Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't be afraid to travel

Aren’t You Scared to Go There?

No, actually. As the former expert on the Memphis forum on Trip Advisor, questions related to that topic were posed at least once a day. Memphis, you see, has a violent reputation. And it’s certainly with cause; the city is near the top nationally in a number of crime statistics. It’s a problem that, unfortunately, is not going away anytime soon.

But so many cities in the world have these “dangerous” reputations. Yes, in Memphis, certain crime statistics are high. But the Downtown Zip code where many attractions are located is one of the safest in the city.

Elvis Presley’s Graceland is in an area that some people consider questionable at best. But I worked as a tour guide there in the late 1990s and never felt unsafe there. I mean, it’s one of the most visited houses in the country – and arguably second-most popular behind the White House. Do you really think criminals are standing around waiting to mug you with all those people as witnesses? And things are only going to get better there, as Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. has been working to transform the area into a tourist zone.

Still, travelers are worried about safety when visiting a new city, some to such a degree that it leads them to only stick to the most touristy of tourist sites a city has to offer. But with proper preparation and research about a city – and use of common sense – many of the world’s cities can be enjoyed worry-free.

When preparing for a trip to Italy, I read about the pickpockets on the Rome Metro. So I kept an eye on my surroundings, always kept my hand on my wallet that was in my FRONT pocket and didn’t stand around reading a guidebook with a fanny pack strapped around my waist screaming, “I’m a tourist. Rob me, please!”

It’s not always that simple, of course. You can’t always be prepared. I mean, how could Clark Griswold know that when he took that wrong turn into East St. Louis in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” that he would find his car’s rims being stolen out from under him? But he probably shouldn’t have fallen for that gag in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” that saw his video camera get stolen while he stood in the water fountain so the “nice” stranger could take his picture.

There are so many online sources these days that there really isn’t an excuse to not know where the safe places in town are. It’s safe to assume that heavily visited tourist spots are in safe areas, or at least well-policed ones. That doesn’t mean to let your guard down, though.

Downtown Memphis might be one of the safest areas of town, but I’m not going to leave my car doors unlocked. And I’m certainly not going to leave a bag out in sight. That’s just waiting to be stolen. I’m also not going to walk down a dark alley two blocks off the main drag. It just makes no sense.

I’m going to be extra sure of my surroundings when in an unfamiliar city, and especially sure in a different country.

Here are a few safety tips when traveling. Some might seem like common sense. Some, not so much.

  • Don’t walk down dark alleys at night
  • Do stick to busier areas at night, especially when alone
  • Don’t leave belongings in view in a parked automobile
  • Do lock the car doors
  • Don’t walk around looking like a lost tourist
  • Do have a confident air about you
  • Don’t wear a fanny pack
  • Do carry your wallet and/or money in a front pocket
  • Don’t carry more bags than you can easily handle
  • Do strap your purse securely over your shoulder and neck
  • Don’t hand your camera over to a stranger
  • Do be as discreet as possible about the fact you have a camera in your possession (not always possible with large equipment, but at least carry it in a secure manner)
  • Do have a cell phone
  • Don’t go to an ATM in a dark or secluded place
  • Do put money away in a secure place as quickly as possible after taking it out of an ATM
  • Don’t carry too much cash
  • Do use credit cards and traveler’s checks when possible
  • Don’t go out in an unknown city without a map or directions
  • Do have the name and address of your hotel written down; also, in case your credit cards are stolen, do carry phone numbers of credit cards in a separate place so they can be reported lost or stolen

There are others. But the most important thing to remember is use common sense and don’t be afraid to travel and experience a local community for what it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment