There's no doubt about it⁠—travel is an eye-opening and exciting experience. It's easy to get caught up in the thrill of being in a brand new place. The world is, for the most part, a safe place for tourists. That said, don't let your safety be an afterthought. Preparing for the unexpected by doing everything you can to prevent worst-case scenarios minimizes the chance you'll encounter risky situations in unfamiliar places. A little extra precaution will ensure that your next trip will be a memorable one⁠—for all the right reasons!

01Safety in numbers

group of happy laughing teenage friends taking selfie outdoors

The more people you have around you, the less likely you'll be targeted by predators. Not only will you have more eyes on your valuables, but you'll have more people to help you chase after a thief⁠—if it comes to that. A group is much more intimidating to opportunists than someone on their own.

If you're traveling solo, it's always a good idea to make some new friends to explore with. Backpacker hostels are great for this. However, don't put your trust in the people you meet too quickly. Unfortunately, some scammers specifically target backpackers looking for a friend. It also goes without saying that you should never leave your valuables with someone you just met either, no matter how nice they seem.

02Dress for the part

Woman in Bedouin clothes riding a camel in the Sahara desert

Dressing to fit in with the locals is more than just about style⁠—it's about safety too. When you look like you're "not from around here," you stick out like a sore thumb to thieves, scammers and worse. The less touristy you look, the less attention you'll draw from the wrong kind of people.

In conservative countries, it's even more important to follow the local dress codes. Some places have clothing laws that are strictly enforced by the authorities. It's always best to look into dress code guidelines for whatever country you'll be visiting well ahead of your journey.

03Let your body do the talking

Tourist man try navigate himself with map and smartphone in unknown city

Make sure your body language projects confidence at all times. The majority of communication is non-verbal. When your body communicates that you're confident, potential attackers will sense it, and most will move on to an easier target. Keep your head up and walk with purpose. Look potential threats "in the eye"⁠—just don't have a full-blown staring contest. Avoid looking nervous, worried, scared, or lost⁠—even if that's exactly how you feel in the moment.

04Watch what you eat and drink

Street food in china town. Bangkok, Thailand

It's a mistake to avoid sampling the local cuisine when traveling. You could be missing out on what could be one of the highlights of your adventure. Nevertheless, don't let "travelers' tummy" put you out of commission.

  • If possible, watch how your food is being prepared
  • Eat at places that seem popular, with long lines
  • It's always safest to eat thoroughly cooked food
  • Only eat fruit with peels to avoid bacteria
  • If you have food allergies or intolerances, bring translation cards
  • Only drink bottled water when you're outside of modern cities⁠—or better yet, buy a filtered water bottle
  • 05Stay reasonably sober

    woman peeking over a fresh draft beer as her drink toned with a vintage retro style instagram filter

    It is almost always inexcusably dangerous to get too drunk or high when traveling.

    Keep your wits about you. When you're wasted, you're not all there, and anything could be happening around you⁠—or to you. Not only do you make yourself an easy target, but you could also get in trouble with local authorities who might be a lot less forgiving than back home.

    That's not to say you can't enjoy yourself. Just be responsible, and keep close tabs on how much⁠—and exactly what⁠—you're consuming.

    06Hide emergency cash

    Woman getting cash and passport from hidden travel money belt

    While it's always a good idea to have easy access to an emergency stash of money, it's never a good idea to have it easily accessible to thieves. Good hiding places for your cash include:

    • Behind a patch inside your backpack
    • Rolled up into an empty container
    • Inside a hidden compartment
    • In a secret pocket sewn inside your jacket or pants
    • 07Write down emergency details

      young caucasian woman in dress and backpack standing inside train station terminal looking at electronic scoreboard holding phone, map paper hand navigation

      In an emergency, you'll want important information immediately within reach. Jot down emergency contacts, including local police and ambulance services. Save it in your phone, and write it out on a piece of paper⁠—and laminate it⁠—as a backup.

      You should also email your full itinerary to family and friends ahead of time, and check in every so often.

      08Watch your valuables

      Hand that stealing money from the back pocket of the trousers.

      The aim of the game is to minimize easy opportunities for theft.

      • Stop putting important items in your back pockets. This is prime pickpocket territory. Use a money belt for extra peace of mind in places where pickpockets are rife.
      • Ask your accommodation if there are any safety lockers or storage areas, and bring your own padlock.
      • Unless they're splash-proof, travel backpacks aren't especially secure. Use your backpack as a pillow if possible, and keep an eye on it at all times.
      • Stay tethered to your belongings to stave off "grab and run" opportunities.
      • 09Ask a local

        Tuk-tuk driver on road of Sri Lanka, view from ca

        Local residents can be amazing resources, both for recommendations and for staying safe. Most of the time, the people you meet on your travels will be friendly and will let you know which areas are okay, and which to give a wide berth to.

        That said, if a stranger offers up unsolicited advice, always get a second opinion just to stay on the safe side. Trust but verify. Don't share too much with people you've just met, either, even if they seem friendly⁠—that includes street vendors and shop owners. Never reveal your accommodations or your travel itinerary, or that it's your first time in the area. A little white lie here and there can keep you safe from opportunists.

        Taxi drivers are a mixed bag⁠—some offer up invaluable knowledge of the area, while some won't think twice about steering you in the wrong direction.

        10Stock a first aid kit

        Woman with first aid kit on gray background,

        No matter how careful you are, injuries happen. You never know when a first aid kit packed with a few basics on hand can help you⁠—or the people around you.

        • Bandages for cuts, sprains, and burns
        • Antihistamines
        • Small scissors
        • Pain reliever, such as ibuprofen
        • Antacid for stomach issues
        • Petroleum jelly to help prevent blisters
        • Rehydration salts
        • Sunscreen
        • Emergency space blanket
        • 11Women vs. men

          Caucasian pedestrian woman walking the street at night

          Most travel safety tips are universal. However, there are several that are especially relevant to women, and some that are more pertinent to men.

          Women:

          • All over the world, women are much more likely than men to be victims of violence⁠—even in first world countries. It's depressing, but it's a reality. For that reason, women are safer venturing out in groups than alone, especially after dark.
          • Many women enjoy the extra security of traveling with a safety whistle, or a rubber doorstop to secure the door of their room.
          • Men:

            • Men are more likely to be goaded into dangerous situations related to their egos⁠—like getting provoked into an unnecessary physical fight or hoodwinked by a beautiful woman.
            • 12Trust your instincts

              European girl from the back at Budapest Parliament in Hungarian capital.

              If something feels "off" about a person, place or situation, and you're not sure why don't dismiss it as paranoia. Our bodies see and hear things that fall below our radars of consciousness. This built-in danger detection system has kept us humans alive as a species for millions of years. Don't ignore your gut!