- Instinct – a natural or intuitive process of thinking, this is like our sixth sense. Listen to your gut feeling or instinct. This can and will get you out of bad, awkward or potential threatening situations in your travels. It can deciding to turn around on a street, saying no to hopping in certain cabs or even simply not eating food that your instinct says ‘don’t eat it!’
- Government advice – your country will have departments (foreign) that will monitor safety across countries around the world. They will then gather all of this information and have it available for citizens. Here are Australia, USA and UK‘s government websites for travel advice.
- Electronics – these (along with jewellery) are the most usual items to be taken from tourists. Be sure to always have these in hidden/safe places – don’t just have them in your open pocket, but have pocket zip clothing, have them in a bag that you carry with you near/at your chest, especially on crowded areas and on public transport. Have passwords set up, so easy access will not be in their favour. Make sure you have iPhone locator app set up before you leave home. I know travellers who have tracked down their phone and the police have gone and taken it off the offender.
- Don’t be side-swiped – this can happen where it’s all a set up, someone might fall down in front of you, you bend down to help them and someone has gone and reached into your backpack/handbag/pocket and taken cash, cards, phone etc. Or at the Eiffel tower and they were throwing glow sticks up into the air so all the tourists look up while we are being pick-pocketed.
- Bag then coat or light cardigan – more suitable for the colder climates or spring temperatures is how you layer. Wear your bag or day backpack then put your coat, or cardigan over the top as an extra protection layer. This way it can’t be easily snatched as you are walking down the street. In summer, opt for a money wallet or belt to have under your singlet.
- Take your memory cards out – imagine if your camera got stolen and you hadn’t backed up your photos. This is the devastating truth that can happen to tourists sometimes. Why not take the memory card out when you aren’t using your camera, like walking between sights or certainly if you left it on a table while you’re eating lunch. If they take the camera that’s hard enough but at least you have your photos.
- Be street smart at ATMs – when you need to withdraw cash think about our location. Look at your surroundings.
When you visit a country where English is not the first language, automatically you can feel intimidated. Whether it’s trying to read directions, listen to directions, read menus, listening to airport announcements or trying to tell the taxi driver where you need to go. Language barriers are hard, being lost in translation is hard. Below are some tips for you to use when you find yourself in these sticky situations.
- Keep your accommodation details – as soon as you know the address of where you will be staying, put it in your phone, take the hotel card, write it on several bits of paper or your travel journal, anywhere! This is like your get out of jail free card. You will know that one way or another you will always be able to get back to your room at night if you have the address that you can hand over to someone to point you in the right direction or for the taxi driver to get you there
- Book an Uber – this is a lifesaver when it comes to moving around a city (country) where they do not speak English and you need transportation. I used this a lot with my South America trip. You simply sign up (use my referral code traceyb3088ue for your first ride free). You basically set your location where you currently are and plug in the address of where you need to go, voila! They will come pick you up and drop your off at your destination, then your credit card will be charged (no payment needs to be physically given to the driver)
- Learn the basics – where you go, make sure you learn the basics, in any culture these are hi (hello, good morning etc), yes, no, thank you, please, excuse me, sorry, goodbye or see you later. Of course there are many more that will help you get through your days and nights like left, right, do you speak English, how many, how much, where is, what is.. But the first thing you should be able to do is say hello or excuse me. Besides if you learn too much at once you could find yourself saying the wrong thing like years ago in Spain I thought I was saying excuse me when walking through crowds but I was saying ‘I’m sad!’
- Use phone apps or tutorials – expanding on the above, download apps like Duolingo to have you saying things like “My name is..” or “I would like a white coffee, please” or “Where is central train station?” or “Do you have change for [currency value]?” You can also use YouTube accounts to hear the natives speak and teach you in English. My favourite channel for Spanish is www.youtube.com/butterflyspanish.
- Interact with the locals – this by far is one of the most exciting parts of travelling. When you mingle with the locals and hear their stories, meet their friends or family, let them show you the sights or simply just get to know them. You do not know if they speak English or not until you start speaking. Greet them in their own language and engage. I once was at Lima airport and a lady sneezed and I said ‘salud’ and to this day we talk on Whatsapp..
- Have confidence or a game plan – don’t be overconfident, but if you are use to being in foreign countries like I am, you can tend to go with the flow, where you don’t mind walking around a city for hours or going to beaches without knowing how to get there etc. If you don’t want to leave it to the unknown, have a travel plan or guide ready of the sights you need to see and have the information handy. At hotels and even Airbnb’s there is tourist information that you can plan your day out so if you can’t speak English you have a map or a list of sights with you and locals can literally point you in the right direction
- Know your currency – this one is where you can easily be ripped off being a tourist and having a language barrier up. If you don’t know numbers or the money of the country (language) you’re visiting you can be emptying your pockets quick. If you hand over big notes and you don’t know how much it is and you get some or no change back and don’t question it, they won’t hesitate to keep it. Of course there are good samaritans out there who would. But if you know a hat that you shouldn’t pay anymore than 1,000 Colombian pesos don’t hand over 20,000 thinking it’s small money, you’re going to need an ATM quickly then you should have if you knew your numbers