College is a time for transitions and growing up, but sometimes it takes more than just the two or four years you’re in classes. Some students might decide to take a gap year. Spend your time globetrotting, sign on for a year of volunteering in another country, or attain a work permit and venture to a place you’ve never been to work for a year. The options are endless.
Traveling can be a life-changing experience. Travel blogger Stephanie Be points out getting lost, wandering into an unsafe neighborhood, or having a medical emergency are travel concerns. And police detective and travel safety expert Kevin Coffey notes, travel leaves you vulnerable to pickpockets. Luckily, you can avert most travel dangers with the right safety gear and a few useful smartphone apps.
Safety Gear for Solo Travelers
No matter how aware of your surroundings you are, an expert pickpocket can strip you of your valuables in seconds, leaving you none the wiser. That’s why travel authority Rick Steves recommends travelers use a money belt to keep documents, extra cash, credit and debit cards, and traveler’s checks safe.
There are a few different types of money belts. The most basic is a flat pouch on a belt that cinches around the waist. You can also buy money pouches that hang from a cord around the neck, or money belts that strap around the arm or leg, to be hidden under a shirt sleeve or inside the trousers. You can buy “secret pockets” that fasten to the inside of a regular belt and can be tucked inside your pants. You can even buy ordinary-looking leather belts with a zippered pocket on the back that allows you to hide folded money inside the belt, although these belts aren’t typically large enough to hide your passport or bank cards. Detective Coffey also recommends an RFID-blocking wallet for your credit and debit cards. It’s not a bad idea to purchase identity theft protection before you leave, just in case.
Hide your money belt under your clothes. Don’t carry excessive cash or documents in a purse, fanny pack or backpack. Thieves riding bicycles or mopeds have been known to snatch these as they sail past.
Apps to Help You Out of a Pinch
What if you have a medical emergency, get lost, wander into a bad part of town, or need to communicate in a foreign language? If you lose your passport, become the victim of a crime, or experience a natural disaster or terrorist attack, go to USEmbassy.gov to find the closest embassy. Load these apps onto your smartphone before you leave:
- TripLingo will help you with emergency phrases in a foreign language and put you in touch with a living, breathing translator if necessary.
- Safety Map Worldwide will let you know if you wander into an unsafe neighborhood, and let you know what your risk of danger is where you’re staying.
- !Emergency! will give you another country’s equivalent of 911 and even dial it for you.
Don’t let the threat of pickpockets or other travel dangers scare you or prevent you from exploring the world. Travel smart, and minimize your risk of mishaps and danger.