The Crime Prevention Website


During my years on this planet it would be fair to say that I’ve travelled around a bit and as I’m now getting ready for my next trip (to India - 2015) I thought it would be a good time to write down those things that will keep us safe when in completely unfamiliar places. It’s bad enough suffering a crime at home, but when you are abroad and don’t speak the language the consequences of becoming a victim can be a lot worse.

So, whilst the vast majority of us will have a perfectly safe, secure and enjoyable holiday, here’s my ‘list’ of things to watch out for – just in case!

Planning your trip

  • United Kingdom residents should always visit the Foreign Travel Advice page on the website before you select your travel destination. This is particularly advisable if you are planning a long haul trip. Whilst this government site is useful for visitors outside the United Kingdom (from a crime point of view) it is highly likely that your own country’s government operates a similar website and so you should visit them. Visitors to this website from the United States, for example, might like to visit US Passports and International Travel/Country Information page. On both these sites you can source information about: Current travel advice; Safety and security; Terrorism; Local laws and customs; Entry requirements and Health. Follow the guidance to the letter and make a note of any warnings about crime and where it occurs. 
  • Carry out further research on the internet about your intended destination
  • Always pre-book your transfers between the airport and the hotel if they are not included in the holiday package. This can normally be arranged by email through the destination hotel. Take a copy of the email conversation to help settle booking disputes
  • Select hotels that offer in-room safes, door viewers, door chains/limiters, in-room phones and 24 hour staffing. In other words, always check the hotel and room facilities
  • If you are driving check to see what parking facilities have been provided by the hotel
  • Ensure that you take out travel insurance and make sure you understand the cover and conditions
  • Understand the local laws, customs and cultural differences of the destination country before you travel. In some countries public displays of affection and same sex relationships can result in your arrest and prosecution. The Foreign Travel Advice page (above) will highlight the countries where this can happen
  • If you intend to hire a motor vehicle at your destination check the driving licence requirements and study the road laws of the country

Before you travel

  • Scan/photo and or make copies of your travel documents, passports and driving licences. Take these with you and keep them in a separate place from the originals. Copies of such documents are very useful in the event of loss or theft. Scanned documents can’t get lost, of course!
  • Make a note of your credit/debit card numbers and the phone numbers you will have to ring if you lose your cards
  • Print off and run through the Holiday Security Checklist on this website to ensure that you leave your home physically secure while you are away
  • Provide a friend/neighbour/relative with your travel itinerary and contact details in case you need to be contacted and make sure your keyholders can operate your alarm system
  • Make sure your alarm and or keyholding company have up-to-date key holder details. Has the alarm been serviced? Update the local authority if you have registered your alarm with them
  • Phone the bank and credit card company to let them know when and where you will be to reduce the possibility of having your card stopped. They'll still tell you there's no guarantee that this won't happen but nevertheless you are protecting yourself from credit card fraud should this happen while you are away
  • Check expiry dates for car, home and holiday insurance cover
  • Check expiry dates for car's Test Certificate (MOT) and Road Fund Licence
  • Although your check-in bags will be labelled at the airport you should include a sheet of paper in all luggage bags which carries your name and mobile telephone number. You can also include details of flight numbers (inbound and outbound) and destination hotel as all this information will help should your baggage become lost
  • It may be useful to print out a map of the area you are visiting if this is practical. You can download Google Maps for the area you are visiting, which is particularly useful if you are driving.
  • Try to learn a few basic words and phrases in the language of the country you intend to visit. Being able to meet and greet and to say thanks in their language is always appreciated and will be to the benefit of the traveller
  • Be aware of what goods you can and cannot take into and out of the destination country
  • You  might want to keep a list of the contents of your luggage to help you in the event of a loss or theft
  • Carry your laptop in a non-descript bag and keep it in the room/hotel safe when you reach your destination hotel
  • Valuable property such as laptops*, jewellery, phones etc should be carried in your hand luggage (*unless otherwise advised) . Ensure that electronic devices are fully charged

At the airports

  • Car parks at airports can be vast. Make a note of where you have parked, so you can more easily find your vehicle upon your return
  • Ensure you lock and fully secure the vehicle and do not leave anything on view inside. Leave glove compartments and trays open so it is easy to see they are empty
  • Keep possession of hand luggage at all times and never check in or carry onboard bags for people not in your travelling group. Only allow uniformed airport staff to handle your luggage
  • Do not consume large amounts of alcohol at the airport. If you have drunk too much you may be refused permission to board the aircraft. The same rule applies to all forms of public transport
  • Do not consume too much alcohol on the flight as being drunk may cause you and other passengers problems on the flight and at the destination airport. Drunkenness on an aircraft can lead to arrest/imprisonment/fines and or immediate deportation from the destination airport and a life ban from the airline. It’s just not worth it!
  • Cheerily follow the rules at both the departure and destination airports to ensure a smooth transition through both

