As I write this, reports of gunshots and explosions from the Resorts World Manila complex in the Philippines (a popular tourist haven of hotels, restaurants, bars and casinos) are flooding in. Sadly, this isn’t even news anymore. We don’t flock to our televisions, hold each other and cry at the news of another act of human brutality like we did only five years ago. No, today these acts of hatred are so commonplace we barely even flinch. We go about our days as if these treacherous acts of violence aren’t happening because we are so used to it we have become desensitized to the horror of it all. It’s almost like some sort of warped exposure therapy. Though, while we remain numb to the emotion of it all, it somehow manages to instill a fear of traveling in many of us. I urge you not to let these horrendous acts of terrorism deter you from traveling. It could happen (and has) just as easily in the U.S. as it can anywhere else in the world. While tourist hotspots are of a higher risk to terrorism, you are more likely to be hit by a bus on your morning jog. So, go. Travel.
Aside from keeping a diligent eye and being wary of your surroundings and anything unusual, there is not much you can do from stopping a large-scale terrorist attack. What I can help you with is to make you less of a target for individual muggings and pickpocketing. As I said before, even these minor muggings can happen to you in your home country. Although, I do tend to feel safer in my town, maybe because I constantly have a .38 special strapped to my hip or maybe because I have grown accustom to the ins and outs of U.S. living. Regardless, this is what I have learned throughout my travels…
You’re a tourist. It’s often hard to mask that from the constant picture taking to your horrible accent to the dazed and confused look that has permanently set up shop on your face. While you may look like a bumbling idiot, you do not have to act like one.
- Get a passport pouch. These are small pouches that go around your neck and will hold your passport, cards and money. They can then be hidden under your shirt. Have you heard of the saying “Out of sight, out of mind?” Exactly. If they can’t see it, they won’t take it.
- If a passport pouch isn’t your style and you insist on using a purse then buy a slash proof, RFID blocking purse. RFID chips are used in your credit cards and passports and can be read using electromagnetic waves. Criminals with the right devices can now simply stand next to you and steal all of your information. RFID blockers interrupt the electromagnetic fields and prevent communication between your chips and RFID scanners. The slash proof part is for, well you guessed it, preventing someone from slashing your purse straps off you. Trust me, this happens, I’ve seen it.
- DO NOT wear a purse across your body. If someone comes up to grab your purse and the strap is around your body…guess what? You are going with them. I have been caught in the middle of this exact situation and trust me, it is not ideal. This is particularly dangerous if it is someone on a motorbike driving by and trying to snatch your purse, they will drag you down the street.
- Always keep a hand on the zipper of your purse or if you are a guy with a wallet in your pocket, keep a hand on it. This will make it less likely for someone to go for it or at the very least you will feel it and can fight them off.
- Guys, never keep your wallet in your back pocket. This makes you an extremely easy target.
- Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. I have seen men, women, the elderly and children of all genders and races steal. It’s actually an art, they are amazing and crafty at it. I’ve seen various kinds of schemes and even been with people who have had watches stolen right off their wrists and not even known it. Many pickpockets have different ploys where they seem weak and vulnerable and you think you are helping them until 3 minutes later you reach into your pocket and low and behold you are out $500. BE WARY OF EVERYONE. That’s hard for me to say but if you want your trip to go smoothly it’s a good motto to follow.
- While most pickpocketing happens and you don’t even know until the thief is long gone, there are occasions when you catch them in the act or it instantaneously turns violent. I have been in both situations and the absolute best thing you can do is cause a scene and fight back. DO NOT just let it happen. Immediately start screaming, hit, kick and scratch. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Often times if you cause a scene, bystanders will rush to your aid as well.
- If the person happens just to pull a grab and run. Chase that bastard down!! These ones are the cowards and will likely get scared and drop what they stole OR you will catch them and then well…I guess that’s Fight Club rule number 1 and 2…you don’t talk about it. I have literally jumped on a grown man from behind…not my proudest moment but I got my friend’s and 2 other peoples’ wallets back that he stole from a café sooo.
- Depending on the country you are in, when it comes to theft, the police won’t help you so don’t waste your time (Asia, Central and South America and Africa…this does not stand true for ALL of the countries in these places).
- While you can’t bring a gun to other countries, I always make sure to bring a knife. Try to bring something that you can use to protect yourself with if need be.
This article was not meant to deter you from traveling but to help ensure your safety while doing it. I have been to over 20 different countries, mainly by myself and have managed to stay relatively safe. I have never been pickpocketed or mugged because I have followed these rules. I have been in the middle of many muggings and pickpocketing’s because the people I have been with have NOT followed these rules! Travel smart and you will be fine!
Please contact me with any questions and as always, stay fickle in flight!