How To Avoid Becoming A Victim While Traveling Overseas

Feb 27, 2014

One of the unpleasant but important facts about travel is that tourists are often victims of crime. A tourist can be an easy mark for pickpockets, con artists and thieves. The crimes often come in forms you wouldn’t expect. 

“I’ve been a victim three or four times," said KPLU travel expert Brumley.

Stories Of Learning The Hard Way

Take, for instance, the time Brumley arrived by train in Rome. A group of children, ages 8 to 10 or so, came up and surrounded him. Welcome to Rome, right? Wrong.

“I give my camera to my friend and say, ‘Hey, take a picture of me with these kids!’” Brumley said. “And of course, the kids are stripping me of my visa, of my passport, of my airline tickets.”

He didn’t notice what he was missing until he arrived at the hotel.

In Budapest, a man asked for directions to a hotel that happened to be across the street. As soon as Brumley responded, “undercover police officers” showed up and accused of illegally changing money with the man.

“Of course, they weren’t official police officers,” Brumley said. “So while one is questioning you, the other is rifling through your things. You realize afterward that you’ve been had.”

If you’re confronted by someone claiming to be a plainclothes police officer, ask to talk to a uniformed officer.

“That will always scare them away,” Brumley said.

Other scams include squirting goo on someone, and then having other people come up and apologize and offer to help the person clean up. While one is dabbing at your shirt with a napkin, the other could be going through your pockets.

Tips On Staying Safe

So how do you stay safe? There’s no tried-and-true method, but these things could help:

1. Be on your toes.

2. Scan your passport and other important documents, and upload them to the cloud or an online source where you can access them via password.

3. Put your valuable documents in your hotel safe immediately.

4. Don’t follow strangers, even if they swear to know a good restaurant or a scenic overlook.

The bottom line is to make sure you have control of yourself and the area around you.

“It shouldn’t be a bubble that makes it so travel is less fun,” Brumley said, “but you should be alert, thinking while you’re walking down a street. Do the classic smart things. Don’t walk down dark alleys at night time, or vacant streets. People that are strangers and make generous offers very quickly — that’s a tell-tale sign that something’s up.”


Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including KPLU. "Going Places" is our new travel segment exploring all aspects of getting from Point A to Point B. Tell us what you think about responsible travel, or suggest topics for future installations of this series. Have a travel hangup or a tip? Let us know in the comments.