Holiday time, and those city streets are full of promise and opportunity - especially for the criminal. Here are 7 tips for staying safe in a foreign city this summer...
1. Be prepared
The first rule for staying safe in a foreign city – whatever you do, don’t walk around with your nose in a map! That’s like having a beacon on your head saying I don’t belong here, I don’t know where I’m going. It’s far easier for the thief to target someone who’s preoccupied and less likely to be aware of everything going on in their surroundings. Make sure you plot out your route in advance and if you do need to consult a map, make sure you do so while no-one’s about, or sit down in a cafe to find your bearings.
2. Dress down
If concerned about would-be muggers, pulling a scruffy hoodie or coat over your clothes will help deter would-be thieves. They’re looking for expensive loot, after all. Even if the scruffy look is not for you, try to blend into your surroundings – look like a local. It’s good to appear as if you belong in the area, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Whatever you do, don’t dress like a tourist!
3. Look streetwise
A scowl, a swagger, and a look that says ‘I’m not one to mess with’ will probably deter the crims – after all, they don’t want to get a gobful if they approach you. They’d rather go for the meek and mild target they can engage in conversation before dipping into their pocket or bag.
4. Silence is golden
We like our music as much as the next person, but listening on headphones while walking along an unfamiliar street just advertises the fact that you’re not completely aware of the sounds around you. Lost in music is OK at home, but preferably not out and about. Also do not phone your best friend/mum and have a lengthy chat about how wonderful the weather is where you are while you’re walking along. With the best will in the world you’ll be distracted from your surroundings, and will advertise your phone too!
5. Speak up!
Conversely if anyone does approach you, even if you don’t understand the lingo, make sure you speak loudly so that people around will be aware of you. The last thing a criminal wants is to draw attention to themselves, so look them straight in the face and… volume!
6. Watch the traffic
Thieves have been known to grab phones and bags from the pillion of motorcycles, or even skateboards, so have your bag across your shoulder if possible, with the flap or opening towards your body, away from the kerb. Likewise, if you do have to make a quick phone call, ensure you have the phone away from the road and walk on the side away from the kerb. Holidays are time to relax, but when you’re sitting down enjoying a glass of vino in the sun, make sure you keep your hand on your handbag. Your guard will be down, and it’s so easy for the thieves to pounce.
7. Let’s pretend
So you’ve done everything you can, but still someone’s approached and is threatening you and demanding money. Don’t be a hero – better safe than sorry – but do make sure you carry a decoy purse or wallet with you with some change and maybe a few Euros in it. Then if the worst happens, you can hand that over, while your real wallet is tucked away somewhere safe…