Is It Safe Traveling The World?
This is an overly-generic question, but mostly this is the question we get. Every country is different and you need to be aware of different issues depending on where you are traveling, but yes generally you are extremely safe traveling around the world. Even as an American.
For example, before leaving to travel we lived in Chicago. The rate of violent crime in Chicago is among the top in the nation. Over fourth of July weekend a few years ago, 72 people were shot and 12 killed. Did I feel unsafe living in Chicago? Absolutely not.
It’s all relative. While I am more likely to experience a scam, or get my purse taken, credit card stolen or laptop swiped, I am more likely to get shot in Chicago. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at these grossly over exaggerated assumptions, but consider that the next time you ask: “is it safe”.
But the News Says…
“The News” is generally the number one source for people to hear things about foreign nations.
We see all the negatives of the world we live in and because of this live in fear. The number one thing I realized when I started traveling is how amazing our world is, how accommodating and helpful people can be and how generally good people are. Yes you have your stories that end up on the news, but don’t travel expecting to distrust everyone you meet – you won’t make it very far.
So, How Do I Find Out About Safety, if I Should Ignore the News?
Talk to people.
Communication is faster and more available than ever, so use it!
Find expats or travel bloggers who have been to the country or city you are traveling to. Ask them what to look out for, where to go and where to stay away from. Every city has their not-so-great areas and scams to watch out for.
What Travel Safety and Luck have in Common
We traveled for a year through countries that might be considered unsafe to some and never had anything stolen, got robbed and rarely felt unsafe. Others I know have been gone for a week in the same locations and have had their laptops, cell phones and credit cards gone missing. You do what you can when you travel, pay attention to your surroundings, come prepared with the right locks and bags – but I would argue at the end of the day it comes down to luck.
I hate to chock up such a big issue as safety to luck, but as much as you can control your own preparation and research, you can always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you let this bad luck stop you from traveling you will never leave your front door. Josh and I got lucky that we made it home safely with everything in our backpacks, but if anything did happen we would know it was in the name of amazing travel experiences and would be grateful for our own safety.
Was Self-Driving Yourself Through Africa Safe?
(This is a question we get asked A LOT)
Botswana is probably one of the safest countries we have traveled through. Of course animals were a concern, but we basically didn’t get outside of our car for 1 month of driving, especially in the parks. People-wise we would drive for 3 hours through the park and maybe see one other car, and usually they were farmers or other tourists doing the same self-drive safari we were.
So despite what you have heard about the safety levels of Africa, driving through Botswana and Namibia was incredibly safe… just don’t get out of your car without doing a good scan to make sure a lion isn’t waiting for dinner time. 🙂
Tips to Travel Safer & Increase your Luck
When we travel our guard is up. We are aware of people who might be following too close, or anyone who happens to have their hand in my bag while we are on a busy subway. Stay aware of your surroundings and suspicious looking people. Go with your gut. If you get creeped out, there’s most likely a reason and I suggest you move seats.
Most of the stories where people are robbed start with “I was out drinking all night, and was walking back to my hotel…”. Know who you are drinking with, don’t accept random drinks from strangers and don’t get so obliterated that you can’t find your way home or remember if you carried your wallet home.
Carry the Schwab Card
This helped us feel safer because instead of having to take out the max allowance every time we hit up the ATM because of high ATM fees, and then carrying a bunch of cash with us, we would only get out what we needed for a day or two and then return later when we needed more. Schwab reimburses you for all ATM fees internationally, so we would feel comfortable pulling out smaller amounts so if we were to get robbed we would be losing less.
Use all of your pockets
Don’t keep all of your money in one place. Josh and I would split up the money and credit cards between our pockets, my purse and wherever else we could. If you do get hit up for money give them your wallet and you don’t have to worry that they took all your credit cards or money since you have them stashed elsewhere.
We never wear money belts when we travel, realistically they aren’t so secret anymore – so don’t be surprised if you get robbed and they ask you to lift up your shirt to check for a money belt. Now they have creative money scarves and secret pockets in clothes that do the same thing. Do what you feel most comfortable with – but money belts are just embarrassing when you are lifting up your shirt to dig through a belt around your waist to get money out of.
While in Rio I remember one of the tips we were told by a local was not to speak English on public transportation. Don’t draw attention to yourself as a tourist if you don’t have to. If you are speaking, talk quietly, don’t broadcast your travel agenda or upcoming plans to the bus. Do your best to blend in.
What tips do you have for traveling safely?