I'm not really daring when it comes to travel. I get nervous if I take a wrong turn while I'm driving. Street view on Google maps is a tiny godsend; now, when I get off the T, I know exactly what I'm going to see. So Nicholas D. Kristof's tips for traveling in rough areas of the world probably won't apply to me any time soon, but I thought it was an interesting read. Plus, even in more developed countries, it's a good idea to think safe.
Some of his suggestions:
- Carry a “decoy wallet,” so that if you are robbed by bandits with large guns, you have something to hand over. I keep $40 in my decoy wallet, along with an old library card and frequent-flier card. (But don’t begrudge the wallet: when my travel buddy was pickpocketed in Peru, we tried to jump the pickpocket, who turned out to be backed by an entire gang ... )
- Carry a tiny ski lock with a six-foot retractable wire. Use it to lock your backpack to a hotel bed when you’re out, or to the rack of a train car.
- At night, set a chair against your hotel door so that it will tip over and crash if someone slips in at 4 a.m. And lift the sheet to look for bloodstains on the mattress — meaning bed bugs.
- When you arrive in a new city, don’t take an airport taxi unless you know it is safe. If you do take a cab, choose a scrawny driver and lock ALL the doors — thieves may pull open the doors at a red light and run off with a bag.
- Remember that the scariest people aren’t warlords, but drivers. In buses I sometimes use my pack as an airbag; after one crash I was the only passenger not hospitalized.
For all those travel writers out there, watch out for bed bugs and be nice to people even if they want to chop off your hand. And send me a postcard, because I probably won't be joining you.