Every time you go to a new city you try and gather as much information as possible…where to stay, how to get there, what places to visit, where to eat, etc. Also, another thing experienced travelers usually do is get informed about what areas to avoid. However, there are times when you just couldn’t find enough information about a certain city, you forgot or you got lost. So, how do you know you’re in the bad part of town? Dangers are different from area to area, country to country or city to city.
Of course, there are some extremely dangerous places, like South Africa or some parts of South America. Even between the United States and Europe there’s a big difference (statistically, there are more armed crimes in the United States, while in Europe you’re more likely to get pickpocketed, especially in touristic areas. However, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t want to kiss your $2,000 camera good bye, spend a few days at the consulate, in the hospital or even worse. You just want to have a good time and enjoy the place. So here are a few things I usually look for and which have successfully kept me safe so until now:
People loitering. If you see people doing nothing or walking without purpose there are chances they’re up to something (except for old persons). Regular people usually have stuff to do and don’t waste time sitting around. As for potential criminals…just sitting around waiting for a “target” to walk by…very possible.
Look for families. If the weather is great, especially during weekends or evenings, and you can’t see any families around, you’d better be careful. No one would risk getting their children in a bad area.
Trash. Even the most civilized countries and areas in the world have their ghettos. And where there’s poverty, there’s also trash. Of course, if you see trash, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re screwed, it depends on the type of trash. But if, for example, you see syringes, condoms, drug-related objects like spoons or tin foils, then you’d better get out of there as soon as possible. And trash is not the only sign of a bad area. You can also tell by abandoned places/building, graffiti and a general feeling the area isn’t really popular.
Single females. Girls are usually very careful where they walk (especially pretty ones). So if you see them walking by, things are probably ok. Of course, if the girl(s) look like a prostitute, you might want to be careful. For example, one time I had to go through a dark area I wasn’t quite sure about, when I saw three or four local girls waking by without worries, playing with their mobile phone. I didn’t worry a bit.
People going to/coming from to work. The easiest way to spot people that are coming back or going to work is look for people in business suits. If you can see them it means they aren’t avoiding that area, so you probably have nothing to worry about.
Lights. Always, but always, go for the lighten areas. This is probably the first thing in the “Stay safe” book. The more light, the less chances of you getting robbed or attacked. There’s no reason to putting yourself at risk by walking through dark areas if you have other safer alternative.
Apart from this, the best way is to research in advance and see where you should. Otherwise, those 5 things have kept me safe so far. Now there are other precautions you can take to avoid trouble such as how you dress and act, but that’s another topic.
Finally, if all the above fail, trust your guts. After some traveling, you will definitely develop a “sixth sense” about situations, places or people that might be dangerous. But even if you didn’t travel much, trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe somewhere, then just leave the area, you might be picking up on some signals you simply not recognize.
So how about you? How do you usually stay out of trouble when you’re a completely unknown place?