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Eight Travel Safety Lessons We Learned the Hard Way, After Getting Robbed

February 27, 2012 at 4:07 PM | by | ()

Only a few days ago, while bicycling around Argentina's wine country, we were robbed [read the full story here]. The banditos only got away with our Nikon DSLR camera, and it could have been much worse, but regardless we've come away with a slew of lessons learned the hard way.

While the "what ifs" stream through our mind, here's eight tips to avoid being a victim:

· Keep moving. Even if you're lost, try to keep moving and look alert (maybe go around the same block) or head towards a busier area to ask at a major business for help with directions.

· Always read about crime and safety considerations when you travel to an unfamiliar city. In this case, we had actually read about the snatchings on WikiTravel, so we knew immediately what was happening as soon as the man surprised us by putting his hands on the camera in our bike basket. Alas, it was because of this warning that we had wound the straps around the handlebars, which prevented him from taking off with our backpack as well.

· Don't think that having a guy with you means you're invincible. We typically travel solo, but in this rare case we had a guy friend along. The bandito didn't care and still viewed us as a target.

· Memorize your passport number. It's not advisable to do extracurriculars like bicycling around vineyards while toting your passport, so lock it in your hotel room safe or hide it well at your lodging, but have that number in your head. The police will definitely want it, and actually many restaurants and other establishments in South America request it any time you use your credit card to pay for something. It would also help to have your hotel's address & concierge phone number on you, for too many reason to list here. Just have it.

· Back up your digital files daily. Thank god we had done this only the day before. The robbers may have made off with our DSLR and its SD card, but on it they'll only enjoy images of streets from their own hometown, from that day, whereas the bulk of our trip is safe on both our laptop and an external drive.

· Know your camera's make, model and serial number. The police will want to know these details, and having the serial number means you can possibly track it on sites such as www.stolencamerafinder.com.

· Yell. If a mugging happens to you despite precautions, yell like the devil before they can shut you up. Yell anything. Shout it. The local language for "help" or "police" may work best, but our distressed screaming of "Fuck You" in the robber's face sure did bring out the neighbors, which we like to think deterred the robber from fighting further with us for the backpack or bike.

· Report it. Find the police and give as much information as possible. If you just head away from the crime and back to your hotel to cry, criminals are only going to have it easier. Reporting it alerts the police to problem areas in their city, and that these crimes are happening at all. In our case, finding the police also yielded a few free rides in the police truck when we would have otherwise kept biking, opening ourselves up again to a second strike from the robbers.

Sure, we're still reeling from this bad experience, but we hold no grudges against Argentina. This stuff can happen even in NYC, on the subway, where riders have iPhones taken at knifepoint. Traveling is different though; you're out of your element. Be prepared. Be alert. Have any more tips? Please share them in the comments below.

[Photo: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Re: the Passport point

I have my passport number memorized, but when I received mine, Dept. of State gave me a wallet-sized card with spaces for my name and passport number, as well as pre-printed US Consulate phone numbers and hotlines. It's quite useful, especially for landing cards, so I don't have to hike out my whole passport.


Okay, I definitely did not get this with my passport. That said. I have the old, non-chipped passport. My friend however has the new passport, and still claims he didn't get these cool extras.