General safety is often comprised of nothing more than common sense. Speaking from personal experience, it’s easier to let your guard down in a country where you are having a great time. I’ve certainly gotten into my share of sticky situations because I’ve been “going with the flow”. This section is not meant to scare you away from taking chances and trusting in the good of humanity- it’s to drive home the point of developing and relying on your own intuition.
Balance the tips in this section with what feels true to you. If “Brandy says” it’s okay for single females to take taxi rides at night, but that sounds an alarm bell within you, trust yourself above all.
Common Sense and Intuition
Common sense is anything but common. Here’s a quick test to see if you have any.
1) Walking down a dark alley, alone, in a foreign country is a good idea.
True or False?
2) Getting extremely intoxicated, alone, in a foreign country is a good idea.
True or False?
3) Accepting a drink from a strangers hand is a good idea.
True or False?
As you may have guessed, the above answers are all false. If you guessed true, you might be brave, or you might lack common sense. You’re really going to need these safety tips, so get reading.
Taming the Taxi
There are occasions that call for a taxi. 99.9% of the time you are not going to have problems other than being horrifically overcharged. However, there’s no reason not to play it safe. I like to take out a cell phone (or a pretend cell phone) and talk to an imaginary person on the other side to let the driver know that someone is anticipating me. “Yeah, I will be there in 5 minutes, I am on such-and-such street in a taxi.” Nips the idea of any funny business in the bud.
In case you get an extra creepy taxi driver, and yes, there are varying degrees of lecherous taxi drivers, this is my favorite trick to keep those guys eyes on the road. Every legal taxi will have an identification card on the dashboard, or hanging from the rear-view mirror. If your taxi driver is being inappropriate despite you being assertive, take out your camera and snap a quick pic of his identification. Works like a charm for me. Within minutes their eyes will be off you and back on the road.
Better safe than raped, I always say.
If someone, or a group of people are following you or making you feel uncomfortable, do something about it. Shout “leave me alone!” with excessive body gestures and walk away. Tap into your inner two year old and let loose with a shriek. Would be assailants do not want a scene, and if they had any bad intentions, they will get lost.
Be Assertive. B.E. Assertive.
Yes, that’s in the fashion of a cheer. That’s to help it get stuck into your head to be assertive! If someone is trying to get your name, your number, trying to get you to agree to a drink with them, don’t be coy, don’t be cute, be assertive.
Oh baby, where have you been?!
This one can be a bit tricky, and is definitely not recommended for the Middle East. Some guys just don’t take a hint- if you’ve exhausted the strategies for getting scrubs to leave you alone, and yet they’re still persistently following you, grab a boyfriend. Well, a strange man, and pretend he’s your boyfriend. Most guys will get the hint and macho-up, puffing out their chests and strutting their manliness until your unwanted male companion leaves. Only problem? You might have another unwanted male companion on your hands. Choose wisely.
When in Rome…
Try to blend in with the locals. The less you look like a tourist, the less harassed you will be. Here’s a tip: lose the white sneakers. When playing “guess that nationality” with foreign friends, as soon as they spot white (or grey) sneakers, they call “American!”. Yes, it’s that obvious. Scarves are also your friend, and can be used to cover up in case of a modesty-emergency. In truthfulness, I am the wrong girl to be asking about fashion on the road, so check out www.travelfashiongirl.com for more help on this subject.
Madness in the Marketplace
Your first time in a crowded, open marketplace can be overwhelming in every sense of the word. The stall owners calling out from left and right “please miss, just look, no buy, only look”. Small children tug at your skirt, “you buy postcard, ten for one dollar”. A woman with scarves draped over her arm approaches, “you so pretty lady, please, buy one scarf, one silk scarf, handmade here, please, buy for my family”; she makes the motion of eating and implores you with eyes that are loaded with history and desperation. It’s hot, and there is no such thing as personal space. How do you handle this? With kindness, patience, and a firm “no, thank you”. Smile, give your reply and keep walking.
Your first time will take everything out of you to refuse the offer, but by the hundredth time you’ve smiled and said “no, thank you” to the scarves, jewelry, perfumes, and handicrafts you will have the hang of it. Be brave, and if you can’t take it anymore, simply leave the market, coming back to buy when you’re refreshed and not at your wits end.
Keep your cash close
Not to brag guys, but I am a professional at getting robbed. You name it, it’s been stolen from me. My passport, credit cards, debit cards, wallet, dignity, camera, keys, laptop (almost!) have been taken from me at some point in time during my travels. So why would you ever take advice from someone who gets her stuff stolen so often?
Because I know all the tricks in the book now: the distraction technique, the alcohol blindfold, the slick hands and the light fingered children.
The best advice I can give you is to keep your cash close to your physical person. If you’re taking a purse out, make sure it is a cross body purse that you always keep in front of your body. If you’re going out with a backpack, make sure the zippers are locked and your money is in an interior pocket that can’t be accessed by a quick knife. If you’re in a crowded area, be extra aware, as the normal pushing can easily be someone distracting you with physical force as they relieve you of your hard earned cash.
Stuff your bra
Oh yeah, a legitimate excuse to pad the girls. If you’re going purseless, instead of keeping your wallet in your back pocket where it can easily be lifted- keep it in a place you’re sure to notice someone touching- your breasts. Slip your bills in your bra and keep the coins in your front pocket. If someone is slick enough to get their hands in your pocket, they’re only coming up with change, and likely a forceful slap across the face from you once you hear the coins jingling. If someone is slick enough to get their hands under your bra, I really hope you’ve invited them there and had the forethought to move the money.