I’m fresh off my whirlwind birthday trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil and though a bit jet lagged, I’m still buzzing from the beauty and excitement that filled this past week. My Russian and I spent our days exploring the city, partaking in Olympic festivities, wining, dining and dancing throughout Rio. Leading up to my trip, I heard and read several troubling articles about the conditions in Brazil. Everyone I talked to advised me not to go.
I admittedly had never felt so apprehensive about traveling somewhere as I did before this trip. But from the moment I touched down, my experience was nothing like the horrible conditions those reports described. There was ample security, the Olympic venues were grand and beautiful, we were not mugged or pick-pocketed, I didn’t see ANY mosquitoes and Copacabana was one of the most beautiful beaches with the cleanest water I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
Perhaps we just got lucky, but I’d like to think it has more to do with the fact that the world isn’t as scary and awful as the media would have us believe. In all my travels, I’ve found that the majority of people are good and kind and the beauty in this world far outweighs its ugliness.
While there are plenty of troubles across the globe, none (with a few exceptions) are bad enough to deter me from traveling. Had I given into the fear and horror stories I read about prior to my trip, I would have missed out on the experience of a lifetime. While I’m not advocating recklessly venturing to legitimately dangerous regions, I do think some warnings should be heeded with a grain of salt. That being said, there are some things you can do to stay safe while traveling. Below are some tips I put into practice while exploring beautiful Brazil.
1. Stay aware of your surroundings. This sounds obvious, but when you’re out and about it’s easy to get distracted and lost in the moment. Do your best to keep your eyes open and remain present. It only takes a few seconds for someone to take advantage of your momentary lapse of awareness.
2. Listen to the locals. If a local offers advice about places to avoid or suggestions for staying safe LISTEN! Even if you’ve think it sounds silly, they probably know best.
3. Hide your cash. Rather than keeping money in your bag, place it in your bra, shoe or a money pouch that can be hidden under your clothes. It’s much harder to snatch cash from there than from a bag.
4. Don’t walk if you’re inebriated. After a night out on the town (or a crazy day party for that matter), your guard is down leaving you more vulnerable. Resist the urge to take a late night stroll and instead take a taxi back to your room.
5. Avoid dark, secluded streets. If you do go out at night, make an effort to remain on main roads that are well lit and more heavily populated.
6. Hide your valuables in unique places in your room. If your room has a safe, great, but some don’t. Try to find a unique hiding place such as air ducts or under heavy furniture. It may seem silly, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious.
7. Stay aware of your belongings especially in large crowds. It’s best to avoid taking any valuables out with you such as phones and cameras, but that’s obviously not realistic as picture taking is a must! Cross body bags are a good option because you can keep them in front of you at all times when you’re out and about.
8. Spot each other when taking photos. If you’re traveling with someone, avoid taking photos at the same time. Instead, take them one at a time so that the other person can keep a look out. If you’re traveling solo, take a moment to evaluate your surroundings before snapping away.
9. Don’t fall for street games and scams. As much as you try to blend in, it’s pretty easy to spot a tourist in a crowd. Unfortunately, there are people who make a living by preying on unsuspecting travelers. If you’re ever approached to play a street game or a stranger throws something on you do your best to keep a hold of your belongings and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Their goal is to get you distracted so they can easily snatch your belongings.
10. Keep your bag locked during the day. If you rent a room or apartment while traveling, it’s not a bad idea to keep your bag locked while you’re out. Although room and apartment rentals are relatively safe, you don’t know who might have access to the space. Even if you’re staying in a hotel, it doesn’t hurt to implement a little extra precaution by making sure your valuables are locked inside your bags while you’re out sightseeing.
11. Don’t walk around with your camera around your neck. It may be inconvenient, but keeping your camera around your neck while you’re out sightseeing instantly makes you a target. It’s best to keep your camera and phone secured in your bag when they’re not in use.
12. Leave your best clothes and accessories at home. This can be tough especially for lady travelers. We need those perfectly styled travel photos right?! When venturing to exotic destinations you want to look your best, which means packing multiple outfits along with essential accessories. But as tempting as it is to pack your whole closet, it’s wise to leave your best pieces behind. The only time I will make an exception when I’m going somewhere where chances of something happening are reduced like an all-inclusive resort or a cruise.
13. Don’t take anything you absolutely cannot lose. While the idea of having my brand new leather camera bag snatched from me wasn’t something I liked thinking about, I knew that if it had happened, I could have purchased a new bag. But there are some items that would be impossible to replace. Anything that holds sentimental value or is simply irreplaceable should stay safe and secure back at home.
I’m not advocating walking around in fear of everyone and everything you encounter. The world is mostly beautiful and kind, but the reality is bad things can and do happen. If you implement a few basic safety measures and keep your wits about you, you can get back to the business of enjoying your amazing adventures abroad. Stay safe and happy wending!
How do you stay safe while traveling? Has anyone ever warned you against visiting a destination? Share your comments below!