It’s a big, wide world out there with so many places to see and so much to do. For the vast majority of holidaymakers and travellers, trips to foreign climes are thoroughly enjoyable and totally trouble free – and provide many happy memories. Sadly, it is not always the case and some people are unfortunate enough to become the victim of crime when abroad.
The reality is that many tourists arrive at their destinations laden down with cash, credit cards, electronic goodies and expensive clothes. These are all very attractive to criminals who deliberately target travellers as well as more opportunistic thieves.
Certain destinations are going to be more risky than others, so you need to find out as much as you can about the risks before you head off. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office runs the incredibly useful Know Before You Go campaign, which allows you to check the crime risks on a country-by-country basis.
It’s generally accepted by the travel industry that certain groups are particularly attractive to criminals, and solo travellers fall into this category. Whereas certain criminals might be put off targeting a couple or a group, they may be less scrupulous when it comes to lone people.
So as well as being vigilant, what else can solo travellers do to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime? Here are some tips:
- Thieves frequent transportation centres, historical sites and tourist attractions. They may use certain ploys to distract you, such as jostling you in a crowd or spilling something on you.
- Do your research before you go. Find out the places to avoid.
- Use your common sense – even on a crowded beach full of UK tourists, don’t leave your belongings where you can’t see them.
- Don’t visit downtown areas of large cities alone and especially not after dark.
- Don’t use ‘bumbags’. These advertise where your valuables are. Keep your valuables hidden.
- Don’t drink too much – this will put you at greater risk. Criminals often target drunken tourists.
- Don't wear expensive-looking jewellery.
- Don’t ‘flash the cash’ – showing that you are carrying a lot of money can make you an instant target.
- When putting your bag down on the floor, to take a photo or just to sit in a café, put your foot through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won't forget it!
- Criminals look for targets who are out of place and who don’t fit in, or those with apparent weaknesses. Look purposeful. Walk as if you know exactly where you are going even if you don’t. Try not to read a map in the middle of the street – it’s better to take time out in a shop or café to get your bearings.
Far flung destinations
If you are backpacking or are on an extended trip, you need to use additional caution, particularly if you are visiting potentially troublesome areas.
- When taking cabs from an airport to your hotel, travel in the more expensive airport taxis and ensure that the drivers have official identification. When travelling from your hotel to the airport, go with a cab recommended by the hotel.
- Try not to arrive in a new city or town late at night.
- If you are planning on going somewhere considered dangerous, try and find out if there is a group going in the same direction.
- Wherever you are headed, try to learn the language basics. Don't expect people to speak English.
- If you have to leave your passport and credits cards behind, put them in a room or hotel safe. You may also want to place the credit card in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. At least when you return you know for sure no one else has been using it.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the authorities at the earliest opportunity. This will also help in any travel insurance claim you make.
Of course, you shouldn’t consider travelling without first making sure that you have the right travel insurance in place. Direct Line can provide single trip travel insurance, annual cover and long-stay backpacker travel policies.
Staying secure abroad – more guidance for all travellers about avoiding crime on holiday
Holiday inventory – how making a list of everything you take can help if you lose it later on…
Learn the lingo before you go – learning just a few words and basic phrases can make a huge difference when you’re abroad