How To Travel Safe

We experience the unknown when we travel. Wandering unfamiliar streets. Seeing faces we don’t recognise. Sampling food we don’t get at home. Usually we come back with thrilling adventures to share.

Wandering the timeless streets of Melbourne, sometimes it's hard to find an info booth | Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life.

Wandering the timeless streets of Melbourne, sometimes it’s hard to find an info booth | Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life.

But sometimes some of us come back with the odd horror story of getting pick-pocketed, getting lost and probably everyone’s worst nightmare, their passport stolen.

The onus is on us to survive trips in one piece. It could be a lengthy overseas holiday. It could be a quick trip back to our hometowns. Whenever we head back to Malaysia for a short getaway, my mum never fails to repeat common sense tips for us to stay physically safe over and over again.

For many of us, quite often our vacations are spent outdoors roaming streets and monuments – we never know when the locals might take advantage of us. Carrying a bag slung across our body or a back pack instead of a handbag in hand might deter snatch thieves from approaching us. Thieves have every chance of falling to the ground, unceremoniously wrestling us wrestling them trying to grab our cross-body bags.

Sometimes carrying no bag might be the way to go on holidays. When we’re in Malaysia, my mum insists we stuff our wallets, phones and tissues into bulging pants pockets and basically go bag-less. Some robbers here don’t hesitate to cut off body parts with parangs to get a hold of your belongings.

Dressing down abroad is usually a wise decision too. Wearing shiny jewelry and watches screams we are loaded with money. Likewise for the reason above, I wear my oldest pair of jeans and most faded shirts when I’m in Malaysia, be it in air-conditioned shopping centres or baking Petaling Street. As my relatives said, the more we look like beggars, the less likely robbers will glance at us.

Another way to stay safe is thinking twice about wandering down lonely hole in the wall paths and getting lost at our own risk. Going down a deserted laneway, we might set ourselves up for getting mugged in a secluded place with no one to turn to for help. On a number of occasions, I’ve visited suburban parts of Melbourne, took an unplanned turn down a random street that wasn’t marked on my map, got lost and couldn’t find a toilet when I was busting to go.

There are of course literally a million tips for safely getting around anywhere. Researching our destination, having maps on hand, learning key phrases in the local language, the list goes on. It almost seems we can never be fully prepared for every situation in a foreign place.

The night before this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge came out, I dreamt I was on holiday in some place for the first time, accompanied by a Chinese-Australian friend who knew the place well. In my dream, she handed me earthly-coloured clothes to wear so I blended in and looked like a local. We then visited a restaurant in a dodgy part of town. My friend knew the eatery’s owners and so we had the privilege of dining in a tiny, secret room separated from the other patrons by a door that was patterned exactly like the outlet’s red flowery walls.

Suddenly, as we were chatting over tea, gun shots rang out from the main dining area. My friend and I ducked under the table. After five minutes of shooting sounds, all was quiet and we made a beeline for the exit and jumped under the tarps at the back of our waiting truck. As our driver put the vehicle into motion, my friend spied a man with a rifle chasing after us and from the look on her face, she seemed to know him.

At this point, I woke up and unfortunately don’t know how this trip ended. Every trip can be unpredictable and having connections wherever you go can be a big help.

How do you travel safe?

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41 thoughts on “How To Travel Safe

  1. Quite a dream that you had.

    I like travelling so much especially travel abroad. It must be the sense of foriegn land that has drawn me in. Speaking about safety on the trips, I usually have my things with me all the time. I try to choose bag that can keep my wallet and passport safely. I try to look around where I go. Try to be concious as much as I can. Moreover, I try to blend in locals as much as I can especially when I travel to Asian countries or mixed-races ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it definitely was quite a dream. The other commenters also said that. I didn’t wake up shaking or scared though. It inspired this week’s blog post topic and the photo for this week’s photo challenge 🙂

      I think a lot of the time we are drawn to foreign places is because we know that these places are unfamiliar – there’s always something new to experience, see, eat and we will never get bored walking around. Really, you carry your passport with you all the time? I’ve never traveled without family before and my parents always insist we keep our passports at home, or if we’re staying in a hotel in the hotel’s safe. I don’t really like this, would much rather keep the passport in the inside zip pockets of my bag or inside an inside pocket of a jacket or vest.

