Long Term Travel Q & A: How can I stay safe while traveling the world?

“Don’t get pickpocketed!”

“Make sure to watch out for the little kids, they steal the most!”

“Stay together at night!

Hearing travel warnings like that would make any person think that traveling anywhere is the most dangerous thing they could do. And the onslaught of travel warnings doesn’t stop there.

Let us paint the scene: We are in the dining room of a massive cruise ship headed to Barcelona. We’re sitting at a huge circular dining table surrounded by people from all over the world, enjoying the relaxation (and relative safety) only a cruise can offer. Texas, Berlin, and Ottawa are all in the attendance. As we share our future travel plans, a few of the more seasoned travelers start to give us warnings about staying safe when traveling through Barcelona. As a group formed of mostly retirees they saw two young “kids” and honestly wanted to help us out.

Travel Safety

Their pieces of advice are kind of funny, but also a bit nerve racking. They instruct us on how to stay safe and always be on alert. “Never show any cash in public,” “Avoid traveling at night, unless it is a very short distance” and our personal favorite, “Don’t say you are an American. Say you’re Canadian…foreigners HATE Americans.” Should we get kidnapping insurance? We’re starting to feel like sheep walking into a cage of lions.

After a two hour barrage of travel warnings, for the first time in our travels we were starting to get nervous about traveling. Our biggest safety concern: Would our passports get swiped right out our hands which would force us to sneak back home in a shipping container?

All joking aside, travel safety is a major concern for travelers of all ages. In a revealing survey performed by Beyond the Diploma, 1 out of every 4 people surveyed said concerns over safety is a major reason why they do not travel the world. One out of every four!

In all honestly staying safe and ensuring your stuff is protected is a concern when traveling, but should not stop you from traveling the world. So what is the best way to be safe when overseas? Don’t look like a tourist.

Sure, you’re in a new country where you probably don’t exactly look like the people around you. When we were in Belize, Staci was usually the only blonde in sight. Here in Southern Spain…our Americanisms are very evident. But just because you don’t look like a local doesn’t mean you can’t blend in for safety.

Here are 3 easy things you can do to keep you and your possessions safe sound when traveling overseas.

1) Fanny packs, iPads and designer purses should be on minimum display

Ummm, no thank you!

Ummm, no thank you!

Obviously, if you are hanging out in a developing country where the cost of an iPad is more than the yearly salary of most people, having any one of these luxury goods is a dead giveaway that you’re “not from around these parts.”

But what about developing countries? Can you show off your designer bag and iPads there? Local people in Barcelona, Johannesburg and Rome use their iPads in public and carry around designer purses, yes, but they don’t carry and show off all of these things at once.

And, they don’t use their iPads to take pictures of the most touristy destinations. Nor do they carry their purses to spots where they know they are likely to get swiped. Since you DON’T know where the most “dangerous” places are in a city, it’s probably a good idea to just leave the purse and iPad at home and settle for your iPhone so you can be a little more discreet when snapping pics of you holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

And as for fanny packs? If you’re rocking a fanny pack in 2013 that’s a you problem that we can’t fix.

2) Don’t travel during tourist times

One of the easiest ways to not look like a tourist is to not travel during tourist season. Criminals love tourist season for the same reason businesses love tourist season, more opportunities to make money. If you’re able to travel during a city or region’s low season you will be able to not only reduce being labeled as a target, but also get to see the area in a more comfortable environment where there are less people getting in your way.

We forget locals do travel to tourist destinations but they go year round to popular destinations, not just during what is perceived as the best time. If the activity you want to do is time sensitive like Oktoberfest in Germany or Carnival in Brazil try your best to do activities that are not over tourist-y and involve less amounts of people. If locals can do it, so can you.

3) Locals don’t hang with large groups of people with giant cameras around their necks

You're safe now...but wait 'til you all pile off.

You’re safe now…but wait ’til you all pile off.

Large groups of picture taking people (especially if they get off a giant, private touring bus) just screams, “I’m a tourist…SCAM me!” Now you may be thinking a large crowd would be good to deter a criminal, but think about it. Would-be thieves will pick your group out of a crowd, then they can easily follow you or wait until you separate from the group before trying something tricky. Plus, if a pickpocket bumps up against you and snatches your wallet, you would just think one of your group members accidentally bumped you.

There might be power in numbers, but it’s okay to avoid being a part of a large group when traveling. If you want to see the sights with one or two other people you’ll be fine. Just be aware of your surroundings and follow your gut feelings; if you feel like you aren’t safe…leave! That’s what locals do all the time.


Have a travel question you’re dying to have answered? You’re in luck! This Saturday, we’re hosting a LIVE long term travel Q&A session so you can ask us any long term travel question you want. Save your seat at http://webinar.beyondthediploma.com/q-and-a-hangout/

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