|Select a topic >
Westerners traveling to
third world countries are often targets of
criminals around the world because they must
obviously travel with money and most likely with
a lot of money. This page is meant to provide
basic advice only.
- Fake police. People who
own a police badge and even a uniform may be
crooks in disguise. Be suspicious of anybody
who asks you to show them your money. Ask to
be taken to the nearest police station
before they search you or your belongings.
- Drugged food/drinks.
Don't accept food or drinks offered to you
on a bus/train/etc. They may drug you and
then rob you.
- Money changers. In most
countries of the world you don't need to
look for black market rates. Sometimes you
are approached by people who volunteer to
change dollars at very good rates. They will
show you a roll of banknotes, then switch it
with another roll of worthless notes while
they take your dollars.
Avoid being a target
- Avoid crowds where you
have to slow down. Every time you slow down
while walking in a street you become an
- Be suspicious if somebody
slows you down (eg, falls in front of you,
his clothes get stuck in something, etc): it
may be a pretext to facilitate an accomplice
who is behind you.
- Be aware of who is behind
you. If the same person is behind you for a
few minutes, be suspicious.
- A decoy wallet may help
distract the thief. The thief will target
your very visible wallet, while your money
is somewhere else (eg, in another pocket).
- Avoid to travel with big
luggage. The bigger the luggage, the more
visible you are and the harder it is for you
to defend yourself, chase a thief, etc.
Backpacks can be easily opened even while
you are walking.
- Always ask for receipts
at hotels when they make you pay in advance.
- Always bargain the price
of a taxt before entering it, even if it has
a meter. Always use taxis that
recommended and referred by the hotel you
are staying. Always be weary of taxis
you hail on the street.
- In most countries of the
world it is inappropriate to approach
strangers (especially women). Anybody who
approaches you (no matter how big his smile)
should make you a little suspicious.
Keep your guard up and be careful when
talking to strangers.
- Anybody who speaks good
english and approaches you is suspicious by
definition. I am aware of many occassions
that person will turn out to be somebody who
wants to make money out of you, either by
being your guide or by selling you souvenirs
or worse. If you refuse, they will turn
- Again, be cautious of
strangers. Once they force you to behave
friendly, they have the upper hand
psychologically. They know that you were
raised to be nice to people who are nice to
- In most countries of the
world women never respond to strangers, not
even if they like the stranger. For a
foreign woman it is never a good idea to
respond to men who approach her. The
appropriate behavior is cold silence and
indifference. Even a "no" is
viewed as beginning a conversation. A smile
is the worse course of action (in some
cultures means "I am saying no but I
- Walk fast all the time.
Every time you stop (to browse in a shop, to
write a postcard, to take a picture), you
become an easy target.
- Don't wear expensive
clothes/watch. Your watch might be
someone's 6 month salary.
- Try to dress as much as
the natives (give the impression you
"live" in the country, not just
travel through it).
- Dress as humbly as
- If you were robbed after
something unusual happened in front or
around you, don't chase the thief, follow
the person who generated the commotion: s/he
is probably an accomplice. Don't try to stop
her/him until there is police nearby. If
s/he is an accomplice, police will probably
recognize her/him right away. Accomplices
are often women and children.
- Move slowly, time is on
- Use violence only if the
attacker is under the influence of drugs or
alcohol. Otherwise you may be risking your
life: he has obviously more experience than
- In most countries theft
is an accident of life and police will not
even make an effort to investigate, but
murder, especially of a foreigner, is a
major event. From the point of view of a
thief, that means that he has no interest in
hurting you: if he doesn't hurt you, he's
likely to get away with his crime, but he
hurts you the entire police force of the
nation will be after him. Unless you do
something really weird, most of the time
a thief who is after your wallet or
luggage has any interest in hurting you.
This does not apply solely
to Third World countries but also here
- Make sure your luggage
does not show from the trunk
- If you are lost in an
unsafe neighborhood, do not show that you
are lost. Do not stop, keep driving and look
at the map while driving.
- Don't rely on public
telephones: if you are in a bad
neighborhood, they are unlikely to be
- The best protection is
prevention: make familiar with the
topography of the city before you start
driving. If you get lost, you should at
least be able to guess (without asking) in
which direction you have to steer.
- Just don't look like a
tourist who is lost, helpless and desperate.
Look like somebody who lives around there
and is about his business.
[ Back ] [ Next ]