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Self-portraits in Rome...to prove I was there

As much as we love to travel and explore new places, we’ve all heard too many stories of traveler adventures gone wrong.  As much as I encourage everyone to travel and explore our beautiful planet, I feel an equal responsibility to share the dangers of travel as well, and how you can prepare yourself ahead of time to avoid major dangers, and even tragedy on your trip.

From horrid stories like that of Natalee Holloway, to less extreme stories like lost luggage or being overcharged by the taxi driver, we’ve all heard of the unfortunate circumstances of our fellow travelers.  The truth of the matter is, most of these experiences were very easily preventable, had the victims been more prepared and aware of their surroundings.  These are some of my personal travel safety tips, but please feel free to add advice in the comment field below.

Before you travel:

Even before you book your hotel, do extensive research on the city or cities you are traveling to.  Research the safest neighborhoods and figure out the best modes of transportation to and from your hotel.  Find a detailed map of the city and familiarize yourself with the layout.   Study the train or bus routes so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the terminal trying to figure out which Metro line to take, meanwhile putting a bullseye on your back as an unorganized tourist.

When packing your suitcase and carry-on luggage, keep it simple.  When traveling abroad, chances are you will be doing a lot of walking and stair climbing, so the less you have the better.  Also, make sure you are organized.  Having your boarding pass, passport, and other necessary documentation readily available is very important and will save you a lot of time.

Get traveler’s cheques.  You will thank me later.  I know I was thanking my mom for this advice when my wallet got stolen in Paris with $400 worth of traveler’s cheques in it.  I had my money back in my hands just hours later after contacting my bank.  Another golden rule:  Don’t carry all your money (cash, credit cards, even traveler’s cheques) in one place.

Upon arrival:

Once you land at your destination airport, quickly locate your hotels shuttle.  If your hotel does not provide a shuttle, take a taxi, but NEVER share a taxi.  (Need proof?  Watch the film Taken, you’ll see what I mean).

When checking into your hotel, request a room that is not on the first floor.  This is especially important for solo or women travelers.  If the desk clerk says your room number aloud with other guests around, request another room and ask them to write the room number down.  You DO NOT need anyone knowing what room you are in.

Exploring the City:

If you’re traveling alone, try to stick to areas where there are other travelers.  If you think someone might be eying you, pretend you are with a larger group, like a guided tour or a church group.

Dress like a local.  Don’t wear your flashy garb, and please, leave your Louie and fancy jewelry at home.  Dressing like you have money makes you a target for pickpockets.  Again, keep your money and credit cards in a safe place and don’t carry a lot of cash on you.  Be aware of your surroundings constantly.  Be aware that even though you may be wearing a money belt or some other kind of hidden passport/money holder, pickpockets have grown accustomed to these things and are very crafty about getting a hold of them.

Just like you should never take candy from a stranger, you should also never accept a drink from one either.  Keep an eye on your drink at all times.

Keep your emotions in check.  Getting lost in an unfamiliar city can be extremely unsettling and stressful, but getting emotional or dramatic only makes the situation worse.  Not only are you not in control, but you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage of.

There are so many more ways to insure that you have the safest and most enjoyable trip.  What do you think is most important to assure your safety while traveling?

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