Recently, the most common question I am being asked about my travels is whether or not the country I visited is safe. I get this question mainly for the destinations outside of Europe but even for the big European capitals like Paris, Athens etc.
For the most part, the world is a pretty safe place to travel, excluding of course the countries which are at war or suffer from political instability. For the rest, it is wise to be well prepared to avoid unpleasant surprises as much as possible.
1. Research, research, research!
It’s the most important step to take at the very early stages of your trip planning. Learn about your destination before you visit it. Nowadays there are unlimited reliable sources such as travel books, blogs, online travel magazines, vlogs. You can even connect with people who live or have recently travelled at your desired destination and get their point of view.
2. Take health and vaccination advice
when traveling outside of Europe. Chances are that you might need to update some of your vaccinations or take some preventive medicine if you are travelling to another continent and you are planning to visit rural areas, forests, rivers etc.
3. Try to keep a low profile
In other words not show off your fancy equipment. Whatever that might be, when you are in an unknown country/area there is no need for your expensive camera, smartphone, drone or any other gadget to be in plain sight. Use them sensibly and try not to let yourself get carried away by the beauty of the unknown. I had my phone stolen out of my hands while I was walking and texting. I was completely absorbed and not paying any attention at all to what was going on around me (btw this happened in North Europe).
4. Be conscious of your clothing
It is advisable for both women and men to respect the local culture and adjust your outfits, especially when travelling to countries with different religious beliefs. In some countries it’s considered disrespectful to bare too much flesh and even if it’s not forbidden by the law you might attract unwanted attention.
5. Do not wander in unfamiliar neighbourhoods in urban areas.
Truth to be told, wandering in a new city and getting lost in its streets is the best way to explore it. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings, not all districts are walkable and safe, let alone when you don’t blend in. This tip applies to big European cities as well, like Athens, Paris and London. Some neighbourhoods are less secure so avoiding them would keep you out of trouble.
6. For the nature and adventure lovers
Be careful if you decide to go free camping or hiking on your own. As exciting as it may sound, in some countries it might not be so safe and perhaps preferable to go with a group.
7. Learn the local travel scams
No matter how experienced traveler you are, occasionally there will be scammers who will try to take advantage of tourists. The tricky part is that these scams may vary even from city to city. The good news is that fellow travellers nowadays share all about their experiences so you can know what to expect in each destination. One of the most common scams globally has to do with taxis and since recently I had a bad experience, my advice is to always negotiate the price in advance, otherwise make sure the meter is on from the beginning.
A great way to avoid scams like the above is by using official taxi companies where possible. They also might vary from country to country but it’s quite easy to track them and for sure they are safer and more straightforward with money transitions.
9. Public transport
Using the public transportation system can be a great way for a traveler to save money and experience the place like a local, but it also presents some risk. Make sure you check in advance if it’s safe to use (maybe in some areas it gets less safe during the night) , stay alert all the times and keep close control of your personal items, especially when it gets crowded.
10. Be mindful when talking with locals
Small talk is always exciting and one of the best ways to understand the culture of a foreign country but some conversation topics might be more sensitive than you had imagined. Every region has its subtle taboos and unspoken code, therefore be respectful and thoughtful when talking about religion, politics, or money.
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