1. First and foremost, use your common sense. Be aware of your surroundings. Always keep tabs on where you are in relation to your hostel, hotel or other public places. If you’re lost, don’t look the part. If your eyes are glued to a map while you wander aimlessly into a dark alley, you will look like a tourist. Correction, you will look like prey.
2. Consider mapping out a sight-seeing route before you leave the hotel. Ask for a contact card at the reception desk. This will help you find your way home. Or, at the very least, it will provide you with a number to call if you get lost.
3. Don’t stuff your fat wallet filled with cash into your back pocket. (Consequently, watch out for pickpockets in the train stations.) Instead, wear a money belt inside your clothes. Wear it everywhere. And don’t carry a lot of money on you. Only bring what you think you’ll need for the day.
On the money front, only deal with authorized agents when exchanging money. And don’t wear a lot of expensive jewelry. Remember the “prey” comment?
4. Lock your luggage. Lock your luggage. Lock your luggage.
5. When you arrive at your destination, talk to the airport, train or bus station officials about areas to avoid around town. Other travelers are also a great source of information about where and where not to go. (Be cautious about the people you meet. Locals are still strangers. Be selective about the information you share – especially information about your accommodations.)
6. Look out for the tap water in exotic locations. In fact, just don’t drink it. Don’t order drinks with ice. And don’t brush your teeth with it, either. Stick to bottled water and you’ll be fine. Be leery of the sanitary conditions of your food, too. Nothing’s worse than a bad case of food poisoning. Well, maybe a bad case of food poisoning and a blistering sunburn.
7. Finally, trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Period. If you happen to get into trouble, contact your embassy. When it comes to legal matters, they’re there to help.