Being a tourist is, on the whole, safe—providing you take common-sense precautions about where you go and how you conduct yourself. Some parts of any city are more dangerous than others, just as some cities and countries are more dangerous than others.
Read up before you go on what you are likely to find when you get to wherever it is you are going, so you don’t arrive as unprepared as São Paulo police think some tourists visiting the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be. Once at your destination, blend in as best you can. Stand in the middle of the street in Mogadishu wearing a Hawaiian shirt and brandishing $100 bills and you are asking for trouble.
Our travel tested rule of thumb is that if any situation starts to feel uncomfortable, just apologize and walk away sooner rather than later.
Here are 10 DOs and 10 DON’Ts that should serve any traveler well:
- Don't carry and flash large sums of cash, nor exchange money at dubious-looking places or with individuals on the street.
- Don’t look like a tourist by dressing like one, appearing lost or consulting a map in public.
- Don’t walk with a bag slung loosely over one shoulder, and keep your bag on the opposite side of you from the road to forestall a thief on a bike from snatching it.
- Don’t carry a backpack that looks like luggage.
- Don't visit dangerous locations, or walk in unfamiliar, isolated or dimly lit areas, especially at night.
- Don't leave valuable items in public view; that includes your passport as much as your iPhone.
- Don't drive an obvious rental car, the more nondescript the better; keep maps and travel brochures out of sight in the glove compartment.
- Don't park anywhere but a well lit place, don't leave valuables in sight (lock them in the trunk), and don’t pick-up hitchhikers.
- Don’t keep your vehicle and house or hotel keys on the same key ring.
- Don’t store cash, jewelry, medicine or other valuables in your luggage, and never leave your luggage unattended, even for a brief moment.
- Do be aware of your surroundings, and watch for suspicious people or vehicles.
- Do use cash substitutes such as traveler's checks or credit cards, and only carry as much money as you immediately need.
- Do lock up valuables you are not taking with you in a safe in your room or use your hotel’s safe-deposit box services to store them; and lock the windows and doors your hotel room when going out.
- Do make a note of your passport number; if it becomes lost or stolen, knowing the number will speed up getting a replacement.
- Do make a note of your credit-card numbers and the phone number to call in case you need to report it stolen and cancel it.
- Do dress appropriately for your surroundings as much as you can; looking more like a local makes you less of a mark than looking like an obvious tourist.
- Do put a band around your luggage as a safeguard against pilferage while in transit; suitcase locks are no barrier to a professional thief.
- Do travel with companions while sightseeing or shopping; there is safety in numbers.
- Do keep vehicle doors locked and windows rolled up when driving.
- Do be alert for staged distractions, such as someone bumping into you, spilling a drink on you, dropping something in front of you or causing a loud commotion; an accomplice can steal your valuables and walk away while you are momentarily distracted.
One final piece of advice: Don't become a tourist offender. Don’t solicit prostitutes, buy illegal drugs, or attempt to smuggle goods out of the country.