFTA can warn you of danger or potential danger. It is an instinct we all have but what few listen to.

If you don't feel right about something then avoid it. If you get a bad feeling, then change your course of action.

Sometimes the feelings you get may seem insignificant, but instinct usually works better than reason. Besides, what is the worst thing that can happen to you by Listening for the Alarm? What could happen if you don't?

I will never forget the time I was driving alone in Denver, Colorado. This was before the mandatory seatbelt law was in effect, so I left mine off. There wasn't much traffic and I was going the speed limit (about 35 mph). I started to feel uncomfortable. I felt like I should put my seatbelt on. I didn't listen. The feeling got stronger. I ignored it. Then the feeling was so strong it was like a slap in the face: "Put your seatbelt on NOW!"

As soon as I did so a speeding car slammed into the passenger side of my car. I went for a spin, literally, before regaining control of my car. Other than a bruised right side from my seatbelt strap everyone was fine. My car was totaled. If I hadn't have listened to my instinct I would have been thrown out of the window and seriously injured or killed.

Practice listening to your instinct. LFTA has saved my life on at least two occasions, it may save yours.

Be Aware Of Possible Problems, But Keep A Positive Attitude

Do your best to prevent problems from happening in the first place. Always be aware and observant of the unpleasant things that could happen, but focus on the positive things; the things you want to have happen.

Don't be afraid of scams, theft or robbery, just keep your wits about you. Be skeptical, but friendly.

When you prevent unwanted situations from happening you can have a good attitude focused on having a great time.


Travel Course: Protect Your Home While Away


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