Travelling to a big city can be exciting. They're large, chaotic, and always buzzing. Yet it can also be quite daunting, as big cities are often a hives for would-be thieves and robbers. But simply by taking a few precautions you can make your trip easier. In a recent article for MSN NZ's Travel Bite I shared my 10 top tips for how to travel safely in a big city. Here's what I recommended:
Look the part
No matter whether you're travelling to a big city or a small country town, the number-one rule of travel is: don't dress like a tourist. Wearing shorts, carrying a backpack and slinging a camera around your neck will quickly mark you as a tourist and make you more vulnerable to petty thieves and con-artists. Blend in. Dress like a local and don't wear expensive jewellery.
Lose the valuables
The second golden rule of travel is: don't carry anything you can't bear to lose. Leave your valuables locked up safely in your hotel room and only carry as much money as you need for the day. If you have to take a camera, don't carry it around in a professional looking camera bag. And whatever you do, don't pull out your mobile phone or any other fancy gadgetry in plain view on the street. Slip into a quiet doorway, shop or cafe.
One of the great joys of travel is thrill of discovering new and amazing sites and places. But no matter how awestruck you are by your discoveries, you need to stay tuned in to what's going on around you. Be on the lookout for pickpockets in crowded public places such as squares, markets and parks and watch your valuables when travelling on trains, buses and subways.
Stay on track
When walking around a strange new city, stick to the main trafficked streets and routes. Avoid taking shortcuts through deserted parks and vacant lots or down unlit passages. At night, don't even think of walking home, no matter how close you are to your accommodation. Take a taxi; it's a safer bet.
Only use ATMs during bank hours and use one inside a bank or in a shopping centre rather than on the street. Also, when carrying money on your person, make sure you split it up. Keep some of it in your socks or shoes, some in a wallet or purse and some in a money belt under your clothing with some smaller notes in your outer pockets ready as "mug money" to hand over to thieves. That way, if anything does happen, you'll at least have enough money to get back to the hotel.
Whether you are sitting at a street side cafe, at a bus stop, on a park bench or even inside a restaurant, never leave your handbag next to you, on a chair back or on the table. Always keep your bag on your lap or on the ground with a strap wrapped around your leg. In taxis, the best place to keep your valuables is on the floor between your legs.
When travelling alone (or even with a group) act confident and adopt a no-nonsense attitude. Always look like you know where you're going — even if you don't! Try to avoid looking at maps while you're in the street. Study your route beforehand, or find one of those wallet-sized maps that you can discreetly refer to if necessary.
Watch your back
If you are being followed duck into a nearby shop and wait until the person has passed. If the person continues to linger around outside, don't be afraid to ask the storekeeper for help.
No matter where you are staying, always lock the door to your room, even when you are in it. And never open your door to anyone you're not expecting and don't know. Use the peephole and call reception if you're in doubt.
Carry a personal safety device
Consider carrying a personal safety device or other noisemaker, and sound it loudly if you are accosted or feel threatened. Even a simple whistle may cause just enough of a distraction to give you a chance to escape an unpleasant situation.
What tips do you have for travelling safely in big cities?