9 Travel Safety Tips for Couples – While Travelling

| February 18, 2013 | 42 Comments

Note: We actually wrote these travel safety tips for couples before we heard about the tragic killing of the solo female traveller Sarai Sierra in Turkey. Our travel safety tips can also be used by solo female travellers and males.

This post is a follow up to our previous article: Travel Safety Tips for Couples, Before you Travel.

We felt obliged to write about travel safety because we get asked a lot of questions regarding travel safety. We travelled to Egypt over a year ago and still get asked “is Egypt safe to travel to?”

Egypt Pyramids of Giza

Of course travel in Egypt is safe

We basically consider that everywhere in the world is safe to travel to, as long as you are sensible and take precautions. It is like I said in our previous post, you don’t want to listen to everything others say, especially the media.

The world is NOT dangerous or unsafe. Sure there are dangerous people and destinations, but they are a really small percentage of the world.

And most of the unfortunate bad experiences that happen to travellers arise from them being stupid, drunk or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. By using a few simple travel safety tips, you can cut down your risks.

Travel Safety Tips for Couples

After 3 years of travel we haven’t had anything stolen and have NEVER felt unsafe because we follow our basic travel safety tips for couples, and solo travellers.

Travel Safety Tips: Blend in

One of the keys to travel safety is to limit drawing attention to yourself.

The closer you resemble a tourist, or more specifically the less you resemble other tourists, the better it is for you. Wearing sandals with white socks or sneakers with a large camera dangling from your neck is kind of a giveaway.

Similarly if you are waving around a map you may be targeted.

travel safety tips for couples, bruges, typical tourist

Basically, don’t look like me.

Travel Safety Tips: Dressing appropriately

Once you have stopped acting like a tourist you want to dress appropriately.

By leaving your valuables at home you should be carrying less stuff as you explore the streets. Everything you carry should be able to fit into your pockets or be within your bubble of “personal space”. Any time someone gets within that bubble you know to keep an eye on things.

There are always situations where this is unavoidable such as tightly packed public transport or local markets. To reduce your risk and avoid being pick-pocketed you want to keep your wallet in your front pocket, preferably buttoned up. Or use the inside pocket of your zipped up jacket.

You might also want to consider buying a “money belt” (examples here) that wrap around your waist underneath your shirt.

Finally, if you are a travelling couple ensure that you both carry your money and that it is not all in the same place. By spreading it out you won’t lose it all if one is stolen or lost.

Travel Safety Tips: Gather your gear

On arrival, or departure you are most likely to lose something.

At the airport you are tired from travelling and rush through customs eager to go exploring. Simply stuffing your wallet or passport at the top of your bag or in your back pocket is not good enough.

Use a money belt or secret compartment in your luggage to store valuable items.

It’s the same situation in a restaurant, accommodation or at an attraction. Take a moment to stop, gather yourself, and your belongings. As you walk away check behind you to see that you didn’t leave anything behind. I always do a quick “pat down” to check my camera, wallet, phone etc are in the right places.

If you know where everything should be then it becomes very easy to make this a simple routine ritual.

Travel Safety Tips: Don’t leave it unattended

We see this all the time. Someone sits down at a cafe and promptly ignores their bag or coat because they feel safe.

Always keep your items in your line of sight and within that personal bubble of space. It isn’t hard for someone to wander by and take something from your chair, or table, when you are distracted by delicious pastries and coffee.

Coffee and cake around the world

Travel Safety Tips: Stay Alert

Before leaving your accommodation ask the staff if there is anywhere in the city they recommend not going. While you don’t necessarily want to stick to the boring tourist trails, you also don’t want to end up in seedy areas.

It is easy to unwittingly wander up the wrong street when you are gazing at all the sights. Just retrace your steps (guys are a little better at this than girls for some reason) and carry on your way.

The important thing is that you see what is going on around you. Take notice of what strangers are doing because it’s common practice for thieves to work together.

