We all agree that traveling is so much fun, but you also need to take extra care to keep both yourself and your valuables safe on your trip. There are going to be those times when you will find yourself traveling on public transport, and that is just great, another opportunity to observe and learn about local customs, and behaviour. So to make sure that trip is a memorable one for the right reasons, here are some tips to make sure you keep yourself safe at those times. If you make yourself aware of what to look for you are less likely to become a victim of theft.
1. Choose the womens-only carriage
In some locations, such as trains in Jakarta, Indonesia and Japan, you’ll see that metros and trains have whole carriages designated for women only. This might seems a bit silly on face value, but you should probably take advantage of them. Although the policy may only be effective certain times, such as during rush hour, you’ll reduce the chance of finding hands straying into your personal space – something that two-thirds of young women in Tokyo reportedly experienced before the carriages came into existence.
2. Look like you know what you’re doing
You might not have a clue, but at least try to look as if you are in control of the situation instead of gazing at the route map in obvious confusion with tears in your eyes. It’s a good idea to try and plan your route before you leave and scribble it on your hand, load it into your phone or try to remember it. That way, you won’t have to pull out your map every five minutes and mark yourself out as a tourist. Knowing what you are doing and how long you are spending in a certain place will make you less of a target for criminals.
3. Don’t dress like a shop window
Everyone likes to look good, but don’t attract thieves by wearing expensive jewellery or carrying clearly marked designer bags – this will only draw attention to yourself. If you want to dress nicely for special occasion, for example, at least throw a plain coat on over the top so that you blend in – you really don’t want to stand out in the crowd.
4. Don’t carry too much
Carry more than one bag and there’s a big chance you’ll leave it behind while you’re thinking about how to change trains or trying to find the right platform. Believe me, I’ve done it myself, sat down to have a coffee and walked off leaving a bag under the table. It was gone when I went back and hadn’t been handed in at the counter. Keep all your belongings inside a single, zip-up bag and take only what you need for that day. A smaller bag will make you less attractive to thieves and will also prevent back ache from all your sightseeing!
5. Keep to yourself
There’s nothing wrong with chatting to your fellow passengers but as friendly as they seem, avoid being tricked into giving out any personal information about yourself or where you are staying. Even if the person you’re talking to is genuine, anyone could be listening in for some juicy titbits.
6. Stay with people, but don’t get crowded
The last thing you want to do is to get onto an empty carriage, or one that you’re sharing with just a small group of other people. Neither do you want to find yourself so squashed up against other bodies that you couldn’t stop yourself being pick-pocketed even if you saw it happening! The best strategy is to find a moderately crowded spot and to find a seat where you can put your belongings on your lap, right in front of you.
I was in Barcelona and the train wasn’t really full. I could feel a tugging on my backpack but didn’t take too much notice as there was another woman behind me. As we went up the escalator she reached into my backpack, as soon as I realised what was going on I turned on her and told her off in no uncertain terms. She took off. It turned out that she was tugging the zip open on the train so that she had easy access later. I only had the zip out sleeves to my jacket and a bottle of water in the backpack, but it taught me a very valuable lesson. Stay alert to your surroundings and what is going on around you.
7. Choose your seat wisely
Where you sit makes a considerable difference to your chances of being targeted by criminals. Try to find a position that’s within view of the driver but that’s not right next to the door. Many opportunist thieves jump aboard just before the doors close to grab personal belongings – and they’re faster than you might think! Pick an aisle seat and stay there so that you can move if you need to easily. You should be able to see what’s happening around you. And with any form of transport, make the effort to check the safety procedures and emergency exits before you set off.
8. Try to stay awake
Assuming you’re on a fairly short journey, do anything you can to ensure that you stay alert. Falling asleep or getting drowsy will obviously make your belonging much easier to steal. Play games, read or chat to fellow passengers – whatever you need to do to stay perky! If you’re going to be taking longer journeys, consider investing in a method of securing your bag to yourself, or of locking it shut. Use your handbag as a pillow, even.
9. Stay with people
Your metro stop arrives, it’s late at night and there’s no one else on the platform. Do you get off? Well, it’s up to you to judge the situation, but it’s a potentially risky one. In certain situations, you might be better off getting off at the next stop with some other people and catching a cab back to where you are supposed to be. This might sound a bit extreme, but go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
10. Only used licensed cabs
Even in the world’s most developed cities, taking unlicensed taxis as a lone woman can be a recipe for disaster. Check in your guidebook how to spot official taxis (sometimes this can actually be rather tricky!) and make sure you only use those. Yes, they will be more expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for your safety.
11. Keep tickets in a pocket, not your wallet
It’s sensible to always try and keep your ticket, pass or change ready in your hand or any easy to access pocket, so that you can keep your purse or wallet out of sight of any potential pickpockets. I have a SCOTTeVEST jacket that has lots of inside pockets. These jackets are excellent for when you are travelling. I have had mine for a few years now and it has removable sleeves which makes it ideal for travel..
12. Make a scene
If you feel threatened at any point, don’t keep it to yourself and try to resolved the situation with the minimum of fuss. Make a lot of noise and big gestures and more often than not you’ll scare off any wannabe criminal.
So as I say, take care and be aware of your surroundings and your trip will be all the more memorable and enjoyable.