Treat Every Travel Location with Caution
Whether you are traveling in the United States or a foreign country, it is easy to get into "vacation mode," and assume that everyone is going to be friendly, helpful and honest. While the vast majority of people you encounter are likely to be kind and welcoming, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin your trip.
A few years ago, two young male teachers I worked with decided to backpack across Europe during their summer vacation, staying in youth hostels. It seemed like an exciting adventure and an opportunity for them to travel widely on a budget. However, one or both of them were robbed of their cash three times during their trip, always after falling asleep in a youth hostel. One of them told me he would never stay in a hostel again. If healthy young men can be robbed while traveling, senior citizens traveling alone need to be even more careful.
Even within the United States, I have had my debit card information stolen while traveling, with thieves attempting to use the stolen information while I was still away from home. Fortunately, my bank was quick to pick up on the fraudulent activity, stop questionable charges, and contact me using my cell phone. If it had not been for their vigilance, it could have ruined our trip. Today, I no longer use my debit card when traveling and I am careful where I use my credit cards.
Certain Travel Destinations are Exceptionally Dangerous
While crimes can occur anywhere, Forbes Magazine published an article called "10 Most Dangerous Places for Women Travelers." The list includes places where women tourists, in particular, are frequently the victims of assault or robbery. It would be wise for men, as well, to be extra careful when visiting these spots. The countries on their list are:
Do not take these warnings lightly. Years ago, my husband and I took our young children to Jamaica. A few days prior to our arrival, rebels entered our resort and killed everyone in in the lobby of the hotel! During our stay, a private party in the golf clubhouse was interrupted by more armed rebels, who robbed and terrified the guests. Other countries on the above list can be just as dangerous. Wandering around alone could be risky for anyone, let alone someone who appears to be elderly or frail.
How to Protect Yourself
There is no way to keep yourself completely safe when you travel. However, there are a number of steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of being a crime victim while you are traveling.
* Before choosing a destination, check out the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories website to make sure there are no extraordinary reasons why you should avoid that country or a particular region within a country.
* Ideally, it is best to travel in a group. Join tour groups which are going to the areas which interest you. The guide will try to avoid the most dangerous neighborhoods and there is usually safety in numbers.
* Dress and behave appropriately for the area you are visiting. For example, when traveling in the Middle East, women should dress conservatively with their shoulders, arms and knees covered, avoid making eye contact with men, and seek out local women when they are lost, need directions or seek other information. Approaching a man can be viewed as flirting. In addition, it is wise to limit the amount of alcohol you consume and avoid drinking in bars with strangers. In fact, this last recommendation is smart almost anywhere you travel, including within the United States.
* Carry your cash, cell phone and important documents, such as your passport, in a money belt close to your body. Do not walk around looking at your phone. It can be easily snatched by someone else. If you carry a purse or bag, choose a cross-body style and only use it for items which are easily replaceable, such as make-up, hair brush, maps, or brochures.
* Do not walk around alone in a strange neighborhood after dark. This is true almost everywhere, but particularly when you are in a foreign country. Take a cab from your hotel or a similar reliable, well-lit location. Do not hail cabs on the street.
* While at your hotel, take advantage of hotel safes, bring along a door stop to make it harder for someone to sneak into your room while you are sleeping or showering, and consider bringing along a battery operated, portable door alarm, which would wake you if someone enters.
* Consider purchasing the "Travel Safety Handbook: Your Guide to Safer, Better Travel" for more ideas on keeping yourself safe on the road.
If you take the precautions above, you are quite likely to be able to travel nearly anywhere and have a great time. You've been waiting your entire life for the opportunity to enjoy unfettered travel. Enjoy it!
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