I have been travelling for well over a year now and I haven’t ever been mugged or felt like I was in a really dangerous situation, despite visiting what are dubbed as some of the “most dangerous cities in the world”.
How do I do it?
Stay indoors at night-time?
Only leave the hostel with a big group of people?
Work out three times a week and practice mixed martial arts?
Carry a knife?
No chance! I am a lover not a fighter. I am also a keen adventurer and not someone who is going to miss out on an opportunity to discover something new.
When I told friends and family that I was going to South America most were very supportive but a few were just plain worried. Before I left I heard that Buenos Aires was the most dangerous city in the world, Rio De Janeiro was the most dangerous city in the world, Santiago was the most dangerous city in the world…. well you get the picture! As I got closer to each city I also heard it more and more and heard horror stories and warnings from other travellers about visiting these places and how dangerous they were. This happened all over South and Central America as well as some places in India and even Europe. All warnings turned out to be completely unnecessary. Any place that is popular with tourists also has increased police presence and security. If it’s as dangerous as they say, tourists don’t go there.
In reality I have been out at all hours of the night and morning in most of these “dangerous cities” and hardly ever felt even the tiniest bit unsafe. People will tell 20 other people a story they have heard about someone getting robbed at knife-point. Nobody will mention it if they walked around for 3 days without incident unless someone asks them specifically.
So what is my secret to avoiding trouble?
It’s simple. Really simple. You just use common sense. Most of the stories I heard of people getting robbed started out with something like “I know I shouldn’t have been walking alone down ______ at ______ but…..”. If the hostel or any signs say things like” beware of pickpockets” or “don’t go on the beach at night-time”, then take care of your pockets and stay off the beach after dark!! I don’t take valuables like my passport, smart phone or credit cards with me when I go out at night or to a questionable area. I just take some cash and my camera. The camera is covered by travel insurance and easy to replace. I also upload all of my photos to Dropbox, so even if it does get stolen I have a copy of everything. Having met a girl who had 3 months of photos stolen in India (her camera was stolen on a train) and seeing how upset she was by it, I highly recommend that anyone travelling does the same. Upload your photos as much as possible!
If a street looks dodgy or there are a group of unsavoury characters loitering halfway down, then just don’t go down there. Get a taxi if there is no other way. You should always trust your instincts. The chances of an incident happening when you are using common sense is very, very low. The most important thing is to stay away from areas where people are robbed frequently. That doesn’t mean don’t do any cool things or have any fun. I go to all kinds of interesting places, I just heed the warnings of locals and information in my guide-book. Your hostel will also be a great source of information for staying safe in a particular area.
You should never be afraid to visit any place that other tourists visit.