BEFORE YOU GO
Do research on your destination and the places you’d like to visit while there. Study the culture and learn how to blend in with it. That way, you’re less of a target when in public.
Leave your valuable items home.
Check your government’s travel website (U.S. Department of State: http://www.state.gov/) for any travel alerts in the country you plan to visit.
Register with your government as a citizen traveling abroad.
Make copies of all pertinent documents: passport, visas, birth certificate, debit card, credit cards, driver’s license, other ID cards. Leave a copy at home with a family-member or close friend, and take one copy with you. Keep it separate from the originals.
Let your bank know the dates and locations of your international travel. Banks will sometimes put a hold on credit or debit cards when they see unusual activity, such as spending in a foreign country.
Know how to contact your government’s consulate office during an emergency.
Be sure to put your name and contact information on all checked bags (both inside and out). If your bags don’t arrive with your flight, contact an airline customer service person immediately to let them know that your bags are missing. Give them your hotel contact details and dates so they can deliver your bags to you at the hotel.
Don’t forget to pack any prescription medication you need to take. Be sure to keep it in the original prescription bottle(s).
If traveling internationally, it’s a good idea to get trip insurance when you purchase your flights. It usually covers emergency medical costs and evacuations in addition to trip cancellation. Check your policy for details, so you know exactly what is covered. Keep a copy of the policy with you on your trip.
Invest in a theft-proof day bag, lined with slash-proof steel mesh and a shoulder strap embedded with a steel cable. VaultPro makes some good ones. Here’s an example from Magellan’s:http://www.magellans.com/vaultpro-horizontal-messenger-bag.
Passports and credit cards are now embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that contain sensitive, personal and financial information. Thieves are able to scan these tags and steal your information. RFID wallets and bags provide a protective shield that blocks these scanners and foils would-be information thieves. Magellan’s carries an array of RFID-blocking items: http://www.magellans.com/small-bags-and-wallets/small-bags-and-wallets-rfid-blocking.
Tie a colored ribbon or use a colorful wrap on your luggage handles (http://www.magellans.com/personalized-handle-wrap). This will help you identify your bags when you retrieve them after your flights.
Lock your checked luggage with a TSA-approved lock (http://www.magellans.com/tsa-combo-lock-set-36579). If the TSA has to inspect your bag, they can open it without breaking the lock.
When in public:
Place your purse in front of you and keep the strap across your body. Put your wallet in a front pocket if you don’t carry a purse.
Use an RFID wallet and passport cover. Don’t open your wallet on the street.
When at an ATM, be aware of who is around you and use a machine in a well-populated, well-lit area. Better yet, use the ATM in your hotel.
Don’t drink too much alcohol.
Try not to look like a tourist with cameras, maps, etc. Try to blend in with the locals.
Don’t reveal personal information to strangers, such as your itinerary and where you are staying. Never reveal your room number. And especially don’t tell them you’re traveling alone.
Plan your route before leaving the hotel. Walk with confidence. Look like you know where you’re going and pay attention.
Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t.
Do not go with a street vendor to a private place to see special deals. You may never come back. Tourists inShanghai, for example, are often warned by tour guides not to do this.
If you need to take a cab, be sure it’s legitimate. Get one at an airport or at major hotels or call a cab company to request one. Get the name of the driver who will pick you up. And don’t share your cab with a stranger.
Carry a map, but be discreet when using it.
Carry the address of your hotel with you so you know how to get back to it. It’s especially helpful to be able show the hotel address in the local language to a cab driver who doesn’t speak your language.
Be courteous, but not accommodating to strangers. Being too friendly can get you into trouble.
Don’t carry or wear expensive or flashy items that might call attention to you.
Carry your electronic devices and purse/wallet close to your body.
Hide your passport, money and airline boarding passes on your person.
Join a tour group, so you’re not always on your own.
When using the city transit system, keep a firm grip on your purse and any bags you may be carrying. Be aware of who is around you.
Don’t rely on retrieving important information stored on an electronic device. That device could run out of charge just when you need the information. Keep a written copy of that information on you.
When at your hotel:
Use the security lock on your hotel room door and never open the door to anyone unless you are expecting them.
Be aware of the emergency fire exits closest to your room.
When you return to your room, look around you before unlocking your door to be sure no one is there waiting to push inside with you.
Ask the hotel concierge or front desk attendant if there are any unsafe places to avoid in the area.
Use your debit card in ATMs that are in well-lit, well-populated areas. A machine in a hotel lobby is the best location. If you’re traveling internationally, you get the best monetary exchange rates through ATMs.
Don’t carry too much cash on you at one time. Instead, make frequent visits to the ATM to get cash.
Use cash whenever possible. Otherwise, use your credit card. Most places no longer accept Travelers Checks.