Playing It Safe

Where to Stay
Sinking Barge Bags
CAMERA BAG IN DISGUISE: Crumpler's Sinking Barge bag ($180, also available in larger sizes; www.crumpler.com) offers a heavily-padded case for your SLR, spare lenses, flash units, and laptop

If you're traveling alone, look for smaller hotels where local staff can get to know you and help out if you need a hand. Also, ask fellow travelers about places you might want to avoid and how to get around safely.

When you arrive, your room number should be written down and given to you, not announced out loud, so that anyone who might be listening would know where you're staying. If this happens, Hannon says, ask for another room.

When you're going out for the day, she advises, leave a note at the front desk detailing where you're planning to go and who you'll be with. In the unlikely event you don't return, people will know how to track you down.

Even when you're tucked in for the night, keep an eye on your belongings. In hostels, Lansky has kept his passport pouch with him while sleeping and taking a shower. And if you have to leave quickly, you'll have the most important things with you.

Even if your paranoia doesn't run that deep, keeping your wits about you at all times will undoubtedly benefit your situation. We heard of one scam where a supposed hotel clerk calls the guests late at night to "confirm" credit-card info as a ruse to garner essential credentials from half-asleep patrons operating on autopilot.

Some travelers like to have an even more personal experience when heading to a new place. By staying with a local, you can have the benefit of their advice about where to go, what to do—and you'll also have a more personal experience. Several programs, including Servas, Hospitality Exchange, and CouchSurfing can put travelers into contact with people who will open their homes to guests, and offer input on the street-level safety around town.

Whitman has used CouchSurfing on trips along the U.S. West Coast and in India. She always stays either with a woman, or with a couple in which the woman is the primary contact, and peruses their online profiles carefully. As with any travel situation, if something doesn't feel right when she arrives, she'll leave.


Published: 10 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »