Paranoia probably doesn’t create a pleasant vacation atmosphere, but some alertness makes sense, particularly when traveling in foreign countries. In less economically advantaged countries, one needs to be particularly careful. There are exceptions. We traveled in the wilds of northern Pakistan. Usually, crime was not a problem since the substantial Muslim influence there kept crime low. There were few prisoners in the regional prison when we were there.
In Europe, I have been cheated a few times by cab drivers and tollbooth collectors, and once, we had a cat burglar in our room at 4:00 AM. A group of itinerant women came at me in Milan, but I fended them off by swinging my backpack. In Lima, people chained their handbags and attaché cases to their chairs in restaurants and took off their watches when driving since thieves often reached into cars and took valuables from the arms of drivers and passengers. Here are a few common-sense tips.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or carry Gucci bags, etc.
- Try to blend in, though it is impossible to do so in certain countries.
- Don’t park in isolated spots.
- Don’t rent a high-end car. A friend had her rented Mercedes vandalized in Italy on the Autostrade when she and her husband stopped for a break.
- Lock up or hide at least your valuables. The cat burglar got my wallet, though we were on the fourth floor. He walked along an 18-inch railing and went into 8 or 10 rooms.
- Keep your eyes and ears open, and listen to your intuition. If some place or situation doesn’t feel safe, leave it.
- Keep copies of all your documents in your luggage.
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash. When he was a child in New York, Rob Schannon’s mother gave him mugger money. The muggers got the cash in his pockets, but the real money was in his shoes.
- One advantage of staying at a sizeable hotel is using the concierge service. You can learn where and where not to go.
- Know the customs and legal systems of the country you are visiting. Amanda Knox was naïve when she first went to Italy. She acted with the police as if she were in Seattle. In Dubai, a recent rape victim was sentenced to 18 months in prison after reporting the crime to the police. Only the intervention of government officials in Norway, her home country, and Dubai’s sensitivity to world opinion resulted in the eradication of her sentence.