Traveling on your own or with friends? Good for you! It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. Intrepid travel Victoria Ugarte shares her essential tips on how to stay safe, avoid crime and have the adventure of a lifetime.

1. Respect local beliefs and customs

Take the time to educate yourself on the local customs prior to your trip, particularly with
regards to dress codes and appropriate behavior in more conservative countries. Observe
what the locals are wearing and mimic them. The way a woman dresses can greatly affect
her safety as it influences how the locals view and treat her. Practice simple courtesies,
whether you are able to speak the language or not. Body language and voice intonation
speak volumes.

2. Be aware of what is going on around you

Pickpockets and thieves often work in teams with decoys, and are experts at diverting
attention while relieving tourists of their valuables. Child pickpockets are particularly
prevalent around tourist sites. When approached by a “friendly” stranger with a seemingly
genuine offer to help, keep a tight hold of your bag, shake your head, and move rapidly on.

Drink moderately when traveling alone and never accept food or beverages from

Crime is significantly higher after dark in the centers of major cities. Ask your
accommodation host or hotel to advise which areas are safe for you to walk through, and
stay away from desolate areas like beaches, nature reserves, parks, dark tunnels and
underpasses. If a public commotion arises, put as much distance between you and the
situation right away. Duck into a busy restaurant or cafe until the coast is clear. Trust your
intuition. If a place doesn’t feel right, avoid it altogether.

3. Stay alert in transit

Airport and bus terminals, train stations and taxi stands are natural hotspots for thieves.
Keep your luggage locked and in front of you at all times. Never accept unsolicited help
with your transport or luggage.

Hail your taxi from an official or major rank at airports and international hotels to avoid
unlicensed taxi drivers. Although more expensive, they are safer and closely monitored.
Never share taxis with people that you do not know. Keep the windows up and the doors
locked at all times when inside the vehicle. You may also want to photograph the license
details of the driver with your cell phone.

4. Be vigilant with your finances

Diversify your funds.Take credit cards as well as cash in separate denominations, and
never keep all your cash and credit cards in the same place. If your room does not have a
safe, then be creative about where to hide your valuables.

Alert your credit card
companies on where you will be traveling to and when prior to any trip. Email credit card
and passport numbers to yourself so that you can access it online in case they are lost or
stolen. Record your credit card company’s phone number for “lost or stolen” cards for the
country that you will be visiting prior to your journey.

When using ATMs, keep withdrawals to a minimum. Avoid ATMs that open onto the
street or poorly lit areas. Instead, use ATMs in controlled areas such as banks and
shopping centers. Use your body to hide your transaction, and keep all receipts as proof of
the transaction. Cancel the transaction and leave should anything feel suspicious.

If you
are threatened with a weapon and asked to hand your money over, do not fight back.

Victoria Ugarte, the Intrepid Traveler, is a leading expert on travel and culturally-correct behavior. She spends three months out
of every year traveling the world, keeping her readers posted on exciting destinations,
latest travel tips, and travel inspiration. Based in Sydney, Victoria is the author of several books including “Culture Savvy for
Women.” Visit Victoria at www.exploremyworldtravel.com.