Before You Go
What to take
Take the minimum amount of valuables necessary for your trip. If you are forced to carry them, ensure they are not all in the same place. It might be worth considering a second purse or wallet with a small amount of cash in that you can hand over if mugged. Travellers cheques are safer than cash.
Avoid handbags and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves. Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. To avoid problems when passing through customs with medicines, keep them in their original, labelled containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If a medication is unusual, or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor confirming your need to take the drug.
Pack extra passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport, if stolen, it will make it easier to get a replacement. Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside each piece of luggage. If labelling on the outside, use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality. If possible, lock your luggage.
Consider getting a telephone calling card. It is a convenient way of keeping in touch. If you have one, verify that you can use it from your overseas location(s). Check you have the right international dialling codes before you go.
What to leave behind
Make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driving license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you. Leave one photocopy with family or friends at home. Do the same with the serial numbers of your travellers cheques.
Ensure you empty your wallet or purse of items you may routinely carry but won’t need while travelling. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
Local laws and customs
When you leave the UK, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of where you plan to visit. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist offices of the countries you will visit. Check out the world guides on the lucie blackman website. In addition, keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in those countries.
Things to arrange before you go
Ensure you inform you credit card company that you are going abroad and what countries you intend to visit. If you do not they may block the use of your card as a safety precaution. Make a note of the credit limit on each credit card that you bring. Make certain not to go over that amount on your trip. Ask your credit card company how to report the loss of your card from abroad. Ensure you know the pin number on your cards to use them in foreign cashpoint machines.
Find out if your personal property insurance provided by the tour operator covers you for loss or theft abroad for all of your valuables. More importantly, check whether your health insurance covers you abroad. Even if your health insurance will reimburse you for medical care that you pay for abroad, normal health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation from a remote area or from a country where medical facilities are inadequate. Consider purchasing one of the short-term health and emergency assistance policies designed for travellers. It may be worth checking what your insurance actually covers.
Safety Precautions Whilst in Resort
Safety on the street
Use the same common sense that you would at home. Depending on where you are, be especially cautious, or avoid areas where you could be a victim. These could include crowded subways, railway stations, lifts, tourist sites and market places. Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
Try not to travel alone at night. Don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets. Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice, sometimes children, who will jostle or distract you by asking for directions or the time. Even a mother with baby, and groups of vagrant children can be guilty of picking your pocket.
Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by bag snatchers. Try to seem purposeful when you move. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority.
Learn a few phrases in the local language so you can signal your need for help, the police, or a doctor. Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest British embassy or consulate.
If you are confronted, don’t fight back. Give up your valuables. Your money and passport can be replaced, but you can’t!
Safety in your accommodation
Keep your accommodation door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby. Use the hotel safe. Let someone know when you expect to return if you are out late at night. If you are alone, try not to use lifts when there is only one other occupant especially if they look suspicious.
Safety on public transport
Taxis. Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked cabs.
Trains. Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourists routes is a serious problem. It is more common at night and especially on overnight trains. Avoid carriages with only one occupant. Do not accept food or drink from strangers, previously passengers have been drugged and then robbed.
If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on the platform or station. Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.
Buses. The same type of criminal activity found on trains can be found on public buses on popular tourist routes. For example, tourists have been drugged and robbed while sleeping on buses or in bus stations.
Safety When You Drive
Make certain it is in good repair. If available, choose a car with central locking and electric windows, features that give the driver better control of access to the car.
An air conditioner, when available, is also a safety feature, allowing you to drive with windows closed. Thieves can and do snatch purses through open windows of moving cars. Keep car doors locked at all times. Wear seat belts. As much as possible, avoid driving at night. Make sure the car is in good repair, and always have more than enough fuel.
Don’t leave valuables in the car. If you must carry things with you, keep them out of sight locked in the boot. Don’t park your car on the street overnight. If the hotel or municipality does not have a parking garage or other secure area, select a well-lit area. Never pick up hitchhikers.
Patterns of Crime Against Motorists
In many places frequented by tourists, including areas of southern Europe, victimization of motorists has been refined to an art. Where it is a problem, British embassies are aware of it and consular officers try to work with local authorities to warn the public about the dangers.
Carjackers and thieves operate at petrol stations, car parks, in city traffic and along the highway. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention when you are in or near your car. In some urban areas, thieves don’t waste time on ploys, they simply smash car windows at traffic lights, grab your valuables or your car and get away.
In cities around the world, “defensive driving” has come to mean more than avoiding auto accidents; it means keeping an eye out for potentially criminal pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.
How to Avoid Legal Difficulties
When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction – you are not simply in an extension of the UK and are not accordingly protected. You can be arrested overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor offences in the UK. Be aware of what is considered criminal in the country you are visiting.
Some of the offences for which travellers have been arrested abroad are: Drug Violations. Some countries do not distinguish between possession and trafficking. Many countries have mandatory sentences – even for possession of a small amount of marijuana or cocaine.
A number of travellers have been arrested for possessing prescription drugs, particularly tranquilizers and amphetamines, that they purchased legally in certain Asian countries and then brought to some countries in the Middle East where they are illegal.
Others have been arrested for purchasing prescription drugs abroad in quantities that local authorities suspected were for commercial use. If in doubt about foreign drug laws, ask local authorities or the nearest British embassy or consulate.
Photography. In many countries you can be harassed or detained for photographing such things as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transport facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.
Purchasing Antiques. Travellers have been arrested for purchasing souvenirs that were, or looked like, antiques and which local customs authorities believed were national treasures. This is especially true in Turkey, Egypt and Mexico.
In countries where antiques are important, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case, or if they are authentic, secure the necessary export permit (usually from the national museum.)
For more safety information when travelling overseas or to purchase recommended safety products, please visit the Lucie Blackman trust at www.lucieblackmantrust.org