June 18, 2015 3 min read
Whether you’re touching down in Bangkok or Barcelona, Sydney or San Francisco, chances are you’ll be spending time in a major city for at least part of your trip.
With their vibrance and culture, cities are incredibly fun for independent travel, but they also come with their own concerns.
Here are ways to stay safe while traveling to cities around the world.
Research your city thoroughly in advance.
Are there any common scams? Where are good places to stay? Are there any festivals or other events that will affect your trip? Which areas should you avoid?
Do you know anyone who has spent extensive time there? Are there any travel bloggers who have spent a lot of time in your city and have lots of content worth mining?
Learn the major neighborhoods and how to get from one to the other.
Every city has its good neighborhoods and not-so-good areas.
Rapidly gentrifying cities tend to lump the nicer neighborhoods together, like New York, while others, like New Orleans, tend to be more of a checkerboard with good and bad neighborhoods alternating side by side. When you’re getting from place to place, make sure you’re taking a safe route.
Budget more than you think you need.
It’s easy to think that you’ll stick to public transportation and the cheapest accommodation, but keeping extra money for occasional taxi rides and accommodation in a nicer neighborhood. It’s always a smart idea to invest financially in your safety.
Learn the right taxi companies.
Most major cities have at least a few taxi companies, and some of them may not be as legitimate as the others. Find out which taxis you should take and which ones to avoid.
If you can’t find information and you have a data plan, you may want to stick with Uber, which keeps detailed information on your taxi driver.
Fake a call with a taxi driver.
Occasionally, for extra safety, it can be good to pretend to make a call on your phone while reading out your taxi driver’s name and license plate number. You’re creating an illusion of accountability—the taxi driver knows that someone else has his identifying information if anything goes wrong.
While crime by taxi drivers is rare in the grand scheme of things, this just adds another layer of protection.
Book accommodation in a busy neighborhood, not a sleepy area.
If you’re going to be walking alone at night, consider sticking to a busy neighborhood. This way, you’ll be surrounded by late-night cafes, street vendors, and/or nightlife-loving partiers, rather than a quiet and deserted street.
Many people think that walking alone at night is a danger.
The dangerous part of it is putting yourself in an isolating situation, which can be avoided if you stick to a busy neighborhood.
Download a public transportation app.
Nearly every city in the world has its own public transportation app that can help you figure out the best way to get from A to B, even if you don’t have a data plan on your phone.
Protect your belongings from theft.
If you’re bringing a camera or other pricey gear, use a backpack like the Pacsafe Camsafe V17 anti-theft backpack that is lined in mesh and has lockable zippers to dissuade would-be thieves.
At age 26, I quit my job to travel the world alone. I spent six fantastic months in Southeast Asia and turned my travel blog into a full-time business. Today, I travel full-time, going anywhere that sounds wacky or beautiful or interesting. My goal is to show YOU how you can travel the world on your own—easily, safely, and adventurously.
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