Over the last several months, I've caught bits of Taken, Hostel II and Brokedown Palace on cable. This naturally got me thinking about personal safety on the road. I'm not saying you need to constantly worry about gangs of abductors, wealthy torturers or unjust imprisonment while traveling. But it’s smart to take necessary, common-sense precautions when journeying around the country or globe.
Read on for tips on how to keep you, your belongings and your money safe during travel. After all, it’d be a shame to spend all that time and research finding the best price for your trip, only to lose your cash and credit cards to a thief.
1. Don't Be Captain Obvious Pants
You're a tourist. You know that, but you don't want everybody else to know that. Don't unfold your giant map on a busy corner. Don't ask strangers on the street for directions. Learn your route ahead of time, and step into a business for directions whenever possible. Avoid flashing your Lonely Planet guidebook around, or publicly referring to your language dictionary when traveling abroad.
2. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Money Closer
A lone traveler equals easy pickings for a seasoned criminal. If you are traveling alone, try to hide that fact. Stick with groups whenever possible and keep information-sharing with chatty cab drivers and the like to a minimum. Pairs or small groups of women may also want to keep their lack of man-escorts hidden. (I hear you. It goes against every feminist bone in my body too. But we're talking about personal safety in an unfamiliar place. Now is not the time for an "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" type attitude.)
Another thing you don't want to advertise: where you keep your money. A fanny pack may be handy, but it screams "I'm not from around here!" Unless where you're from is the early nineties. And the road is not the place for your big fancy designer purse. If you have a purse, keep it close to your body, preferably under an item of clothing like a jacket or sweater so that thieves can't do the old snip-the-purse-straps-and-run trick. Fellas, be sure your wallet is in a securely fastened pocket. Or go all 007 with a hidden money belt. How cool is that?
3. Exercise Caution, Even In Your Hotel Room
Never, ever blindly answer a knock at your door. If the knocker identifies himself as a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm. Always make sure your hotel door completely closes when entering or exiting--sometimes it makes a loud noise but doesn't actually click shut.
Don't leave your valuables lying around when you leave for the day. That hotel safe is there for a reason! I have been guilty of not taking advantage of the hotel safe, figuring that it is only for oil sheiks and international men of mystery. But the safe is for anything you don't want stolen. So don't be afraid to put your netbook, your passport and the earrings your grandmother gave you in there when you step out.
I've only scratched the surface. What are some precautions you take while traveling?
Guest blogger Heather Simmons writes about wine, travel and other leisurely pursuits for the savings.com personal finance blog and shares great deals weekly on the This Week in Deals channel on YouTube.