Common Sense Ways to Stay Safe while Traveling in a New City
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure to a new city, here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
You might be off to a grand solo adventure or just in town for a few days on business but it's a new city to you and you're not sure how safe it is.
I've traveled abroad and from coast to coast in the USA and I have to say that looks can be deceiving. A modest neighborhood seems relatively safe whereas a more urban setting might seem not so much. And what about those fancy high-rises and gated communities...they're safe, right?
As always, places are as safe as the people who live there want them to be. I lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn for the summer and come hell or high water NO ONE was getting into that building without their own key. On the other hand, I lived for a while in a high-end high rise in Toronto and everybody coming out to walk their dog would hold the door for you.
So, when traveling alone in a city you're not familiar with...how can you stay safe?
Here are a few tips that I like to follow.
Ask your Uber or Taxi Driver
As you're driving to your location, ask the driver where they would be comfortable having their wife, daughter, or girlfriend walk by herself. Don't simply ask where is "safe"...make it personal and you'll be surprised at how passionate they respond. Tell them where you are staying or plan on traveling to. They always give great advice about how to get to and from places safely. They will suggest taking the train to a certain place but only until a certain time, etc. They are a wealth of information and hey, you've got the time while you're riding, so why not?
Use a Crime Mapping Service
Plan ahead and do your research by using a crime mapping service like this one here. This is more for the USA but it allows you to type in a zip code, landmark, city name, etc. to pinpoint the crime rate in that area. Is that airbnb a really great price for a large city or is that hotel running a deep rate cut for that hotel chain? Might be a reason.
Appear to Travel in a Group
Just because you are traveling alone doesn't mean you need to put a target on yourself by walking alone or sitting by yourself on public transit. Keep pace with a group in front of you if walking in a large city simply by stopping at the same street light, or blend in with people as they come off a subway/train station.
A couple of times when I felt a bit uneasy about someone taking a bit too much interest in me, I walked up to a family and asked the mom if I could walk with them a bit just to make sure. They were more than happy and took me in for the next couple blocks.
Use Google Maps
Although google maps isn't always up-to-date, I still like to type in the address of where I'm considering staying and do a good street view to see the conditions of the neighborhood and cruise down a few streets. It gives you a "feel" of the area, how far the nearest convenience store is, pharmacy, etc. as well.
Use Your 6th Sense
Men may have been naturally given the brawn and strength but women were blessed with something that I think is even more powerful (and unfortunately seldom used by us) and that is our inherent gut instinct.
If you go to get on an elevator and your alarms start going off..don't get on! Same thing with a certain street, cab, storefront...whatever it is. We worry way too much on avoiding hurting people's feelings. It's better to possibly offend someone than to put yourself in danger when every fiber of your being is warning you. It has been reported that over half of women attacked by strangers didn't trust what their gut was telling them.
I usually always have my earphones in to listen to google maps or music. However, when I feel "off" or am entering any building, I leave them in but nothing is playing. If I have an elevator open and feel uneasy or have someone hold the door for me and insist on me going first and start to follow me to my door....it is easy to pretend to be talking to someone on my Iphone. Saying something like "oh, you're right outside? Sure, I'll be right there" or something that lets the person know that someone is near by.
Do I wish we lived in a world where this wasn't necessary...of course. Do I think living like this is being over-vigilante? No. There is a difference between living in a state of constant fear and living with common sense.
If you do these tips before and while you are on your trip, you will have the knowledge and good sense to truly be able to enjoy your time...and know you'll come home safe.