Kids with signs may try to distract you while the others pickpocket you. Or women will beg for money while pushing a crying infant in your face. While we feel bad doing it, we always just ignore them and keep walking. Once you stop, you become a sitting duck.

Our only rule is that if someone outright robs you then NEVER FIGHT BACK. Insurance will cover anything stolen and it is better than getting injured or worse.

Travel Safety Tips: Lock your luggage

While you should travel with minimal stuff, anything you leave in your accommodation should be locked away. Most hotels and hostels provide safes or lockers.

Our small padlocks probably wouldn’t stop a determined thief, but it will make them think twice and/or slow them down. Stealing your stuff is all about speed, so most won’t take that risk.

Travel Safety Tips: Walk away from confrontations

Everyone has been in a situation where someone upsets you or makes you angry. They might have accidentally bumped you or tried to chat up your girlfriend. Some ridiculous people might just be looking for a fight.

Unless you are Chuck Norris, walk away calmly. You never know who that person might be associated with. If they follow you then stick to public areas and find a local spot to ask for assistance.

And by no means are we telling you to avoid people. Meeting people is a main reason to travel!

Travel Safety Tips: Know your way out

Memorising maps and routes comes naturally to me but there are still many times I have gotten lost while wandering small streets in Italy, Egypt and Turkey.

Besalu Village Alleyways

Familiarising yourself with local landmarks as you wander around the streets of a foreign city can be very helpful for when you do take that eventual wrong turn.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have taken the time to learn a little bit of the local language then someone will be willing to help you out. Our favourite experiences have been after we have gotten lost then shown where to go by a friendly local.

Travel Safety Tips: Don’t try this on holiday

While we love to step outside our comfort zones, we don’t take unnecessary risks. Especially when something looks a little dodgy.

There are way to many stories of travellers getting injured, or killed, while taking part in something life threatening. Sure we have run with bulls, driven scooters in Italy and scuba-dived in Egypt. But we consider these calculated risks. And we had great travel insurance.

Running with the Bulls Pamplona

If you want to take part in adventure travel activities then always check that the operators have legal qualifications and a good safety record too. The cheapest option is usually that price for a reason.

Travel Safety Tips Summary

No we are not trying to scare you away from travelling. We just know from experience that people seem to go on holiday without their brains. By showing you examples of worst-case scenarios we hope that we can limit your risks.

Travelling is safe when you reduce your risks and take precautions.

The important thing to remember is that if you do suffer a loss or a problem, don’t let that ruin your trip!

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (42)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. De-Bunking 14 Travel Myths (Part 1) | February 25, 2013
  1. Theodora says:

    Not sure I agree with you on the luggage locks thing, Cole, but blending in is definitely important.
    Theodora recently posted..In Which Things Fail to Go to Plan in BeijingMy Profile

    • Why don’t you agree with me on the luggage locks? Do you mean because you think it draws attention to your bags indicating that there might be something valuable within? Agree on that part, but when you are out of your room then I think you should lock up :D

    • I’m currious why too Theodora. Locks are especially important for insurance reasons. If a guesthouse/hotel employee goes into your room, steals something out of your unlocked back, there is no proof of it, and you’ll have a hard time with some insurance companies.

      At least if there is a lock, there will be some kind of damage to your bag from them breaking into it — and will be a breeze to get it replaced with insurance.

