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Five practical ways to stay safe during the holidays

22 Dec 2010

Holidays are a time to let go and relax. But that certainly doesn’t mean putting down one’s guard, especially when navigating crowds at airports and train stations or on holiday in a foreign country. The Business Traveller team share a few tips that have stood the test of many journeys, and should you want to add to our list, please feel free to post them on the Forum section of www.Businesstraveller.asia

Happy travels to all in 2011!

1. LOCK UP
Bolt your hotel room door from the inside. Sure, it sounds the obvious thing to do, but from the number of times some members of our team have left their hotel room doors unlocked, or inadvertently open, only reflects how common this slip up tends to be. Simply closing the door is not the safest option, therefore, use the additional locks provided.

Handy tip: Pack a small rubber door stop into your suitcase. “A rubber door stop will prevent someone from entering your room. Many hotel room doors in developing countries don’t have additional locks, so this little item can come in handy,” says Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick, a guidebook series for women travellers. When you are out of the hotel room leave the TV switched on so that it seems like you are in the room.

2. ZIP UP
Many travellers forget to zip up their bags, presenting an ample opportunity for pickpockets to snatch valuables. Try and keep wallets in locations that are within your visual sphere. For example, men, who are used to carrying wallets in their back pockets should try switching to the front jacket pocket when they know they will be frequenting crowded places such as trains or bars.

Handy tip: Carry a dummy wallet with some loose change and fake credit cards. These will easily fool thieves who are usually in too much of a hurry to check. Also, make several copies of important documents such as passport and credit cards so that if you are robbed, you will have an easier time applying for a new travel document at your embassy or high commission or replacing the plastics.

Zorica King, personal trainer at the Krav Maga Hong Kong self defense centre, says: “Keep all your valuables in different pockets rather than in one place. This way, if one pocket is picked, you don’t lose everything.”

3. BE ALERT
This means switching off your iPods and avoiding all mobile phone conversations when wandering around. This way, you will be aware of your surroundings and avoid clumsy errors, like forgetting valuables at a store. Avoid approaching strangers for help and look for uniformed staff, trainer King advises.

Handy tip: Don’t try and read your map in public, especially on busy streets – this advertises you as the ideal victim. Try to determine where you are going before you set out, and if you must study a map, do so in a more discrete place.

4. WATCH THAT DRINK
Keep an eye on your drink at all times and don’t leave it unattended to avoid drugs being slipped in. 

Handy tip: Be wary of strangers, who offer to buy you drinks. This is when Mom’s advice not to trust every friendly person may be good to remember.

5. STICK TO USING YOUR OWN LAPTOP
Another form of theft that can be easily avoided happens online. Cyber crime – a US$600 billion industry – attacks travellers from public computers available at airports, hotels and coffee shops by malicious software. The software manifests itself in many forms, such as an advertisement, and will capture personal keystroke information including email addresses and credit card details.

Nigel Mendonca, Asia-Pacific director for Symantec Holdings, counsels: “Public terminals are perfectly fine to use if you simply want to browse the internet. These terminals should only be used for fairly passive activities. I would 100 percent advise people not to use them to check emails or log on to bank accounts.”

Handy tip: Some malware are designed to latch onto external hardware and attack the next computer they are plugged into. Therefore, avoid plugging in USB sticks, or any other devices carrying important information, into public computers.

Alisha Haridasani

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