travel responsiblyI recently heard an acquaintance tell the story of being mugged outside a bar in London.  He was in London for work, went out to dinner by himself and then on to a bar for a drink.  He failed to notice two men watching him from across the bar who saw how much he drank, could easily see that he was alone and could tell by his accent that he was a tourist.  They followed him out of the bar and mugged him, broke his hand and stole his Rolex.  After the attack he walked back to the bar to ask for help; no one had heard a thing.  Apparently, this is not uncommon in certain parts of London.

If you are going out alone, no matter what country you are in, you should follow the same safety precautions you would at home.  Don’t go out alone in areas you are unfamiliar with.  Be aware of the people around you.  Don’t make it obvious that you are a visitor or tourist.  Limit your alcohol intake to one that doesn’t inhibit your ability to think clearly.  And try to leave your expensive jewelry at home.  

This kind of common sense need not apply to night outings only.  While you are sightseeing, be sure you are only visiting sites that you are allowed to visit.  It’s easy to get distracted and find yourself in an area where you shouldn’t be.  Some countries have strict laws about where you can and cannot go.  Consider what happened to the three American hikers in Iraq who were arrested when they unknowingly stepped across the Iranian border.  Though this is an extreme situation, Peter Greenberg reported that “Though the risk varies with each country, in general tourists who travel independently of a group may face resistance from authorities or may unwittingly put themselves in harm’s way.”

Because it’s getting easier to reach remote or “off-limits” areas, people end up in obscure and possibly less-safe places.   My own sister is planning to go to Cuba, for instance  As described in an interview on The World, Robert Reid an editor from Lonely Planet said this, “… you really have to make sure that the travelers understand the scenario, what’s going on right at the moment because things do change and they need to be a little proactive when they go any place,  whether it is a Caribbean cruise or whether it’s going into Colombia, to understand what the circumstances are there and so you can be best informed to avoid trouble…” 

An informed traveler is a healthy traveler. Research your destination and be aware of your surroundings once you get there!

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evergreenkamal/ / CC BY-ND 2.0
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