Backpack Security - Personal Security
There are several things that you can do to make you as a person less of a target.
Thieves and other criminals look for easy targets. Don't make yourself appear like like a good "mark".
Look strong - predators instinctively hunt the weak
Don't look like and idiot tourist
Don't appear lost
Stand up to confrontation - some criminals will actually test you first prior to making the big hit.
Having a big bulky wallet in your back pocket is a good way of getting robbed. Only small amounts of cash should be readily available, while bank cards, documents and other items of value should be put away.
There is a debate whether extra cash should be kept in a room safe, locked pack or on your person. If it is carried on your person, it should be concealed in a hidden waist bag, money belt, secret pocket, etc.
Remember that every time you pull out your wallet, or anything of value, you are announcing to the world that you have this item as well as where you keep it. Thieves do take note of this, but may not act on this information until later when you least expect it.
The first rule to footwear selection is the ability to run or fight. If you are wearing flip-flops, high heals, or other similarly inappropriate footwear, you are less able to chase down someone, run away or put up a good fight, especially if pushed to the ground. Whether you are going to chase down an assailant or put up a good fight is another story - but you don't want to look defenseless in the eyes of a predator.
Fancy white or colorful shoes will make you stand out like a visitor. Shoes/boots should be made from leather and black or brown in color.
Flip flops and sandals are NOT footwear. You can't run in these or kick with them and they are the cause of many falls and foot injuries every year.
Try to blend in as best as you can. Flashy outfits and jewelry will draw just about everyone's attention. Avoid bright colors and clothing not used by locals. Shorts, tank tops and convertible pants may seem appropriate for the weather in the country you are visiting, but may make you stand out like a tourist - and possibly one with a considerable amount of valuables (cash, jewelry, electronics, passport, etc.) and lack of sense.
Room doors should be closed and locked at all times, whether you are awake or not. Some rooms used abroad can be locked with a padlock, so it's a good idea to pack one full size padlock for this purpose.
Door Stopper/Wedge with Alarm
Uses adhesive tape or Velcro on undersurface
If you are concerned about the possibility of intruders visiting while you sleep, you can use a wedge under your door. If tight enough, it should slow or stop and intruder from entering. A good solid rubber wedge is generally more than sufficient, but there are also door stoppers with built in alarms. Some floor surfaces may necessitate the use of double sided adhesive tape or Velcro on the undersurface of the wedge. Alarms on the room doors isn't a bad idea and at least alert you before some breaks in to snatch you.
Milockie - secondary roomsafe lock
Add your own lock to a room safe so that employee with master combo is denied access
When rooms are not occupied, or when occupants are asleep, bags and packs should be locked up and secured to a bed frame or pipe under sink. All valuables should be secured in a room safe or portable safe in your pack (also locked to immovable object).
Economy window alarm
Windows should be closed and/or secured as being hot is better than being robbed. And if you are really paranoid, you can add an alarm and/or wedge to your windows for a little extra protection since windows can often be unlocked with a coat hanger or knife.
Hopefully, it won't come to this. But at some point in your life, you may have to literally fight for your life. If you have no idea how to fight, you will likely freeze up and assess the situation when confronted, which is not something you will have time for. Sometimes just putting up a little bit of a fight will save you from something much much worse, but it needs to be initiated quickly for the best results.
If you have lived a life free of violence and confrontation, consider taking a self defense class; it could save your life. It will also make you look a bit stronger and confidant, which in turn makes you less likely to be a target in the first place.
There is some debate on use of personal defense weapons and you will hear different theories and preferences from the travelers you meet. Just having items such as mace, pepper-spray, stun guns, batons, knives and firearms can get you a enormous amounts of trouble in many countries. Some feel it is better to be robbed than deal with assault or contraband charges, while others feel it is better to deal with these issues than be robbed, killed or feel defenseless.
In a few parts of the world, an armed escort is required as a deterrent and for true personal security. Areas like these should not be visited by novice travelers on their own and should be avoided by most others. Care should also be taken when selecting your escort team as many security groups in the past were know to have insiders who helped kidnap or murder of their clients. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
Trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about a place or someone, you should listen to yourself and take precautions.
You will undoubtedly meet interesting folks on your travels and probably make some great friends along the way. Most people are good natured, but you unfortunately can't trust anyone. Also remember that you are often just as likely (if not more) to get robbed by other travelers as by locals.
Professional con artists have to be believable if they want to make a living at it. Remember that anything that involves money or credit cards should be suspect. Even when purchasing items from "reputable" shops, one should be cautious.
Giving up collateral such as passports or credit cards as a security deposit can get you tangled up in all kinds of problems.
Illegal activities in the country you are visiting, such as drug use, prostitution and purchasing black marketed items can get you really tangled up in blackmail, extortion and problems with the local authorities. If you must, proceed with caution.
Advice to the Truly Paranoid
It's not paranoia if people are actually out to get you. And if you are wondering, they are.
Always lock up your gear. Not only will thieves steal your stuff when they can, smugglers, including some of your new travel-mates, can stow drugs and other nasty surprises in your bags.
Avoid the same routine everyday. Go ahead and brush your teeth twice a day, but mix up routes to the store, bank machine, etc. People do take note of your activities and may make use of this information if it is predictable.
Lock up your car and leave it empty of gear. Some say to leave a car unlocked so that thieves won't break a window. And although that may work in some places in this world, a car can become a huge security risk and locking it up makes it harder for someone to access your engine, battery and even gas tank. Locking the doors also makes it a little harder for criminals to sneak in and hide themselves or from them to hide something which needs to cross a boarder without leaving a trace.
Bug Out Bag - enough to survive for 72 hours and evacuate
Know how to get to a safe place in case of an emergency. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, riots, revolutions, complicated espionage plots and even full out war often happen unexpectedly. When this happens, have an escape/emergency/evacuation plan in place. This may be to flash money at a taxi driver and get to the embassy while your "bug out bag". Or it may be to improvise and go with the flow. The first plan is better and the better prepared you are, the more likely you will survive.
Pre Travel Research
If you are traveling abroad, you should learn about where you intend to travel and what is going on in that area. You should have a reasonable level of understanding of local customs and things not to do. Are you showing up in the middle of a violent revolution? Are kidnappings of foreigners common. Are rapes so common that no one cares? Do people wake up without a kidney?
You can read up on basic travel information at travel.state.gov to include potential security concerns at many non-US destinations.
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