When I mentioned an upcoming trip to Chicago to friends and family, they were worried.
After all, recent headlines state that Chicago has the highest murder rate in the US. I then spent the next half hour explaining the interesting things to do in Chicago, why that stat is misleading, ‘worse’ places I’ve travelled (and survived) and all the safety tips and tricks I’ve learnt along the way. After friends comment that she hadn’t heard many of them before, I thought I would share them with you.
1. Research the rough areas of town and steer clear.
Almost every city has its rough areas, and a quick Google search will show you where they are.
2. Be conscious of both your surroundings and daylight hours
Safe neighbourhoods can become unsafe at night. As sunset approaches, ensure you are in well-lit and heavily trafficked areas.
3. Know the scams
For example- getting your handbag bag snatched by people on mopeds is common in Thailand. If they pull you with it can quickly become very dangerous. To prevent this, have your bag across your body, but resting on your hip that is furthest from the road. They wont be able to reach it.
4. Don’t be an idiot
If you wouldn’t do it at home, should you really do it abroad? This tip covers everything from driving with a drunk tuk-tuk driver, to learning how to drive a motorcycle on day one of a road trip (particularly relevant in countries with substandard medical care).
5. Trust your gut
Until you get food poisoning- then definitely don’t!
Jokes aside, follow your gut instincts. If something seems off- get out of there! Creeps aren’t confined to your home country.
6. Get travel insurance
Whether its food poisoning, a Thai tattoo (road rash), or a broken arm- having good travel insurance is essential. This goes for ‘developed’ nations too where you may have to pay for exorbitant medical care, or have to change your travel plans last minute.
7. Have check in policies
If you’re hiking, arrange check-ins with the appropriate tourist authority or your accommodation. For general travel, checking in with a family member at agreed intervals is common sense.
8. Don’t show off money or valuables
Again, apply common sense. Especially true in places where you are displaying valuables worth much more than the average salary.
9. If alcohol is too cheap- don’t buy it
A pro-tip I learnt from a tour guide. Have a look around for the average price and do go much below that- it’s a sign that they are either watering down your drink, or it isn’t really spirits in the bottle. There have been instances of tourists being served methylated spirits- which is toxic.
10. Eat the street food- just be smart about it
The busier a place is, the fresher the food. A business that caters to locals will go out of business quickly if their food is unsafe, whereas businesses that rely on tourists passing through don’t have to worry about word of mouth. Additionally, they may also serve western dishes using ingredients that are harder to source fresh locally. That said, the usual comments about ice, tap water, and fresh veges apply.
Hopefully these tips help with your future travels! Stay safe!