We recently had a report shared with us by a reader discussing their most recent vacation. His story goes as follows:
“It was a sunny day in Punta Cana”, he began, “a great day to hang around outside, on the beach, what have you. While walking through the alleys my wife and I found a very quaint spanish restaurant and sat down to have lunch. However I felt an eerie sense of something bad creep up to me as I looked over the menu and sipped my wine. I had my credit card and ID secure in a wallet around my neck, tucked into my top, and my wife had her handbag strapped across her body.”
“As we ordered, different people of all ages would come up to the outside patio of the restaurant and began to seek to sell goods to the diners. Many people obliged and bought one or two things, while some people politely declined; all people, though, I realize now, looked over at the peddlers, taking an eye off of the rest of the restaurant for a split second.”
“What I witnessed next, was incredibly eye opening. As one seller approached, another would move away, on to the next table, or so we thought! I realize now that they were working as a team, weaving in and out, distracting the diners, and scooping up any loose profitables left out, unsecurely, on the table.”
“Luckily enough, my wife and I kept a close eye on our belongings and ended up in the clear, but many people in the restaurant began complaining about a missing cellphone or a lost wallet. All the restaurant could really do was laugh, after all, we were only tourists.”
This story got us thinking, and we wanted to compile a few tips to keep our readers safe in their upcoming travels.
Safety tips before leaving home
- Leave your valuable jewelry at home. Do not take or wear any items that would leave you brokenhearted should they be stolen.
- Make copies of the credit cards you plan to take, passport, medical insurance card, and photo ID.
- Alert your bank and credit card company of your travel plans.
- Download the free State Department Smart Traveler app. The app provides frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more.
- Locate and retain the phone numbers for the U.S. Embassy and nearest consulate offices in the countries/areas you will be visiting.
- Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enroll their trip. Once registered, the Embassy can communicate information about safety concerns, contact you in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, or family), as well as help family and friends reach you in an emergency.
- Keep the State Department’s emergency numbers handy. They will provide help (sometimes limited) for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444).
- Secure your passport, cash, and extra credit cards in your hotel safe. If there is no room safe, ask at the front desk to use the hotel safe or lock them up in your suitcase.
- Carry a copy of your passport when out and about. It will serve as your ID.
- Bring one credit card, some cash, and your debit card while touring. Keep these safe in a travel wallet you wear around your neck and secure under your top or in a money belt tucked inside your waistband. Avoid putting anything in your pockets unless they are on the inside of a vest or jacket.
- Always carry a handbag or backpack in the front. Keep one hand on the strap.
- Use a numerical code to lock your phone, iPad, and computer.
- Do not leave your cell phone, iPad, or camera sitting on a table or any other surface.
- Always keep your cell phone, iPad, and camera secure when not in use, in a zippered pocket or a bag; don’t make it easy for a thief to steal it right from your hand.
- Most important, be aware of your surroundings, and while you should immerse yourself and enjoy, always remain diligent when it comes to security. Pickpockets and thieves are everywhere and just waiting for an opportunity to make you their next victim.
With following these simple tips, you should be able to stand clear of any trouble on your next trip. Of course nothing is promised, and that’s why you have to stay vigilant, and on guard. It is scary, but true; if you become careless for a split second, you can get burned!