Yes, the A to Z is intentional – I have a quick tip for each letter of the alphabet to stay safe while traveling.
Allergies are a reality, and awareness of them still lacking in some parts of the world. Lookup the local ways of saying ‘I can’t eat…’, or get a card made with the language(s) and allergies you have. Brokerfish and Safe Fare has free (but general) cards, while Allergy Translation helps you make custom cards to print off.
Be aware of your surroundings and act like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t). I personally aim to stick to a straight, main road, or try to backtrack using landmarks if I get around.
Cameras and bags need to have a hand on them when navigating through crowds. Even if worn across your body, the hand gives you a better chance at keeping it close to you versus swinging away from you.
Don’t let your traveling partners out of your sight (exceptions: going into a store or a bathroom, no biggie)
English-speaking locals should be looked at suspiciously until proven otherwise, and rarely have your best interest in mind.
Friends don’t let friends get stupid drunk. It’s slightly more acceptable if you’re within stumbling distance of your hostel / hotel, much less so if you’ll be vomiting on the bumpy bus ride.
Getting back to your hotel / apartment / hostel means knowing when the last buses / subways head that way. Look it up or look to the signs so you know.
Hide your valuables behind or inside boring stuff like clothes while at a hotel. Few efforts will stop a determined thief, but keeping big / valuable stuff out of sight only takes a few seconds.
If in need of direction, ask a convenience store clerk or waiter at a restaurant. Plenty of data points on this one – the language barrier can be an issue, but they’re more likely to know the area and give you a straight answer.
Just before heading out (of home, of a restaurant, of a taxi, etc.), pat your pockets or bag for your wallet, keys, phone, etc. It might look a little silly, but it’s an easy habit to ensure everything’s where it should be.
Keep an eye out for anyone staring at you or following you.
Leave non-essential stuff at the hotel / hostel / apartment. Beyond weighing you down it makes it harder to give chase if someone tries to make off with anything.
Move across streets in groups, whether there’s a don’t walk sign or not. More movement tends to attract the eye and prevent you from meeting the road in an unfortunate way.
Noisy tourists attract attention, and rarely the sort you want. Keep it down and aim to blend in.
Order food from the local language side of the menu where possible. Use pictures, the prices, or the approximate placement on the page be your guide if you’re not 100% familiar with the language. Some places feature different prices for the different sides of the menu, while others simply have more options for the locals.
Passports, phones, and cameras are perhaps the most valuable things you have while traveling. Keep a hand on whichever one(s) you’re actively using.
Quaff your drinks with the best, but watch the bartender pour or make it.
Respect local cultures and morals. If that means no drinking beer while walking along the street, so be it. Climbing on sacred statues or stripping off clothes on a sacred mountain were just two of the dick moves by tourists in recent memory.
Shade is your friend. Sun is… more like a mother-in-law you don’t mind once in a while but don’t want to spend all your time with. It can’t be helped sometimes, but try to avoid it if you’ll be doing lots of walking.
Taxis around the world have a deserved reputation and stereotype (especially tuk-tuks in Southeast Asia). Look them up before you arrive.
Use the smallest bill necessary when paying for something, and count your change, especially if handed a large number of coins or small bills. If paying by card, watch it the entire transaction.
Voyages, whether around the world or around the block, all come with risk. Your job is not to eliminate risk, but to manage it and accept it.
Wear helmets while on motorcycles, whether passenger or driver. Your college education is worth it.
Xenophobia isn’t always obvious, but it’s present in people all over the world. Move on, and don’t let it bother you. Some of your country’s citizens are xenophobic as well.
Your chances of finding your phone go up immensely if you activate the tracking options available. On iOS the ‘Find My Phone’ option is fine, and on Android there’s the Android Device Manager. It goes without saying there are plenty of apps for that, and Lookout has apps for both. Whatever you have, set something up before you lose it.
Zero trips go exactly as planned. Even in 2016 with all the information on the internet at your disposal, subways will run late, buses will go off course, and people’s directions will be inaccurate. Accept it as part of the experience with a deep breath.
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Also published on Medium.