Paris is beautiful in the summertime. You walk the streets in awe of how right everyone is about that. The sights, the smells, the entire experience is incredible. You grab your lover’s hand as you walk through a crowd, and you spot a mime. An actual mime on the street doing mime things; how awesome is that?
Then you decide to head to a café, but when you get there you realize you have just been pickpocketed. Your money, identification, passport—all of it gone. Now you see that busy street and street show for what it was—a distraction to separate you from your valuables.
While traveling is generally safe—whether you’re walking the streets of Paris or browsing shops in Morocco—increased awareness can lessen the risk of your trip going from a dream to a nightmare.
Here are 10 things you can do for safer travel abroad
1. Don’t carry cash
It seems like it’s a no hassle prospect—who doesn’t like cash in hand? But carrying cash leaves you vulnerable. If it’s stolen you have no recourse to get it back.
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2. Use Traveler’s Checks or credit cards
Traveler’s checks take the hassle out of money conversion. And both of these options provide you with options if you should lose your money or get robbed. Often you can file a claim and get your money returned to you. Most credit card companies won’t hold you liable for any charges that are made provided you alert them that your card was stolen. Just make sure that these forms of payment are widely accepted at your destination.
3. Tell your credit card company you are traveling
So your destination accepts credit cards, but does your credit card company know it’s you who will be doing the charging? More than one traveler has arrived at a foreign destination only to have their cards frozen because their credit card company thought it was fraud. Your credit card company may see out of the ordinary charges in a foreign country as a red flag and shut you down. So call them before you go to make sure you won’t have any unexpected problems. The same thing goes for your bank and other financial institutions.
4. Have local cash
Of course for some things only cash will do. So make sure you have some local cash. If you want to take a bus or a taxi or pop into an adorable little boutique that only accepts local money you’ll be glad you have that cash on hand.
5. Don’t give out money
You’re big-hearted. And you’re probably feeling pretty good, because after all you are on vacation. However, think twice about giving to people begging for money on the street. Sometimes people are truly in need but other times it can be a ploy that can leave you vulnerable to a mugging or worse.
6. Separate your money
You’ve heard the term don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Well that applies to your traveling money as well. If you lose your basket all your valuables are gone. Try to separate your money by leaving a credit card and cash or traveler’s checks in the hotel safe. Likewise when you are on the plane don’t pack all of your money and credit cards. Keep something on hand in the event your luggage gets lost.
7. Make copies of your travel documents
Losing your money isn’t the only way you can get stranded. If you lose your passport, birth certificate, or other important identification you can be just as stuck. Make copies of these valuable documents. Keep one set of copies at home or with a friend, along with information on how to contact you. Keep the other set in your hotel room or somewhere separate from the originals.
8. Get travelers insurance
Chances are, nothing bad will happen to you. The world is a safe playground. But what if? It’s always a lot more fun to play with an unworried mind. Buying a bit of traveler’s insurance to cover the ‘what ifs’ will give you peace of mind while keeping you protected against loss. Depending on your policy, traveler’s insurance can cover lost luggage, trip cancellation, and even medical costs.
9. Don’t flash money
You may not do it intentionally, so be aware of flashing wads of cash. This may happen as you are paying for an item or simply taking a moment to count how much you’ve got left. Try to show extra discretion when dealing with your money in public. Criminals may be watching, and seeing you flash your cash is all the incentive they need.
10. Don’t trust strangers
What your Momma told you is good advice, especially when traveling: Don’t talk to strangers. Of course, now that you are all grown you can modify this a bit. You want to meet and talk to people, but also remember to keep your guard up. That new “friend” you’ve made may lure you into a dangerous situation.
Before you travel, make sure you check out any travel alerts about the country you will be visiting. You can find out about scams, civil unrest, and travel warnings that can help you become more alert when traveling.