Countries many of us travel to — Mexico and Jamaica, for example — may appear on the Government of Canada website (travel.gc.ca) as places to visit with a “high degree of caution.” This is mostly due to crime and other issues outside the tourist zones, so you know what kinds of crime to watch out for, where. Think theft and assault, as well as scams and fraud, and public demonstrations.
Three simple words: Do your research. What are other travellers reporting? What does your travel agent have to say? Find out where the dangerous parts of town are. I think nothing about walking around many foreign cities at night, whereas others are cab-only after dark. Consider that almost every destination has rough neighbourhoods — Los Angeles, Miami, Winnipeg — and plan accordingly. There’s always going to be an element of uncertainty when you travel — that’s half the fun — but when it comes to your safety, three more words: Use your head.
Safety tips for foreign cities
Always visit the ATM during daylight hours and in pairs, so one of you can keep watch. Be wary of anyone offering to assist you with your transaction. Don’t carry around a giant wad of cash.
Watch your belongings in crowded areas like malls, transit stations and busy street corners. It never hurts to dress plainly so that you don’t stand out and pose a target for criminal activity. For example, no fancy watches or jewellery, even expensive sneakers.
Pay attention when someone else is handling your credit card or debit card.
Always use your phone in a safe place. Drivers on motorbikes have been known to swing by and snatch smartphones out of tourists’ hands on the sidewalk.
Use authorized taxi services only — no hustlers at the airport entrance. Though kidnappings seem like something you’d see on a TV show, rogue cab drivers have been known to drive people out of town and threaten to leave them there unless they give the drivers cash.
Avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings.
Don’t walk on empty streets at night.
Be wary of anyone knocking on your hotel room door, unless you’re expecting housekeeping or room service. Keep in mind that crooks target hotels in many cities, because they think hotel guests must be wealthy.
Remember: You’re more likely to be harmed if you refuse to cooperate with robbers. Just hand over your wallet, keeping the encounter as short as possible.