We just got back from our Belgium & Amsterdam trip and I cannot wait to share all of those experiences with you guys. Figured this post is perfectly timed!
This could be a really short post where I just tell you to be smart and use common sense but it doesn’t always work out that way and traveling can put you in foreign situations that make you forget or second guess your common sense.
In short, you can get swindled or robbed anywhere but people tend to get frazzled while in a new environment. These tips can work anywhere at anytime but they won’t necessarily protect you everywhere nor all the time.
Choose your bag carefully
As a lady I bring a purse with me virtually everywhere I go and I make sure to pack a “smart” bag while out for the day. I have a ginormous bag for the airport (gotta stuff EVERYTHING inside) but I would never take it out on the streets. My travel purse instead is small, lightweight, and water-resistant. I prefer cross body bags because I can keep them close to me, even put them under my coat if it feels unsafe, and switch from shoulder to shoulder when I get sore.
Make sure to keep the bag in front of you or on the side with a hand draped over it, never behind you! I have similar purses in a few different colors (grey, brown, and black) depending on my color scheme on that trip.
If you are using a backpack
First off I don’t suggest it unless you absolutely must bring a ton of stuff (like you have small children or have medical or dietary needs that requires it). If you wear one, keep it to the front or, if you insist on wearing it in your back, make sure nothing of value is in easy reach. Do a simple role-playing at home to double-check. On the other hand, backpacks are great if your going to be out all day in a more rural environment.
If you don’t have a purse or backpack
My husband usually doesn’t carry any sort of bag/backpack if we are in the city so he pares down his stuff to the essentials (money, ID, phone). He also doesn’t carry his whole wallet, who needs all those loyalty cards while traveling anyways! Don’t keep anything in your back pocket, trust me you won’t feel it in a large crowd and it is super easy to pickpocket.
Asking a stranger to take your photo
We all love the selfie but sometimes it’s nice to actually get the background in your photo without your giant head in the way. 🙂 If you’re traveling alone or with a partner asking a stranger to take your photo is kind of inevitable. Here’s what I’ve done to avoid trouble:
- Usually I ask someone who I think I can outrun to take my photo. This sounds silly but I can totally chase a 60-year old man down the street but a fit teenager, no way!
- Offer to take their photo if they take yours. No better way to ensure mutual reliance than asking someone in the same situation as you.
- Don’t give a stranger your expensive DSLR camera because a) they may not be able to work it so your photo won’t come out and b) an iPhone is way cheaper to replace.
While on the topic of fancy cameras, during our last trip Will made the comment that he didn’t like that his camera strap literally displayed the type of camera he had for all the world to read. It made him uncomfortable and he felt more like a target. So this past Christmas we got a leather camera strap from my godmother and used it for the first time on our Benelux trip. Funny enough we had this super sketch guy come up to us and ask us how much the camera cost because “he wanted to buy one.” I wouldn’t have bought that story anyways but the ambiguity of his new strap made us feel much better.
Don’t give money on the street
I know it pulls at our heartstrings to see people begging, especially children, but in all honesty I just don’t. While sometimes their plight it very real a) you have no idea where that money is going and b) you don’t know who is watching you as you dig for money to see where you keep your wallet.
I hold the mantra that philanthropy is better than charity and I try to give to organizations that help the poor and homeless or buy someone a meal. You don’t have to be heartless, just be smart.
If something does happen…
No matter how smart of a traveler you are, things are bound to happen. I personally have never been robbed or lost anything while traveling but here are somethings to keep in mind:
- Aways keep some money and backup cards at your lodgings in case something does get stolen while out and about.
- Make a print and electronic copy of your passport; my friend’s passport got stolen once and trust me, it’s much easier proving you are who you say you are if you have a copy.
- Don’t travel around with your original passport; I’ve never needed to show it but you need an ID a copy or drivers license usually works. However, always double-check if your day has anything where you would need it.
- Always know where the embassy is, if something major does happen (terrorist threat or losing your passport) they are usually able to help.