When traveling, especially you are going to want to see, hear and taste as much as you can. But, there is one thing that you may not realize can ruin your trip, getting mugged of your money and belongings. Muggers spend a lot of time looking for the right person to turn into prey and rob. This is even more prevalent when you are traveling internationally, where you stick out from the local population. So, what can you do to avoid becoming their next target?
- Don’t look like a victim– While this may seem obvious, it’s one of the easiest ways to keep from becoming a victim. One of the most popular ways that muggers identify a target, is looking at the way people walk. Are they walking with their nose buried in a guide book? Or are they staring at everything around them, ignoring the people who are walking nearby? Or, do they look scared, holding their wallet or purse while staring at people walking by? Yes, you want to be able to enjoy all the sights, sounds and tastes during your trip. You also want to be comfortable with your surroundings and are paying attention. This will help prevent your valuables from walking off without you noticing.
- Maintain Situational Awareness– Keeping an eye on your surroundings helps prevent you from looking like and becoming a victim. If you talk to almost any police officer they will tell you one of the best ways to keep from becoming a target, is to keep your head on a swivel. Look where you are walking, make sure you aren’t cutting down a dark alley, or a street with limited traffic. Look at the people that are around you, and if you notice that the same person seems to be around you, make eye contact with them. Nothing tells someone sizing you up that you are not going to be their next mark like staring them right in the eye. This tells the criminal, that if they do try to mug you, that you’re going to remember them, and be able to describe them to the police. That’s too much heat and they will move on to find a softer, easier target.
- Stay with the crowds– While you may want to find that hidden gem of a restaurant you read about, it’s important that you don’t get too far off the beaten path. There is safety in numbers, as the more people who may witness the crime, the less likely the criminal is to commit it. Criminals are like predators, they watch the herd and look for the ones that are separate from the crowd. Once you are alone, you lose the protection provided by the herd and become easy pickings.
- Know where to walk– There is no better way to experience somewhere new than walking around and just soaking up all the culture around you. But just because you are in the middle of a crowd doesn’t always mean that you are safe. Every city has places that are more dangerous than others and it’s important to know where these places are before you venture out into the streets. Taking the time to research what places are and are not safe to travel, and planning your route will go a long way to keeping you safe.
- Do NOT use public ATMs– Criminals look at public ATMs at piggy banks where they can roll up and take your hard earned cash before you can stick it in your pocket. Worse, many public ATMs may be privately owned, charging ridiculous fees and maybe even using or selling your data. Instead, when you find yourself running low on cash, it’s best to find a bank, where you can go inside and make a withdrawal. But, what if you’re traveling internationally, but your bank doesn’t have any international locations where you can safely withdraw cash? Before leaving for your trip contact your bank and they can provide you with a list of foreign banks that they have agreements with. While you may be charged a fee, these banks will allow you to securely withdraw your money, and get it in your wallet, without anyone being able to see how much money you got.
While taking these steps can help prevent you from becoming a victim, sometimes criminals just don’t want to take no for an answer. How do you protect yourself in a situation like this?
- Don’t carry valuable– One popular method muggers use is to try to get your hard earned money or items without you even knowing. They may try to pickpocket you while you’re distracted, or bump into you in a crowded area. By limiting the amount of valuables that you carry, you’ll limit the amount of damage they are able to do if they are successful in their attempt.
- Anti-Theft Devices– If you want to further limit the risk of losing items, you can invest in anti-theft devices. There are several devices that will go a long way to protecting you from anyone with sticky fingers or a blade they want to use to separate you from your backpack. One of the most common methods to keep the valuables you need to carry, cash, credit cards, passport, etc, is the money belt. There are many different styles, but by and large a money bag is worn under your clothes, making it harder to gain access to your goods. It’s important to do some research to find the right money belt for you, one that will be comfortable to wear and is the right size for your needs. Another option for keeping your stuff safe is an anti-theft backpack (or daypack). Again, there are many different versions, but many offer hidden or locked zippers that make it hard to gain access to. Another great feature is that they are usually cut resistant, preventing someone from using a knife to cut the straps and walk away with your bag, or slashing the bottom to empty it out.
- Take a self defense class– While rare, it is good to always be prepared for a dangerous situation. A criminal may come directly at you, assaulting you in the process of mugging you. Before heading out for your trip, you may want to look into a self defense class that will prepare you to not only defend yourself or fight back in a situation like this. It’s important to note, again, criminals are looking for weak targets. Often, should you find yourself in a dangerous situation, just carrying yourself in a way that says you are going to defend yourself can show criminals that you are just not worth the risk.
- If legal, carry mace– Mace is the great equalizer when it comes to situations like this. Made from a cocktail of chemicals and hot peppers mace is designed to deliver a painful, yet temporary, deterrent to anyone who is looking to do you harm. Mace is very powerful, easy to carry and very easy to deploy. Before slipping that mace into your bag there are a few things to verify. First, make sure that it is legal to carry, some places have restrictions on if you can carry mace or how powerful it can be. It’s important to make sure that you aren’t accidentally breaking the law trying to protect yourself. Also, you need to understand how mace works, it blows a mist into the air. This means that if you deploy mace in defense of yourself, there is a good chance that you will feel some of the effects. Make sure you don’t have any allergies to any ingredients in the mace and be prepared should you need to deploy it.
While the danger of getting mugged is real, you should never let it get in the way of your next adventure. Being aware of the danger, and taking some of these common sense steps to prevent it can go a long way to keeping you safe while you get out there and explore.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catalin Geangos is the travel blogger behind TravelTrained.com