22 Ways to Stay Safe and Fit in With the Locals

by Jules on May 19, 2010

Make like the locals...

Nothing ruins a hotly anticipated travel adventure more than being the victim of a pickpocket, scam or thief and looking like an out of place tourist will attract unwanted attention. So stay on guard, immerse yourself in the local culture and still enjoy your holiday with our tips;

1. Be wary of strangers – Most people you meet on your travels will be genuine but there are always a few that are hell bent on conning you in one way or another. Keep your wits about you and use your judgment.
2. Wear a money belt – Travel with a money belt or an across the body bag with the zip/flap facing towards you. Also don’t carry all of your money and valuables at once if you can help it. And familiarize yourself with the local currency to speed up transactions.
3. Use the hotel safe – If your accommodation has a safe then do use it. You can leave everything in there that you won’t need on day trips out.
4. Check out local events – Pick up a local newspaper and find out where the locals hang out.
5. Don’t drink – Well, don’t drink to excess anyway, which applies to men and women. There have been incidences of travelers having their drinks spiked only to wake up having been robbed of all their possessions or worse.
6. If it seems too good to be true… then it probably is – it’s an old saying which holds a lot of truth.
7. Do your research – Use the web to browse for local information on your destination including clothes and customs and use travel forums before you travel to swap tips and advice.
8. Use licensed taxis – Always check that the taxis you use are registered and make sure the meter is always on. Don’t fall for the offer of a reduced fare via the gemstone store!
9. Forget the bling – Strutting around wearing designer watches, jewelry and accessories is just inviting trouble. Leave it at home!  And pack your camera/mobile etc away when you’re not using it.
10. Learn the lingo – Add a few local words and phrases to your repertoire and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
11. Forget the day-glo outfit – Donning your best football shirt or fluorescent outfit will attract unwanted attention, especially if you’re somewhere that dresses in a modest and conservative style.
12. Know where you’re going – Nothing screams ‘I am a tourist, please come and rob me’ more than standing on the street looking lost and vulnerable. Plan your journey and look confident and the beeping taxi drivers will ignore you as well.
13. Ditch the tourist traps – Unfortunately places that lure tourists also lure those ready to rip tourists off, whether it be pickpockets or restaurants that quadruple their prices.
14. Have a real experience – Ditch the guidebooks which mark you as a tourist and make like the locals, just go with the flow!
15. Dress local – Adapt your clothing to your destination. If you’re heading somewhere with strong religious or cultural views then be respectful and cover up knees and shoulders. Look at what the locals are wearing and try to blend in.
16. Shop local – Hit the local markets and backstreet shops and pick up some local clothing to make you look part of the crowd. And do your food shop whilst you’re there.
17. Check your footwear – Shoes that are out of place or that look expensive will stand out like a sore thumb, so ditch the high heels when the locals are wearing flip-slops.
18. Keep possessions close to you – When you’re in public areas which can be crowded, then keep an eye on your bags and possessions.
19. Be polite – Sounds obvious but a little bit of courtesy, saying hello and thank you will go a long way and in some countries, shouting and losing your temper causes you to lose face. And watch the volume of your voice.
20. Check your room security – Yes you may have been traveling for days and are as tired as anything, but as soon as you check into your accommodation your first task should be to check the security and locks on the windows and doors, especially if you’re on a low floor. Any problems at all, especially if you’re a lone female traveler, then you should demand to change rooms.
21. Stay locally – Ditch the 5 star hotel and opt for a local guesthouse, homestay or house rental instead.
22. Don’t put your bags in the hold – If you’re traveling on a bus or coach then don’t store your valuables in the hold, especially if it’s an overnight journey.

Don’t be put off by the thought of something going wrong – tip 23 should be make sure you have adequate insurance and then if the worst does happen, as long as you are OK then material possessions can always be replaced! Have a great travel adventure and don’t forget to add your own tips in the comments section…

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