On arrival at the destination airport

  • Before arriving at your destination airport make sure you can easily put your hand on all your travel documents, including passport, visa and transfer/taxi booking
  • When collecting your checked-in bags make sure they are yours and look to see if they have been damaged and or tampered with. If you suspect they have been interfered with report the matter straight away before making your way through customs
  • If you are being met by a taxi to take you to the hotel make sure that the driver has your details before you get in the vehicle. If it is your driver then they will have your name and know the hotel to which he or she is taking you, without you volunteering this information

On arrival at the hotel and your bedroom

  • When checking in try to avoid other people in reception from overhearing your name and room number
  • Keep hold of your bags whilst checking in; preferably place them in front of you, as reception areas attract bag thieves. Look out for staged mishaps whereby someone will try to distract you while another steals your bag. Bag thieves work in teams
  • In all likelihood your hotel bedroom will already have been assigned before your arrival. If you have a choice select a room above the ground floor and away from a staircase as these are rooms where burglary is more likely to occur (based on research conducted by the author of hotels in the West End of London)
  • Check your means of escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. There should be a plan on the back of the bedroom door or close by to indicate your escape route. The notice will also tell you what to do in the event of a fire. Familiarise yourself with the route to the escape door/stairway by walking it. Also check where the fire alarm and extinguishers are located
  • Check the condition of the hotel bedroom door and door frame.  If the frame and or door show obvious signs of damage speak to the staff about the possibility of a room change as the damage may indicate that the room has been previously broken into
  • Always use the in-room safe, even at night when you go to sleep. In some circumstances large sums of cash and other very expensive items of jewellery should be stored in the hotel’s main safe
  • Before you venture out speak with and get to know the receptionist/concierge/holiday rep and ask them if there are places in the local area that you should avoid. You can also ask them about the safest form of transport and the cost of using taxis/tuk-tuks/rickshaws/buses etc.
  • Most hotels will provide you with a map of the local area so take one and ask them to circle places they might recommend. They can also highlight places that should be avoided, although in some countries this type of information is sometimes shown on the map. Make a note of the nearest emergency hospital and police station and take a few hotel business cards with you, which you can show to a taxi driver. This is especially important in countries whose language uses an unfamiliar script which you cannot read
  • At night use your own portable door alarm if you have brought one and your Lifelock, which is a portable lock that substantially increases the security of a bedroom door - when you are in the room.
  • Always use the door viewer and door limiter/chain to check a caller at your bedroom door, even if you are expecting a call. It is always best to meet visitors in the hotel lobby or other public place
  • If your room is on the ground floor, never leave your window open
  • If you are travelling alone and would rather not dine alone in the restaurant, order your meal to your room
  • Keep the hotel bedroom door locked at all times
  • Never be afraid to bring the hotel staff’s attention to a security problem or to a suspicious person
  • Don’t display a numbered room key while in a public part of the hotel as this can indicate to a thief that you are not in your room

Out for the night and coming back to the hotel

  • Before you go out, plan ahead. For example, decide how you are going to get home at the end of the night and what to do if you and your friends get accidentally separated and you find yourself alone
  • Whenever you are alone, avoid quiet, isolated areas, even in daylight
  • If possible arrange for at least one of your group to stay sober, in order to keep an eye on the others and see that they don’t do anything to put themselves in danger
  • When you’re in a bar or club, check your drinks being poured and make sure that someone watches them at all times so that neither additional alcohol nor any other type of drug is added. This also applies if you are drinking on the beach during the day
  • Know your limit and remember that in many countries the spirits in cocktails and mixed drinks are often poured free-hand without measure and consequently tend to result in much stronger drinks than you would have at home
  • Alcohol can seriously affect your ability to make safe judgements. If you feel particularly strange after taking a drink (even a soft drink) or realise you have drunk too much, tell a friend immediately and make sure you are accompanied back to the hotel by one of your own group
  • If the clubs or bars you are going to are within walking distance make sure you walk there and back with friends. If they are not close by, ask your holiday rep or someone from your hotel to recommend the safest method of transport – and stick to this plan
  • Try to avoid going off alone with people you’ve just met – no matter how gorgeous/fun/ charming they are! If they’re that nice, arrange to meet them the next day when your mind is not clouded with drink. If you don’t want to stick to this rule, then at least introduce them to your friends and explain where you are going and when you expect to return. In this way your new acquaintance is ‘registered’ by your friends and your friends’ night isn’t ruined by worrying about you – as long as you get back when you said you would.
  • If you are sharing a room with a friend, make sure you go back at the same time as them or shortly after. Never leave them in the position of having to leave the hotel door unlocked when they go to bed so that you can get in later. This puts them in danger. A decent hotel will provide each room guest a key, so make sure this is what you get on check-in
  • Never invite people into your room unless you know you are safe with them
  • If you hear any disturbance, stay in your room and phone reception
  • Sometimes drink and or excitement gets the better of some people and they will waive from the agreed rules you have set yourselves by talking to and going off with dodgy people; taking risks that might compromise your own personal safety. You may have to stand your ground and go your own way. Think about an agreed signal you can use to each of your group, which signifies that the ‘rule breaking’ has gone too far!

