How to stop criminals spoiling them
There are many resorts in which tourists are looked upon as fair game by the local petty criminals. They are often particularly vulnerable if they do not speak the local language, and do not know how to summon help from the police or other authorities in the event of a crime.
Advertising your presence
Unfortunately many tourists are very easy to spot. There is little you can do in, say, an African or Asian country where Europeans have an entirely different appearance to locals. What is often a dead giveaway though is the wearing of shorts, sun hats and T-shirts advertising holiday destinations; and the camera slung around the neck is an instant invitation to thieves. The more that you can blend in with the background by adopting the dress style of the inhabitants, the more chance you have of avoiding problems.
At many cruise or ferry terminals you may be met by 'friendly' locals who will give you free hats. These hats will label you as not only a tourist but also as one who has just arrived and is likely to be even less aware of risks than those who have been in the resort for some time. You should accept these if you must, but not wear them outside the port area under any circumstances. Another label is the sticker that tour organisers like you to wear on excursions; these are very useful for you and the organiser to recognise bona-fide members of your group but they advertise that fact to others as well. If you wonder away from the group for any reason you may wish to remove it and keep it in your pocket for a while.
Avoiding the main risks
One of the most commen hazards is from pickpockets. These operate mainly in crowded areas, such as buses and busy thoroughfares, and often they will work in pairs. One of them will lift your wallet, and then pass it quickly to an accomplice who promptly disappears. This means that even if you apprehend the culprit you will be met with vigourous denials are no evidence whatsoever. To defend yourself against this type of crime you should carry the absolute minimum of cash, and keep all valuables in a waist bag under your shirt.
Wearing expensive jewellery; or indeed any jewellery at all; can put you at risk of muggers. These will often operate down side streets where there are few witnesses so if in any doubt whatsoever you should stick to busier areas. Handbag and mobile phone snatchers are a constant worry in many places; sometimes they work in pairs on a motorbike or moped and they can be very aggressive. Best leave your handbag in your hotel or cabin safe, and your mobile phone in your waist bag.
Staying within groups
If you travel with a tour company or on a cruise ship there will often be organised excursions for you to go out on. These are almost invariably far safer than exploring on your own, since you not only have the protection of a group but also the services of a group leader who should be able to assist you if you became a victim. A good tour operator will be able to warn you before hand of any particular risks in the area that you are visiting.
Dealing with street vendors
In some parts of the world you will be approached by children with trinkets to sell. If you do decide to buy these then you should be very careful about paying with more than the exact price. If you offer a larger note, expecting change, sometimes the child will accept it and then run off very quickly. Tour operators will often advise you to first of all show the note, then accept the change and goods from the vendor, before handing the note over. In some resorts, of course, or when dealing with older vendors, this can cause considerable insult so the best course is always to have sufficient change or small denomination notes available, so that you can give the exact price.
Keeping an eye on your credit card
Even in some of the largest retail outlets in Asia, copying your credit card is a widespread custom. It is far better to pay by cash for small purchases, but if you have to use your card do not let it out of your sight, and be particularly careful when you enter your pin number to make certain that no eyes or hidden cameras can see it. Be particularly suspicious if they offer a better discount for a card purchase. Better still, ask your bank for a new one as soon as you return home, if you have to use it in a region where this type of crime is rife.
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