      You’re very careful and vigilant, Cotton. I’m sure all of your trips and holidays have been great experiences for you. Can tell that from the photos on your blog all the time 🙂


      • I always carry my passport with me everywhere when I travel abroad because I’m afraid that if unexpected situation happens to me, I can have this identification for reference or go to other countries. I mean we never know what will happen to us when we are in other countries, and only passport will be used to identify ourselves. Anyway, the downside is that it will be lost if your bag has been stolen or you forget to carry it with you. So I try to copy the page of my identification on the passport as well as VISA page, and I keep them at the hotel. In case my passport has been lost, I still have the copied document for reference,


        • That is a good idea and you’re very right. Anything unexpected can happen on an overseas trip and you never know when you need to leave the country. Most of the time our passport will go into our bag so it’s best to keep our bag close to us at all times. For instance, we should never leave our bag on the floor or hanging on our chair when we’re eating at a restaurant and keep our bag slinged in front of us at all times. Photcopying is definitely a good idea too. I would also think we should carry some other form of identification apart from passport, like a driver’s license just to be safe too.


  2. Never worry too much about safety when I arrive in the place I am visiting, usually because I try to get as much info I can about the place prior to travel…keep things simple, and then go. Being a guy helps, as I always want my sisters/female friends to take care and travel in groups.

    Hope the Beijing dream does not keep you up at night…such a dream must be a little nerve wracking 🙂


    • That’s very bold of you not to worry too much when you’re traveling! But yeah, if you’re prepared there really shouldn’t be a need to worry, and the last thing you want to remember about trips is that you were fretting about this and that the whole time. I guess if we’re lost in a town and stuck without internet, we can always ask someone to help or if we’re too shy, just pop into a bookstore and look at the maps and travel guides for free 🙂

      Traveling in groups is always the safer option, I suppose. I’ve always traveled with family, haven’t had the opportunity yet to trek the world solo. Yet.

      I’m always up at night way past midnight, Randall. Working full time, the only time I have time to blog and write is…at night. Everyone is saying that is such a violent dream, but really it inspired me to write this post. A strange sign 🙂


      • I like how you say “yet”… That day will come and it’ll be perfect for you.

        When I am in China, I go to bed so early but that is great because I get up early and really have a nice start to the day…and can analyze my dreams 🙂

        Dreams are strange, and while I think your dream was violent, but in a strange way not violent…as that was not the focus. It is more the mystery of you not know what may come your way, and of course, with politics & history, you never know what you’re going to get with China (or elsewhere). But still, it needs to be said: safe travels!


        • That’s what travel is all about, mystery and travel. So no wonder everyone says “safe travels”. I am never one to go to bed early or rise early, even when I’m on vacation in a foreign place (okay, I have to get up at the crack of dawn for work but that’s beside the point).

          Dreams are definitely strange but interesting. I’ve always wondered if they’re part of our subconscious, our mind’s way of telling us something about ourselves, or the universe’s way of telling us what’s to come. The latter sounds more interesting to me and I always like to believe that…but my dreams never come true 🙂


  3. I feel always that I am relatively safe wherever I go but of course there are sometimes areas where I do not feel really comfortable.(some scetchy areas in St. Petersburg for example..).
    But to be on the safe side, I never carry much cash with me or not even any at all and my cameras are in some special bags slung around my body. So if anyone tries to get there cameras from me they have to unrap the bags from me first 🙂
    btw. what a terrifying dream, my dreams are usually more about some nice food..


    • Ah, you’re bold enough to flash your camera around! But of course, a lot of tourists do that and never get robbed of their cameras. If I were on holidays, I would also take my camera out and use it…though I’d make sure no one dodgy is around. If I do carry cash on me, I don’t carry it all in one place on me. I put some in my wallet and some notes in a pocket, bag or wherever I think can hide cash 🙂

      Haha, everyone is saying that dream was a terrifying one. I’ve had similar dreams before, can’t remember them off the top of my head – similar dreams with the themes of being in an unfamilar place and basically just “running”


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  6. Interesting post, as usual. A topic everyone can relate to. You give some good advice, and in the comments too.
    I’m going to tell you a little story from a man I know. He now lives in Sweden with his family, but went to live in India when he was young, and stayed for more than 30 years. Two years ago he returned to his home village, near mine, and the first month he was back here in Sweden he was robbed outside the library. This had never happened to him in India or in any other country visited.


