Leaving home exposes you to new cultures, people, and places. While the these same things make traveling wonderful, they can also expose you to theft or worse.

Staying safe on the road is a combination of researching beforehand, blending in, and good money management.

  • Research – The single more important thing you can do to stay safe in foreign lands is to take 10 minutes before you go and research online. Read about the safe and sketchy parts of town, any local faux pas, and common scams.
  • An image search on Flickr or Google of the people gives you an idea of what people wear and how you should dress. If you don’t see anyone wearing jeans, you should avoid them.
  • Blend In – Don’t get the impression that you have to hide for safety, but blending in abroad (based on your research) reduces the likelihood you’ll be a target for theft or a con.

  • Distribute Your Cash – Having a credit card handy keeps your loses at a minimum if your wallet is stolen and gives you the chance to dispute unauthorized charges. Still, cash on hand protects your credit funds and gives you a sure-fire way to pay for a cab. As Deniz wrote yesterday:
  • …carry some cash with you in your wallet, leave some in your suitcase at the hotel, put some in your shoe, anywhere. I??ve known too many people who have had at least a couple hundred dollars stolen from their hotel rooms or from pickpockets??so I think it??s a good idea to spread out your money. And nowadays since there are ATMs everywhere, it??s unnecessary to carry around so much cash at once!
  • Transact In Official Spots – Exchange money at airports, ask for directions from the hotel, and resist the temptation to get a better deal on the street. Government agencies and airports tend to be trustworthy and what you lose in higher rates you make for with reliability. In countries where this may not be the case, do as much as you can before you get there.
  • Stick To The Tourist Sites – Adventure travelers may not agree, but tourist frequented areas tend to attract crooks but generally have a heavier police presence. Sign up for tours from a reputable agency or the hotel instead of from random people you meet.
  • Learn Some Of The Language – Write down some of the basic questions (who, what, where, when) in case you need to communicate or understand an overheard conversation. Here are 12 really easy ways. Not knowing any words is like walking around blind.
  • Travel Light – The less you take with you the less you’ll leave around to get stolen from your hotel or hostel. Keep your gadgets small and bring the least amount of baggage needed when walking about. Don’t bring jewelry or fancy watches and leave some “emergency cash” in your sock just in case.
  • Choose Your Words Wisely – An easy way to fall for a con is to get enticed into a conversation (or worse, game) with someone you don’t know. A polite but stern smile does wonders.
  • Staying safe does take a bit of luck so if you do happen to get ripped-off don’t make the situation by confronting a thief or con-artist. Follow these 7 steps to take if you get swindled.

As you pack get the number and location of the local embassy from Embassy World and download these 12 USB drive applications to keep your online accounts safe at Internet cafes. Also, talk to your co-workers and friends (or find some on Myspace of Facebook) who’ve been to where you’re going.

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Traveling is a safe hobby just keep your wits about you like you would at home.

What are some of your biggest fears while traveling? Getting your wallet stolen, kidnappings, or plane crashes? How do you prevent your worries from becoming realities? Let me know in the comments!

[photo by: Duchamp]