“Stay safe.” “Watch yourself.” “There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on over there, so be careful!”

You’ve probably heard these things from a well-meaning family member. Maybe you’ve even thought them yourself. Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

When traveling abroad, it’s natural to be a little hesitant – especially if it’s your first time. Of course, the media is there to stoke your fears. If you’ve watched the news lately, you’d think terrorists and cannibal couples are commonplace everywhere outside the U.S.

Remember this: Fear and tragedy sell.

The Truth About Staying Safe While Traveling

We love stories that scare and shock us. News organizations are great at exploiting our morbid curiosity and have taken the old adage “If it bleeds, it leads” to a whole new level.  For them, it means more eyeballs on their programs and money in their pockets.

Don’t get me wrong. These things are happening. These things are important. And these things are scary. Still, the extreme volume of coverage these rare events receive sows an oversized amount of fear relative to the risks. Simply put, most places just aren’t that scary.

With that said, staying safe should be a primary concern whenever you travel; the risks just may not be what you’re anticipating. Here are some reasonable measure to take for staying safe while you travel.

Prepare Before You Go

Before you even walk out the door, you can start preparing for the “what ifs.” First and foremost, leave a photocopy of your passport and medical information at home with a friend or relative. You should also keep a copy of your passport in your suitcase. That way, you’ll have some documentation if your passport is lost or stolen.

Additionally, take a quick look at some maps of the area you’ll be visiting. Although your surroundings will make more sense once you get there, you’ll have a basic idea of how the area is laid out in case of any problems.

Stay Alert

No matter where you are, here is the most important safety tip you need to follow: Stay alert. Be aware of what is happening around you. It seems like such a simple thing, but staying alert can keep you safe from a variety of different issues.

That’s not to say that you need to act like you’re a Secret Service agent every second of your trip. Just keep your head up, look around, and be aware of what’s going on. Thieves and criminals prey on easy targets. Don’t be one of them.

Don’t Flash Your Money

While it’s important to stay on guard for the big things, becoming a victim of petty crime is easily the biggest safety issue while traveling. Having your pocket picked is the most common crime of all, and it happens all over the world.

Handling money overseas is just like handling your money back home. Don’t flash it around, and be especially cautions of pickpockets in crowded areas like trains, buses, and crowded streets. Pickpockets also love prowling around those live street performances, so keep your hand on your wallet while you watch. Also, be sure you’re not flashing money around, and consider carrying your important belongings in your front pocket. With that said, it’s also best to avoid giving to panhandlers.

Personally, I like to keep my money in a flat waistbelt like this one. Holly now carries a travel purse with simple locks on the zippers. These are small measures, but they can save you a whole host of troubles.

Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself

The news wants you to believe the world is a dangerous place. Don't let fear hold you back. These simple travel safety tips can help you stay safe abroad.Just like you shouldn’t be flashing Benjamins around, it’s also smart to tone down your jewelry. Avoid wearing flashy rings, bracelets, watches, etc. This stuff draws unnecessary attention from would-be pickpockets and thieves.

Don’t draw attention to yourself through your actions, either. Stumbling around in a drunken stupor makes you an easy target. Being loud and obnoxious also draws unnecessary attention which could end up insulting the locals and getting you into a fight. Just don’t do it and you’ll be better off.

More Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad

  • Avoid Bad Areas – Like in any big city, avoid going to areas that are known to be unsafe. This is especially true after dark.
  • Travel in Pairs – Criminals tend to target those who are the most vulnerable. Traveling in a group makes you less of a target.
  • Don’t Give Out Personal Information – As always, be careful about giving out personal information, especially when you’re in public.
  • Don’t Invite Strangers Back to Your Place – Duh, right? Seriously, just don’t do it.
  • Learn Some Survival Phrases – Learn a few local phrases and use them accordingly. Locals typically appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language, and it’s always a good thing to be friendly. More importantly, some phrases can help you get out of a jam.
  • If You Do Run Into Trouble… – When in doubt, use common sense. If possible, try to defuse the situation and get away quickly. Should somebody threaten you with a weapon, don’t fight back. Give them what they want and live to tell the story!

People are People

In reality, most of these safety tips are things you should be practicing anywhere. Whether you’re in downtown Chicago or wandering the streets of Rome, using these basic safety tips is always a good idea. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

With that in mind, don’t let fear get the best of you. The world is full of incredible places and wonderful people. As you travel more, you’ll realize that people are people wherever you go. We’re far more similar than we are different, and our little corner of the world certainly doesn’t hold a premium on human decency.

And honestly, isn’t that what travel is really about?

Thanks for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!

Have you traveled internationally? What safety tips did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!