When you venture abroad, do you consider yourself a tourist or a traveller? It doesn’t really make much difference for wherever you go there will always see you not as either. To him you will be just a target and unless you take care you will become a victim.
I speak from very long experience because I was first mugged in what was then Demerara in British Guiana. These days the place is known as Georgetown, Guyana and I’m sure it’s a more civilised place.
Then I was an Apprentice on a Cargo boat, not yet 16 years old. I possessed a Rolex Air King watch that I had bought 3 months previously. Together with two other crew members we were walking back to the ship, probably flashing my proud possession. A huge negro wearing a baseball cap and swinging an enormous cane knife appeared in front of us. He was quite polite as he relieved me of my watch together with our wallets, Discharge books, cameras, all of our cash. He left us with nothing.
Since that auspicious start I have had my pocket picked in Rio de Janerio, Kingston and Capetown. My bag was snatched in Naples and another in St. Tropez. My cabin was broken into in Sierra Leone and while anchored in the Bitter Lakes in the middle of the Suez Canal.
Having read this litany you would be forgiven for believing that I am just one of life’s victims. I’m not really I’ve just spent my life travelling and there are some savvy thieves about – thieving bastards –
Recently I wrote a magazine article of the best ways of avoiding theft while on holiday. The article was full of sensible advice like blending in with the locals so as not to stand out as a rich foreigner or a relaxed tourist. I didn’t go as far as suggesting wearing a beret and a necklace of onions when in France, wearing a bushy moustache in Montenegro or even a Fez in Morocco but you get the drift.
Make good use of your hotel safe, passports are a bugger to replace. My advice was to carry a ‘muggers’ wallet to keep a few notes and if you must, just one credit card. Be careful to keep your hand on your camera – use a money belt. After writing the article with good advice with a warning about shoulder bag straps being slashed, rental cars being a beacon for thieves and vigilance at ATM’s.
I was in Barcelona just leaving the Metro bound for La Sagrada Familia just mounting the escalator when I was surrounded by three East Europeans, near the top I was pushed over and when I picked myself up my ‘muggers’ wallet had gone along with the East Europeans.
I was congratulating myself on taking my own advice with the ‘muggers’ purse. I had to walk back to my hotel because along with my tickets the only cash I had, went with the thieves. I got back to the hotel and found that the cleaners had been in and made the bed. I had left the safe wide open and all my valuables had been left on the bed when I left the room. My wife often tells me that I should not be left out on my own. The lovely cleaners had taken care of my goodies – made up the bed and then replaced my passport, documents, tickets, cash on the neatly made bed in a neat pile.
You cannot guard against the onset of senility so whatever you do with money belts. muggers purses, disguising yourself as a local, just remember to make sure you keep receipts for your valuables at home and purchase the best insurance cover that you can afford. Keep photographs of the goodies that you don’t have receipts for.
Remember that on top of all the savvy thieves all around the world, most insurance companies are nearly as dishonest and will examine each and every claim with the question ‘how they can avoid paying out or at least reduce the settlement to a minimum.
Airlines should be painted with the same brush when dealing with any claims for loss or damage to your luggage. They seldom take responsibility for their dishonest employees.
So Traveller or Tourist beware, it’s a jungle out there!