Don't Be a Victim
10 Tips For Traveling Safely
1. Dress and act like a local to avoid being a target. Anglers usually rank low here with our conspicuous rod tubes, bulky luggage, gregarious nature and high-tech clothing.
2. Public transportation can be risky. Make sure to verify a taxi's credentials before entering. Becoming familiar with two or three reliable taxi drivers and having them "on call" is a good idea. When I stayed in a popular but high-risk beach city, my taxi driver was an armed, off-duty policeman who I hired for the duration of my stay.
3. Follow the charter routine. A good resort/charter operation greets their clients at the airport or other arrival points and provides a safe ground or domestic air transfer to the final destination. Making the transfers yourself might save a buck or two, but it may not be wise.
4. Partake of bars, casinos and nightlife in moderation and with friends. Avoid food or drink offerings from strangers - they might be drugged, a growing practice in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Regarding "recreational" drug use, don't even consider it in a foreign country where penalties can be extremely harsh. Make sure all prescription medication is properly labeled and in its original bottle with your name on it; otherwise, you might run into trouble when bringing it back into the United States.
5. Communication is critical. If your cell phone doesn't work in a different country or is costly to use, purchase an inexpensive local phone and program important numbers into your contact list. My Panama cell phone cost $20, and a $5 calling card holds more than enough capacity for two weeks.
6. Do your research before renting a car. Driving in a strange country with possibly different rules of the road, lane direction, poor signage and signals, aggressive drivers and poorly maintained roads can turn into a nightmare. Before arrival, study a road map of the city, outline a conservative route, ask questions regarding current road conditions or changes, and don't drive at night. In many countries, car-rental agencies can provide a driver at a reasonable cost if you ask in advance.
7. Carry a lean wallet. Take out unnecessary credit cards, your social-security card, irreplaceable items or other valuables from your wallet and leave them at home. Keep your passport, credit cards, cash and airline tickets in the hotel or room safe. Keep a copy of your passport photo page with you at all times, as well as your driver's license and credit cards.
8. When carrying valuables, avoid fanny packs, handbags and outside pockets. Distribute cash and other valuables inside pockets or a hidden money belt. Carry minimum cash at all times.
9. Keep your luggage close. Stay with your luggage until it is checked behind the airline counter or into your hotel room.
10. Avoid crowds. Political gatherings, nationalistic soccer matches and even public recreational events can turn into mob scenes or individual crime incidents with you as a target.