Basic Safety Advice for International Travel

December 20, 2018 Kristance Harlow
vertical, plane, travel, city, night, dark

Traveling abroad is becoming more and more common. Our globalized world lets us reach across borders and make important connections with people all over the planet. While the world may seem like it is shrinking, it is as diverse as ever. It’s important to realize that when you travel, you are not at home. It’s awesome to be someplace entirely different than your own backyard. It’s also important to be a bit more present than you might be back home.

Being present means enjoying the moment and fully appreciating and enjoying this experience. Being present also means being aware of your surroundings. Being present means staying grounded, content, and safe. Being present is what allows us to explore new and unfamiliar locations. That doesn’t mean you should lock yourself in your hotel room and miss out on the opportunity to enjoy your travel experience.

I live with episodes of not being present, at all. I experience dissociation, depersonalization, and flashbacks. My awareness of this aspect of my life is what helps me manage international travel and living. It is imperative to be conscious of our own limitations because it is through that awareness that we can overcome them and guide how they impact our lives. That’s why I wrote up these these simple but effective safety rules to make yourself a little more secure when on the streets in a new city. Add it to your pre-trip prep.

Handbag and Backpack

A handbag that is casually hung over one shoulder is enticing fodder for pickpockets. Instead opt for a cross body bag, put the bag in front of you and use one hand to hold onto it. Make sure all the pockets are zipped and holding onto a bag by hand and having it secured across your body can be more trouble than it’s worth for potential thieves.

If you opt for a backpack, be aware of it in congested areas. The jostling of people will jostle your bag and you can’t see what’s going on with it. In busy areas, move the bag to the front of your body. It’s not ridiculous to do that, even if you feel awkward doing it. If you’re in a place like Buenos Aires, you’ll see even the locals know to move their backpacks from their back when in a busy place.

What to Carry On You

Make sure that you don’t carry everything on you, and particularly don’t carry everything in one bag. If your handbag gets snatched, you’ll lose everything. The hassle of replacing important documents and making claims on stolen electronics (if you even have that kind of insurance on them) is always difficult, but it is doubly hard when you aren’t at home. Make sure either you or someone you trust has copies of important documents like your credit cards and identification.


When I walk around in a foreign city, I often put my phone in a different place than the rest of my things, tucked under my bra or zipped in a money belt. Even if you have an international data plan and a killer smart phone, relying solely on your phone for directions and information is a mistake. Print out some information, carrying your phone in your hand makes it more likely it could be snatched. Plus, what would happen if your service was shoddy or your battery died and you didn’t have a place to charge it?


Depending on how much cash you are carrying, consider keeping it divided. Put some in an easy accessible place so you can pull it out to buy a bottle of water or to pay for a taxi. Keep larger bills separate, either in a money belt or in your purse if you feel secure enough with that. It’s not just about thieves, in a new place you can be looking around in awe at the beautiful surroundings and become forgetful or clumsy. Losing five dollars versus fifty is a big difference.


Do your research before traveling. Know the common problems other travelers have come up against. Read the warnings and take in any advice you can find. Can you hail licensed taxis on the street? In New York City you can, but in Dublin you can’t. Can you pay for a bus with coins? In Edinburgh you can, but in Buenos Aires you can’t.The same goes for the neighborhoods, some places are great by day like Calle Florida in Buenos Aires, but at night those can be the places you need to avoid. Find out what the common crimes are where you are going, so you can make educated decisions. But don’t go down the rabbit hole and freak yourself out! There is crime everywhere, and sometimes there is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid becoming a victim, but if we’re lucky we can protect ourselves against becoming a victim of a crime of opportunity.

1 Comment

  1. Alle C. Hall on December 21, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    I am leaving for a solo trip to Thailand and Cambodia and I found this information very helpful.

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