Three Quick Tips for Safe Travels

Be aware of any travel advisories, use common sense, and you don’t need to travel in fear. Here are three quick tips to keep safe while travelling.

When you are overloaded with baggage, you make an easy target.

We’ve traveled in and through London several times, and one time we were at the end of our trip, looking forward to relaxing a few days in a Bath B&B before heading home to Canada. We were carrying our suitcases, along with extra bags with things we bought along the way, and my purse was worn securely across my shoulder.

As we exited the packed subway at Paddington station and headed up the escalator, I realized my purse was gone.  My purse, which contained both our passports, and all but one credit card of my husband’s. All I can figure is the strap must have been cut, and I didn’t notice as my hands were full with my other bags.

After filling out a police report, we made our way to the Canadian embassy, and I was directed across the street where I could get a new passport photo taken.  I was reminded of that day for the next five years by that passport photo of a frazzled me, with messy hair, trying not to cry. Nobody was hurt, we were able to cancel our credit cards and replace our passports in time for our flight home, but I don’t want to repeat that experience. We’ve been in other locations where I’ve been more aware of pickpockets, etc., but in London I felt too safe and was not paying attention to the people around me.

There are at least three lessons I learned from this:
  1. Don’t keep all your valuables in one place. Each person should carry their own passport, and divide your credit cards and cash, carrying some in your wallet, some in a money belt, etc.
  2. If you travel light you can keep track of your things and be a less easy target.
  3. The place you are most comfortable can be where you are most vulnerable.

Take the advice of the locals.

When in Beijing we were told more than once by locals, don’t take a ride on the rickshaws, as they will rip you off.  We took that advice, until one day exiting the Forbidden City, we were tired and the rickshaws were lined up waiting at the exit. Being aware of their tactics, we wisely agreed on the fare to our hotel before hopping aboard. 50 Yuan, that’s five zero, fine.  It was a fun ride, and we arrived safely at our stop.

“That’s $50 US” the driver said.

“No” we said, “50 Yuan”.

“OK” he laughed, he couldn’t fool us.

Unfortunately, we realized we only had a 100 Yuan, and would need change. No problem, our driver had change, and he handed us the fifty and went on his way.  Only then we realized he gave us 50 Rubles, not Yuan, which was probably counterfeit at that. This only cost us about $9, but the lesson was, if the locals warn you, take their advice.

Look both ways when crossing the street.

We are used to automatically looking left when crossing the street, but in London (and Japan, New Zealand, etc.) you usually need to look right. It can be very easy to be on autopilot and step into the traffic.  Play it safe in a new city, and just look both ways.