    • Thanks for the nice words, Leya. Always nice when you stop by 🙂 That is a very interesting story, and a very unfortunate one too. It must’ve been very scary for him and I hope he is okay and not harmed. I think sometimes if we get robbed or something unfortunate happens on our travels, it’s a case of luck and us being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To be honest, this also applies to everyday life too…I guess it’s best we don’t worry too much about when these things will happen but think about the positives in every experience.


  7. One of my biggest fears about travelling internationally is having my luggage tampered with. I use cable ties to loop through the zip tops and, once secured, paint nail polish across the join, so I can tell if they’ve been cut and replaced


    • That is a fear of mine too. The only thing I use to secure them are those tiny padlocks that could be chopped off in an instant with a good pair of scissors. Your method of securing your luggage sounds like a very clever one, I might try that. Maybe that’s why people like to wrap their luggage in clear wrap too. I always thought they were being a bit over-the-top, but now not so. But then again, it’s not that hard to cut through clear wrap and re-wrap the bag with it again. Hmmm.


  8. Quite an elaborate dream. I hope it doesn’t recur.

    Safety whilst travelling – is it any different to safety at home, on a night out or at work? I think basic common sense, and you’ve covered that above, is the best you can do no matter where you are.


    • An interesting way to put it – an elaborating dream. Had similar dreams in the past but nothing of the kind since last week.

      So, so, so spot on with your point there. Recently I heard someone say something along the lines of, “If you want to stay safe, why go out of the house?” But then again, as you’ve implied, safety at home is in a sense same as safety wherever you are, indoors our outdoors. As long as we keep vigilant and don’t do anything stupid, may fate be ever on our side 🙂


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  11. What an awful dream you had! I think the “scariest” moment I’va had travelling was when I went to Peru. I landed and stayed over night at Lima at a supposedly “good area”. When I got up the next morning, I looked out the window and could see the locals walking around the street clutching their bags for life. The hotel receptionist told us not to cross the river. My travelling companion decided to cross the river and I decided it would be imperative to go back over the other side, wow, I thought we would surely be half killed to get robbed on that side!
    Barcelone has lots of pickpockets but you just need to go around with some common sense, nothing mayor.
    Do they really do that in Malaysia???


    • Gunfire and people with weapons chasing after me…that was definitely one of the more violent dreams I’ve ever had. That was quite a nervy experience for you, not knowing what was going on outside your hotel in Lima and people running around like headless chooks! In Malaysia, robbers are very daring. They will do almost anything to get something that they want, like the shiny necklace you’re wearing or the fat wallet sticking out of your pocket. There’s quite a lot of poverty there, and many people have had hard times over the last decade or so.


  12. When I went to Manila, I bought a slash-proof purse and carried all of my money and important documents with me (in it) when I went out. I did NOT feel safe in Manila. Otherwise, I have usually felt pretty safe in most of the places I’ve been. I try not tor dress flashily. Just blend in as much as possible and try not to attract attention to myself. Be careful always!


    • I had to Google slash-proof purse. Wow, it looks durable and it looks like something I might invest in. With Manila, there are lots of motorcyles or scooters, so can definitely understand why you don’t feel too safe. Dressing down and blending in is a good tip too as anything bold tends to scream “money”. Always better to be safe than sorry. Thanks for stopping by Jess. Hope the move and settling in is going well.


  13. I read through this the first time and had not realised it was a dream, my thought’s were not to visit the places you go especially the restaurants and then I saw the comments and re-read the post. My thoughts are to check up what you eat and drink before you go to sleep and avoid them. lol.


    • Hahaha! Imagine if my violent restaurant dream were to come true…I think my heart would literally be jumping out of my throat. In parts of Asia including Malaysia, it’s not uncommon for thieves to walk into air-conditioned restaurants and demand money and valuables from patrons just like that. Definitely a good idea to check up on food and drinks served around the place where we’re visiting. The last thing we want to happen on a trip is to get mugged in a frequently targeted restaurant or get sick from eating unsanitary food. Thanks for stopping by, Ian.


    • That is interesting to hear. Maybe you used a lot of common sense when you were there. I suppose if you stick to parts of Kuala Lumpur that are bustling with people, chances are you won’t run into too much trouble. There are definitely a lot of nice, hospitable Malaysians out there.


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