Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Simon Calder: Simple steps for safety

By Simon Calder

Simon Calder has more great advice for taking care of yourself while travelling.

Rome's Spanish Steps are popular with tourists and thieves. Photo / 123RF
Rome's Spanish Steps are popular with tourists and thieves. Photo / 123RF

1. When sightseeing, don't lose focus

Pickpockets, bag-snatchers and scam artists are as fond of busy tourist attractions as they are of transport terminals. Rome, Florence, Prague, Barcelona and Seville are prime crime territory. Again, be aware when crowds form around you, whether of young children or large men. If anything unusual happens - eg, a woman claiming to have found a wedding ring, or a man who "finds" a wallet and seeks your help - be immediately suspicious. This usually marks the beginning of an elaborate and often expensive scam.

2. Stay on the right side of the law

Breaking the law abroad is easier than you may think. Be sure to respect local customs and cultural sensitivities. Drunkenness that may be seen as good-natured here could earn you a stay in a cell in Poland - and you'll be presented with a bill the next morning for your "care".

Carrying ID is often obligatory - though a photocopy of the business pages of your passport will usually suffice.

Finally, be careful where you take photos. The new United Arab Emirates bulletin from the British Foreign Office warns: "Hobbies that involve cameras and binoculars, such as birdwatching and plane-spotting, may be misunderstood - particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports".

3. Just arrived. Who are those odd men?

No, not the pilots - the scrum of chaps hanging around the arrivals area. You are at your most vulnerable when you have just arrived somewhere new. Tired, confused and out of your comfort zone, you have to sort out the next step of your journey, tickets or transfers. That makes you a tempting target for villains.

Plan ahead: get an up-to-date guidebook to scope out the next stage of your journey. If you can book in advance and print out your onward tickets, so much the better. Have some local currency to hand so as not to reveal where the bulk of your funds are stashed. However weary you may feel, stay alert to what's happening around you.

At railway stations, airports and on airport trains, keep your eyes on your luggage: the lines from Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle are notorious for thefts. If you feel you are getting caught up in a crowd, step away.

- INDEPENDENT

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