General out and about security

  • You can ask the staff at the hotel about the local annoyances and scams in the area before you go out
  • Make a mental note of your surroundings and prominent buildings and places as you first venture out as this will help you when you need to return to the hotel
  • When leaving a venue such as a cafe, restaurant, bar or club look back to make sure you haven’t left anything behind, such as a jacket, a pair of glasses or even your wallet! Drink and or just having a good time can cloud your thinking. Make this action a habit
  • Never leave bags hanging on the back of a chair – ever! Keep them at your feet with the strap around your leg
  • Take with you only the cards and the amount of cash you will actually require for the day. Leave the rest in your room safe or hotel safe
  • Split your cash and cards between pockets and bags
  • Be very aware when paying for goods in stores. Your card must only be used in one card reader and always cover your PIN with your free hand. If a staff member puts your card in one reader and then says that he’s used the wrong one and goes to put it in another get your card back and leave the store without the goods as the first reader is probably being used to make a copy of your card!
  • Check your credit card and bank account statements when you return from holiday to check for fraudulent transactions and report them immediately to the card issuer
  • Always give up your stuff if threatened with violence during a robbery – it’s just stuff and you’ll be insured for most of it. Report the matter to police and obtain a crime reference number for your insurance claim
  • Consider carrying a ‘fake wallet’. A fake wallet is a cheap wallet filled with a little cash and some expired credit/debit cards
  • Avoid being pick-pocketed by carrying cash/wallet/cards in tight front pockets, preferably of a type that can be buttoned up, or use a money belt under your top. Please note that twenty thousand passports are stolen every year, many by pickpockets whilst abroad
  • Be very aware of local people who say they recognise you from the hotel; who purport to be a member of staff there. Also, over-friendly people who could be locals or fellow countrymen who attempt to engage you in conversation. They might try to coax you into visiting a timeshare/jewellers/craft shop/restaurant/club etc. Just say ‘no thanks’
  • Buy nothing from people who walk up to you in the street with their wares – supposed gold and jewellery are common items offered for sale. None of what they offer will be real – the ‘gold’ will be polished copper
  • If you’re walking along a street and get crowded by young kids, perhaps wanting you to take something from them or read something either run or walk into the nearest shop or restaurant. This ruse is often used by youngsters out to steal your cash
  • If you’re travelling to a relatively poor country it is very unwise to display any sign of wealth as you may become a target. If walking about town wear inexpensive jewellery and keep phones and cameras out of sight when not in use
  • Stay in well-lit and busy places. Avoid unlit or poorly lit streets, alleys, underused streets and quiet beaches at night
  • Avoid giving money to beggars. If you want to help poor people give to charities and perhaps avail yourself of some of the street services such as a shoeshine
  • Don’t stroke cats and dogs or feed them for many very obvious reasons
  • Keep away from large crowds, demonstrations and public confrontations
  • Don’t discuss travel plans with strangers you’ve just met
  • Report suspicious people and activity to the police
  • Be careful when using an ATM. Follow the guidance here

On the road

  • When hiring a vehicle use a company that has been recommended by the travel agent/airline/hotel
  • Think twice about hiring a moped/motorcycle or scooter when abroad and then think twice again. Some travel insurances don’t cover any related injuries you might have from an accident. Wear a crash helmet regardless of whether the locals are wearing them
  • Carry your driving licence on you. It's also a good idea to carry your passport when driving a hired vehicle
  • Ensure your insurance cover is comprehensive
  • Don’t drink and drive and don’t get into a vehicle if the driver has been drinking
  • Wear seatbelts and don’t use mobile phones or other electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle
  • Don’t hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers
  • Roads in some countries fall well below the standards of roads in the UK or US. Driving standards too can be very poor. Consider hiring a driver and vehicle from a recommended company instead of driving yourself
  • Practice the very same crime prevention techniques you would use at home, but make sure you lock the doors when driving and keep bags and valuables, maps and rental agreement papers out of sight even when you are in the vehicle


  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy or threatened by a situation trust those instincts and remove yourself from danger
  • See also:  Holiday Security Checklist 

Updated July 2016, Updated June 2017, Updated July 2018