Having more time and opportunity for travel is one of the luxuries that many expatriates love, but it’s easy to fall into unsafe practices that can put our belongings and ourselves at risk. For many, living abroad can make them more complacent towards safety, especially if they’ve moved to a relatively safe nation like New Zealand, Austria or Singapore. This week, ExpatFinder looks at 10 top tips for travel safety as an expat.
1. Keep it simple
We all like to wear nice things, but being too flashy and out of keeping with the local style can make you an obvious target for pickpockets or worse. Consider where you are and what the locals are doing to help you blend in more. It can be a good idea to keep jewellery to a minimum, as flashy accessories can make you stand out from the crowd. If you really can’t pare down your style at all, consider cheaper alternatives that you wouldn’t mind losing if push comes to shove.
2. Know where your valuables are
If you’re going on holiday and will be travelling a lot, it’s a great idea to keep all your most valuable items together in one place where you can keep an eye on them. For example, keep your laptop and camera in a backpack which you can keep on you at all times. If someone decides to take a look through or steal your suitcase when it’s in a cargo bay or somewhere else you can’t see, at least they’ll only get your dirty laundry.
3. Know the emergency number
So, you should be aware of this already, but the emergency phone number is not the same everywhere on the planet. 911, 112, and 999 are the most common, but they’re not the only ones, so you should certainly check before you travel. Also, learning “I need help” or some other basic phrases in the local language could help out if you’re ever in need of assistance.
4. Research the local scams
No one likes the feeling of getting ripped off, but as a tourist, you’re certainly going to encounter someone trying to do just that at one point or another. It’s wise to do a quick Google search before heading off to get an update on what the popular local scams are at the time. While most will just trick you out of your hard-earned cash, some can be quite dangerous, so stay vigilant.
5. Know where you’re going
If you’re wandering around a city and having a look about it’s easy to get lost, but looking lost can make you a big target. Always try to look like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. This will make you less of a target for pickpockets or scam artists who will try to capitalise on the fact that you’re already distracted. If you can, always have a plan of where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do ahead of time. If you don’t, fake it.
6. Check your Uber
This may seem like an odd one but always double-check whether the car in front of you is actually your uber. There are plenty of scammers out there just looking to pick up distracted tourists or those who aren’t paying attention. There have been stories of kidnappings all over the world where drivers pretend to be your uber. Ask the driver who the car is for, don’t tell them your name, otherwise, they can just say “yes” even if it’s not the Uber you ordered.
7. Be careful with ATMs
When getting money out of ATMs, keep an eye on who else is around and if they’re watching what you’re up to. There are plenty of cases of tourists being robbed at ATMs, or just after using them so try and stay vigilant. Try and use ones inside a bank or in a well-lit area for extra safety.
8. Share your GPS
It’s quite easy to misplace your phone, and it’s one of the easiest things to pickpocket if you absent-mindedly leave it in your back pocket or on the table in a bar or restaurant. Remember to leave your GPS running on your phone and enable the Find my iPhone app, or Android equivalent. That way if it gets stolen or you leave it in a taxi, it will be much, much easier to track down.
9. Keep everything important in the cloud
It’s a great idea to scan all your important documents and upload them to the cloud or email them to yourself. That way you can always retrieve a copy if you lose the originals. Consider your passport, credit cards, insurance policies, and other essential documents.
10. Get insured
Finally, make sure you have insurance to cover your trip and look after you if anything bad happens. As an expat, you will most likely already have an international health insurance plan that will cover you in many cases, but you should check the terms of your cover to see if an additional policy is required.