      A lock is a huge deterrent for most would-be thieves. A lot of theft is opportunistic, not done by professionals — regular people who were tempted by an easy opportunity. I lock by backpack even though anyone with a knife could get in no problem. It keeps the non-professionals out though.
      Matthew Karsten recently posted..Swimming with Bulls: Shark Diving in FijiMy Profile

  2. Laurence says:

    Wait… you’re telling me my white sock / sandal approach isn’t the foolproof local disguise I had always thought it to be? Dang!
    Laurence recently posted..Spending my birthday with James Bond. Nearly.My Profile

  3. We agree that an effective overall goal should be to become the most difficult target in town – us the lockers, use locks, keep your eyes open, etc and any thieves shopping for a target will move on to the rube with cash hanging out of his pants and his head in the stars. Remember, thieves are basically lazy. That’s why they’re thieves.
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Ocean to Ocean in One Day – Panama Canal, PanamaMy Profile

    • Totally agree Karen. Like the point about becoming the most difficult target! Even by making it a little bit more difficult for a thief, you are probably harder than most other tourists so they will move on.

  4. N. Song says:

    I love to travel with my wife a lot. I’ve never considered such type of travel safety tips before, but I’m thankful to you for giving chance to learn such effective tips. To have a safe traveling I’ll definitely follow these tips. Thanks very much. :D
    N. Song recently posted..Learn From Your MistakesMy Profile

  5. Most of these apply to solo travellers too! You should add “Stay away from bars/nightclubs” to your list too (although that would cut down on a lot of fun.) :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Does Dubai Have a Soul?My Profile

  6. Blending in and not looking or acting like a naive confused tourist is key. I go as far as to tell people who approach me on the street (touts, scammers etc) that it’s not my first time in a city, in fact, I’ve been here three times before. That usually makes them shy away from ripping me off.
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Ten Great Beaches in New ZealandMy Profile

    • Good point about telling them that it is not your first time. That is why it is also useful learning a little of language before you get there as well. Then the shock on their face when you tell them “no thanks” in their language is priceless and they walk off!

  7. I’m not sure I agree with the “ask them where you shouldn’t go” – you often find that people who live in a city are much more judgemental about places than you would ever be. In Sydney we stayed in an awesome hotel in the red light district over new year – people told us not to, that it would be unsafe and that it wasn’t a nice part of the city centre – but we went anyway and had an awesome time. The nightlife was actually comforting – as it meant we could come back late at night and not worry about being on our own on a street. All the kebab shops and bars actually made it feel safer at night time! :)

    Sure, if there is an area that is dangerous that’s a bit different – but sometimes the “bad neighbourhoods” get a bad rep just because some locals and tour book writers wouldn’t live there. The east end of London is a bit like that – when actually – if you go there you find Brick Lane, Vintage markets and quirky shops and nightlife. As a tourist in London though – people would warn you off the east end.

    Aside from that though – great article! Thanks for writing! I’m gonna take a look at some of these body bags you hide under your clothes… perfect for avoiding that panic when you think you’ve lost something!

    xx
    Elle Williams recently posted..A Walk in Central Park – NYCMy Profile

    • Definitely a good point Elle! I guess my point was that you shouldn’t just rely on one persons advice either. Everyone has had bad experiences, even in the nicest places in the world. So ask a few different locals opinions and hopefully you can sort through the good and bad spots ;)

  8. Great tips. I find it amazing how so many people think that travelling is the best excuse to get plastered drunk and wander around strange cities at night! – it is that sort of attitude which gets people hurt. Responsible tourists rarely have issues.

    • I always find that we drink a lot less when we are travelling. I can’t stand waking up somewhere with a hangover and then missing out on seeing everything because I just want to sleep! We see so many people stumble into Hostels at 5am and don’t leave bed until the evening. Ridiculous!

  9. Some great tips there. Blending in can sometimes be difficult. I am tall, pale and blond, so will always stick out in South America or Asia. One tip for the ladies, always wear your handbacg across your chest (not just on one shoulder) and hold onto it. Someone on a moped tried to rip my handbag off me in Cambodia once, but because I held on to it with my hands as well, he never got it. Only the string. Oh and he nearly fell off his bike too. :-)
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: That time I was attacked by vampire batsMy Profile

    • Lucky that you managed to keep hold of your handbag! Well done :) The only problem is that sometimes if you have it over your chest as well they might still try to rip it off and you might get injured. But still a good point! Better just to carry less stuff in my opinion ;)

  10. Very good list of tips. Happy to say I follow most of them. For me, I think #1 is huge. It’s a personal thing but I hate looking like a tourist. For me, it’s more than just a safety thing.

