Stay Safe After Dark in the City
Most safety tips are common sense, but it’s a good idea to review them before your weekend break.
Different cities have different threats – and you may find something here you hadn’t thought of before.
1) Know EXACTLY where home is going to be tonight
Like most safety advice, this sounds obvious, but make sure you have it written in a format that taxi drivers (and the police – should it come to that) can understand. We write addresses differently in Britain than in Greece or Turkey, for example.
Often the easiest way to do this is to pick up a card or leaflet from where you’re staying before you head out for the night.
Make a rough plan as to how you are going to get home – and check whether your accommodation closes at a certain time and if so, how they plan on letting you in.
2) Have an emergency stash of cash to get back (by taxi if all else fails).Try to keep it separate from your wallet so that if someone steals your wallet or your generosity overflows at the bar, then you can still get home.
3) Don’t take more valuables out than you need. One reason tourists become targets is because several carry around most of their cash and plenty of snazzy new cameras, iphones, ipods and so on.
4) Don’t LOOK as though you are a tourist waiting to be robbed. I loved the adverts that ran in Britain for a while that featured a couple showing two prospective burglars around their house, highlighting all their security lapses. Don’t advertise your naivety.
-Keep cameras out of sight except for when you’re using them.
-Sling guidebooks into your bag as well.
-Dress appropriately for the area you’re in (shirts on in most European cities, long sleeves and trousers in Muslim countries).
-Try to avoid huge notes in the local currency and use small change instead.
-Use sunscreen. A bright lobster face is a dead giveaway.
5) Carry a personal alarm or whistle. I always forget this one but I’m going to dig it out of the drawer it’s hidden in and put it in my handbag as soon as I finish this article. You can buy them through the Suzy Lamplugh Trust here.
6) Know the emergency phone number for the country you’re in before you go out. (Incidentally, dial 112 within Europe – it’s now a universal number to connect you to the emergency services)
7) Look at the metro/underground map when you are underground – or ask a member of staff for directions – instead of pulling out a large map when you’re up on the street.
8) Check your guidebook and ASK your hotel or campsite owner if there are any ‘no go’ areas.
9) Follow the same common sense advice that works at home:
– stick to well-lit, busy areas.
– don’t stare
– don’t get too drunk.
– avoid walking home alone where possible.
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and get to safety. Keep your belongings within your sight, preferably attached to you in some way. Stay calm if someone tries to goad you into a fight. If someone threatens you for your money – hand it over. Don’t try to fight.
10) If you’re driving then park near the exits, if you can, to avoid a long walk across the car park. Have your keys in your hand as you approach the car and lock the doors as soon as you are inside. Avoid unwinding your window to speak to anyone – unless they look like officials. And don’t throw your handbag or rucksack onto the passenger seat.
11) ALWAYS use authentic, licensed taxis.
12) Don’t try to save money by sleeping on a park bench. Or in the car. And yes, I’ve done both, but looking back it wasn’t worth the risk.
13) Respect the local customs (unless it seems that the popular Saturday night tradition IS to start a fight, as it is in some areas….) Be aware of local tensions and avoid fanning the flames by throwing in crass comments about religion in Northern Ireland, Cyprus in Greece and Turkey, the Nazis in Germany and so on.
14) Don’t worry so much about travel safety that you never travel.
Susan Haddon, Director of Personal Safety at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, says this about risks: “plan for them, take control and enjoy getting out and about safely.”
I couldn’t agree more.