Yep, that’s a bold claim. Only 3 rules? You’re got to be kidding me.
So we were at a hostel in Puno, Peru chatting with some other travelers talking about how they’d been scammed. As they were talking, I found myself wondering if there were specific things I did or rules I followed, even unconsciously. Eventually, I had a chance to chime in, and these are what I came up with.
Rule #1: don’t look — or get — visibly drunk in public.
The world doesn’t seem biased towards moderation — especially in places like Khao San Road in Bangkok. If you’re part of my audience still in your 20’s, your limit may or may not be something you’re familiar with. At a minimum, alternate alcohol with water and pair with food.
Also, note that ‘in public’ part. You’re off the hook if you’re drinking in your hotel room, the hostel lobby, or another sort of place where you don’t have to walk far to reach your bed. This goes whether you’re in a country that’ll put you in a drunk tank overnight or not.
If you must break this rule: know thyself. Grab some water, drink it, splash it on your face, and sit down before trying (and failing) to walk a straight line. In some countries, a taxi or Uber may be your best option if you’re going a longer distance.
Rule #2: look like you know where you’re going.
Call me geeky, but I like knowing where I’m going. If I’m driving, Laura’s navigating. If we’re walking, we’re probably both looking at our phones… but we’re still aware of what’s happening around us. Paper maps are a sure sign you’re a tourist, but sometimes they can’t be helped.
Of the three rules presented here, this one is probably the easiest to follow. Even if you don’t, look like it. It might be an acting job. You’ve probably seen the puzzled look people have when looking around or trying to find something familiar — and you can imagine there are opportunistic sorts that come out of the woodworks when they see that look.
If you must break this rule: stop somewhere with a wall or closed door to your back and break out your phone or paper map to navigate.
Rule #3: give the world that ‘don’t-f*ck-with-me’ look.
Call the ‘resting-b*tch-face’ look if you like. On me, it’s a fairly neutral, aware look that’s always scanning the scene. Someone sounds like they’re closer than a few steps behind me, I shoot a quick look back.
This obviously needs to fit in with the locals — plenty of people in Eastern European countries can look like they’re mad to some, and locals in some countries are frequently seen smiling. Part of this comes back to blending in when you can.
If you must break this rule: take heart. I’m not calling for you to become a robot or cynic. The world is an awesome place, though there are always some characters around. Giving an opportunistic would-be criminal a second thought about trying something on you might make all the difference.
Will these three rules make you 99% safer while traveling?
All three of these rules are basically variants on one core concept: be observant and in a position to react to whatever might be happening around you. People naturally do this in a way that works for them in their home country and city… then forget to adapt those natural senses to what’s needed in a new locale.