    A lot of this stuff is common sense for most of us who travel. However, they are very good reminders for all travelers. However, I’ve never been in a fight in my life. I definitely don’t plan on starting one when traveling :)
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Travel confessions from a mid life crisisMy Profile

    • I am pretty sure I would get my ass kicked in any fights so always steer clear as well! Had a few misunderstandings with locals before, but usually only because they have been too drunk and their friends have sorted them out quickly :)

  11. Jennifer says:

    Good tips! I would add that you should have a place that you both agree to meet at if you get separated for some reason.
    Jennifer recently posted..10 Must See Sights in Oslo on a BudgetMy Profile

  12. Great advice! Also I might add, when it comes to safety, make it a habit. Avoid those panic moments where you wonder if you locked up of have your money-belt.
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted..Mount Rushmore and a MilestoneMy Profile

  13. Ali says:

    Yes, the world is NOT a scary, dangerous place! The “don’t look like a tourist” thing isn’t always to achieve, but I do my best to dress respectfully. I think in certain parts of the world, no amount of dressing like the locals will make me blend in, but I always cringed seeing backpackers in Laos walking around in short-shorts and bikini tops.
    Ali recently posted..Simple Australia ItineraryMy Profile

    • Dressing respectfully is definitely one of the main ways to not draw attention to yourself. I couldn’t stand it when we were in Egypt and Morocco where tourists were dressing inappropriately too! Not hard to wear a light long sleeve top and cotton pants, even if it is hot.

  14. Larissa says:

    A great summary Cole. When we returned from our RTW people would ask us if we there was anywhere in the world we felt threatened or unsafe. After thinking for a moment, our response was “No-because we made it a point to always be AWARE”.

    On the subject of fitting in, my husband like to pick up a newspaper in the local language and walk around with it tucked under his arm. If a tourist comes up and asks him for directions, he considers himself to have “arrived”. ;)
    Larissa recently posted..The 11 best sandwiches in the world, which one costs only 35 cents?My Profile

    • We are the same Larissa. We have never felt unsafe, but maybe that is because we take these precautions too. I know it does come down to a little bit of luck too. Also, the tip about carrying around a local newspaper is a great idea! Definitely using that next time :D

  15. Fahmi says:

    Stay alert is the best way to keep safe when you travel, as for the map stuff? how can you not travel without map? i use maps a lot when traveling to new place, especially using Google Map on my phone :)
    Fahmi recently posted..My Jakarta Adventure : Overnight In Airport, Monas, Bajaj, and Ragusa Ice CreamMy Profile

  16. Great practical travel tips. I think you advice is useful for when you’re in your hometown as well as when you travel.
    Mary – Green Global Travel recently posted..INTERVIEW: Bully Director Lee Hirsch on His Controversial Anti Bullying ProjectMy Profile

  17. Christie says:

    Common sense… thanks for this article. I hope it makes more people aware that its OK to go to”dangerous” areas… just be a safe traveller!

    Safe travels!!

  18. Ahhh this blog is so inspiring! How do you guys do it? My husband and I are a newly wed couple and we’ve always wanted to travel but work responsibilities keep tying us down.

    Will definitely be back reading your adventures for sure!
    Gail Monique Mallo recently posted..BlueMy Profile

  19. PAR-SEC says:

    Good post. Mostly common sense advice, which is awesome.
    Of course travel in Egypt is safe. A few exceptions would include urban areas, the Sinai peninsula, avoid crowds in Cairo, Alexandria, etc. Luxor is to be avoided at this time…. Egypt, despite of all normal concerns can be enjoyable nonetheless. One must do his/her homework!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge