Safety-Icon copy

Staying Safe

  • Don’t look rich. Think about your clothing, jewelry, accessories, camera, and backpack brand against the backdrop of your destination. You will always be a target as a tourist. Don’t bring additional unnecessary attention to yourself with flash gear.
  • Always know where you are. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but is vital for your safety. Make a mental note of the street names you pass while in a taxi and cross reference them with your smartphone map to make sure you’re not getting taken for a ride. Take a few minutes at each new destination to glance over the area map and get familiar with key landmarks.
  • If you’re living the hostel life, call ahead and find hostels that offer safety lockers for your valuables.
  • Never look lost when walking through a potentially dangerous area. Walk in straight lines at pace until you can get somewhere quiet — then you can pull out your map and look lost.
  • As we say in the poker world, “always leave yourself outs.” Never have all your money in once place. Spread your risk around so that in the event something does happen you’ll still have a way to get home.
  • In crowded cities heavily populated with motorbikes always walk against traffic to avoid motorbikes cruising up behind you, snatching your bag, and taking off before you know what hit you.

Keeping it Cheap

  • Flights: if your flight search isn’t yielding any direct flight options to your destination, look into buying two separate tickets: buy one for the long leg, and then look for a regional or domestic budget airline to get you to your final destination.
  • Find hostels that will let you use their kitchen. Find the closest supermarket and learn how to cook up some local cuisine for your meals.
  • Not sure how much you should pay for your taxi? Take a quick survey by asking locals roughly how much it costs to get to wherever you’re going and use that as a benchmark for your negotiations with the taxi driver.
  • Rent a bicycle! Daily public transportation can get expensive if you’re on the move a lot. See if you can pick-up a rental, or buy a used-bicycle for longer stays.
  • Find the food stalls/restaurants that offer sizeable proportions: eat half for lunch and half for dinner and significantly cut down on your food costs.
  • Upon arriving to a major destination terminal, whether by plane, bus, train, or taxi, there will undoubtedly be a host of taxis waiting for your fare. Don’t use them. They’re price will be 2-4x the normal local fare. Instead, walk through, away from the terminal, and out onto the main street where you’ll have much better luck hailing a taxi for a standard fare.

Tough Negotiator

  • Haggling can be a fun game to play on the road, and a great way to interact with locals. HOWEVER, a lot of travelers get too caught up in the game, taking it too seriously, and letting it ruin their trip when they don’t get the price they want. The goal is not to see just how cheap you can get your desired item; the goal is to get your item for a price you’re comfortable paying. Decide beforehand how much you’re willing to pay for an item, and as soon as they quote that price make the purchase and go.
  • First step in getting the price you want is to never show too much interest in the item you’re buying. Ask about similar items in the shop first to get a sense of price range, and then casually stroll by the item you want “on your way out the door.”
  • If you’re planning on buying 4 of one thing, tell them you want 2…and negotiate the best price for 2. Then do the math from there and offer a further discounted price if you buy 4.
  • If they quote your desired item for $30, tell them you’ll pay $10 and you’ll dance with them to the song playing on the radio (advanced haggling technique)
  • Build rapport: pull out your phrasebook and spend some time in the shop speaking with the owner. It’s amazing how price tags change when you differentiate yourself from all the travelers who never make an attempt to get to know the people!
  • For larger purchasing items, find a local who’d be willing to make the purchase for you to get around the tourist fare.

Mo Money Mo Problems

  • Take out cash from the ATM upon arriving — these are going to give you the best exchange rates.”
  • If you’re arriving with $500 or less in cash and need to exchange it for local currency, go ahead and change at the airport. There’s all this chatter about “airports offering awful rates” but it’s just not the case. Could you find a slightly better rate in town somewhere? Sure, but are you willing to run around a town you don’t know shopping for rates so that you can save $15-$20? Consider the value of convenience. If you’re changing $1000+ then there may be more value in finding the best rate in town.
  • Stick your big bills in your waist pouch and keep a chunk of smaller bills in your pocket for quick access. When you get low on small bills, change your big bills and reload. Don’t be seen shuffling through your $100 bills in the middle of a market. You’re just asking for trouble.
  • Pick-up an ATM card and a credit card that do not charge for international usage. Choose one of them as your primary card and stick the other away as a backup. There’s nothing worse than losing your only access to money on the road so always double down and leave yourself a way out.
  • If you’re traveling through an unsafe area where robberies and muggings have been known to occur, carry two wallets on you: one to give up in the event of trouble, and the other to hold your real money.

Food Safety

  • Look for restaurants that are busy and stay away from empty restaurants; theyll likely be serving you “whatever is lying around”
  • Anything boiled, fried, or grilled should be safe to eat
  • On drinking water: only drink SEALED bottled; boiling water adequately disinfects most water, so coffee/teas should be fine; commercial iodine or chlorine tablets also provide substantial protection if used according to directions;take your cold drinks without ice; its ok to brush your teeth with the tap water, just dont guzzle it down while ur brushing!
  • Freshly cooked foods are less likely to acquire airborne contaminants, and raw foods such as salads, and fruits and vegetables without peels, are often likely culprits for trouble. Fruits and vegetables you can peel yourself are fine.
  • Stay away from raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, as well as any prepared food that has been left unrefrigerated for several hours
  • If you get sick remember that adequate fluid intake is essential to preventing dehydration. So it’s important to keep drinking safe water even if you have diarrhea.
  • The most common cause of “Travelers’ Diarrhea” can be treated with over-the-counter products, used according to directions. Effective drugs that control the frequency of diarrhea include Lomotil, lomodium, and Kaopectate. Find reliable medical help if you have severe abdominal cramps or pain, high fever, blood or mucus in your stool, and/or severe dehydration.

Cheeky Traveler

  • Having a night out on the town can make for great travel memories but the price of alcohol can be a budget killer. Pop into the local casino for free cocktails before you head out.  But beware, giving in to the temptation to gamble could raise the price of that rum and coke from free to $100 in no time. Sit at the slots, pretend to play, get your drinks and get out.
  • Are you a budget traveler finding it hard to get a good night’s sleep in the cramped dormitories? Most hostels leave vacant rooms unlocked so scout out an open single room before bed time (preferably one with a big bed), and after everyone’s gone to sleep sneak in for a good night’s sleep, setting your alarm for early morning and creeping back into your dorm before everyone is up again
  • Some destinations are over the top with entrance fees. Take a lap around whatever it is youve come to see and you will likely find (a) another way in, or (b) an exit that you can enter from. You can also ask an outcoming traveler for their stub and use that to enter for free
  • Long flights can be brutal, especially if youre an oversized traveler like myself. Find a friend who has some crutches lying around and watch as youre escorted not just through all the security lines, but to an emergency exit seat with extra leg room. Now that’s cheeky!