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Frontier-How to be Streetwise Abroad

Date added: Friday 27th June 2014


When going abroad, we mostly think about having a good time, with the sun, sand and sea nearby and that nothing bad could or will happen. However, just like anywhere you go to in the world, whether that is your local high street or the medina in Marrakech, staying alert and cautious will enable you to enjoy yourself no matter where you are and minimise anything bad that could happen to you – such as losing possessions, having your money stolen, or simply getting into trouble with the wrong people! Hopefully, these tips will allow you to avoid the hassle.


When you are travelling to a destination abroad, it is always best to make sure that you do your due diligence. This means doing research (visit the FCO ‘know before you go’ website, do an area search or visit travel forums) and finding out about areas that you don’t want to be travelling around and other no-go-areas, along with where hospitals and police stations are located – just in case. By doing this and pre-planning for ways to get around such obstacles, you’ll be able to avoid places that may have high crime rates or you’ll be able to prepare for ways to counter anything negative happening at all.

If you aren’t renting a car and need to get around then book a well-known cab company, which you can find out about online or that your hotel (if you’re staying at a hotel) will be able to advise you to use. If not, then local information centres should be able to help you out here. But remember, make sure to agree a price with the cab driver before you get in, otherwise you could be paying an exorbitant amount!


Blend in

Also, it is often best practice to try and blend in so that you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. So, dressing like the locals or adhering to cultural dress requirements (for example, in an Islamic country it is advisable to cover up and show less skin) will avoid any unwanted attention and will make you less of a target to pickpockets or anyone that wants to exploit your (lack of) knowledge of the locality for their own benefit – possibly a universal thing by opportunists in all corners of the world!


Be safe

Following on from this, it is advisable to not flaunt your fancy gadgets or the fact that you are carrying a sizeable amount of currency with you. Obviously, this applies more depending on whereabouts you are travelling to. For example, if you travel to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, then coupled with the fact that there are lots of gangs and that the crime rate in the Favelas is high; this would not be advisable, whereas if you are going to Monaco, the opposite would be the case.

There are ways of keeping your money safe when abroad. Whereas you may think that hotel rooms seem safe whilst you are out and about, looking around and visiting landmarks or sunbathing on the beach, it is always better to ask the concierge at the hotel if they have a safety deposit box where you can leave any money or valuable items in. If this isn’t possible, then there are instead of leaving the money that you have lying around. Using traveller’s cheques when you are abroad can do away with this speed bump as only you can cash them. In turn, you’ll be carrying around less money and if that does get stolen, you still have the majority of yours in a reserve to fall back on.

Keep your eye on the prize (or your belongings in this matter)

It’s always best to keep to the policy of keeping belongings in front of you and in plain sight and reach. But then again, it is always about being vigil and taking care after one another if you are not travelling by yourself. Have fun but also be aware! And if you are being pestered by someone trying to sell you some fruit on the beach or anything else that you don’t want, be polite, succinct, clear but forthright.

Author Cristina Nanni is an Online Journalism Intern for Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO. Frontier has over 300 dedicated conservation and community development projects as well as plenty of inspiring gap year ideas to help make your time out meaningful. For more information on all the opportunities available please visit