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Traveling This Summer? Check Out These State Travel Advisories First

Criminals tend to look for easy targets. Tourists are particularly easy targets, especially to professional and organized criminals who can spot someone who doesn't belong from a mile away.

In the 1970's Charles Sobhraj and wife Marie-Andrée Leclerc targeted tourists on the Hippie Trail of Bangkok, Thailand. They would drug, rob, and murder their victims using drugs, parties, and charm as lures.

In one case, Sobrahaj's wife Marie meets a young couple on the street. They tell Marie about their travel plans and that they have gemstones which they plan to sell. Marie then invites the young couple for lunch with her husband, generously offering to pay. Once some trust is gained they offer to drive the couple to a popular tourist spot in the mountains. The couple is thrilled and accepts. Once they get to the mountain, secluded from anyone who could possibly help, Sobhraj drugs them with spiked tea, steals their gems, money, and passports, and murders them.

The whole story was so astonishing that Netflix made a documentary about it called "The Serpent" which I highly recommend. It will make you rethink who you consider a friend and why.

Check out our Netflix Breakdown of the series here>

Here are three steps you can take to improve your safety during travel ⬇️

Step 1. You Are Naive

It's important to understand from the get go that when you travel to a foreign place, by definition you are naive.

  • naive

  • adjective Lacking worldly experience and understanding, especially

It's not a matter of being smart, strong, or skilled. It's a matter of lacking critical information and understanding about the threats of a new place. This in itself makes you an easier target to criminals and it doesn't help that tourists often stick out like a sore thumb.

Teaching self defense to people in the Township of Khayelitsha, South Africa

Follow Safety Guidelines

When I went to Cape Town, South Africa in 2018 to volunteer teaching self defense and participate in a summer coding bootcamp, I was among 150 college students who were mostly attending Ivey league schools like Harvard and Yale. On the first day we had a safety briefing where the leaders gave us tips about staying safe in what was currently being dubbed "the murder capitol of the world." Yes it was a very dangerous city, but by following a set of preventive measures you would most likely be just fine.

One of the rules was not to go to Long Street, a popular clubbing/nightlife district where muggings and violence are a daily reality. They told us that on one New Years Eve, this block alone broke the record on reported pick-pockets (I've never fact checked this, but the point stuck- don't go there).

Remember when I said that being naive had nothing to do with being smart? After only a few days of landing in a foreign country, dozens of Americas's brightest academic prospects got drunk, got ubers, and were dropped off on Long Street ready to party— and dozens were robbed at gun point, losing their phones, their entire wallets and credit cards, and some even lost their passports. Luckily no one was physically harmed, only traumatized.

Naivete has nothing to do with intelligence, education level, income, or physical aptitude. If you're traveling somewhere you've never been, you're naive.

Accepting that is the first step. The second, research.

Step 2. Research Local Threats

The remedy to being naive is increasing your understanding by arming yourself with information.

Both the US and Canada have very helpful resources on every country that tell travellers about local threats, crimes and other dangers. One of the Travel Advisories for South Africa was that should you be pulled over by a police car, don't stop but drive to a police station. This is because it's extremely common for criminals to impersonate policemen, pull you over, carjack your obvious rental car and everything else you have or worse.

I was never pulled over, but if I was and I hadn't read that, I wouldn't have thought twice about pulling over because that's what people do where I'm from.

How can you know what you don't know? By actively seeking to inform yourself. At a minimum, read the state travel advisories for your destination. You'll learn something new that could possibly save your life.

Step 3. Take Common Sense Safety Precautions

We happen to have an awesome avid solo female traveler on our team, Danika, who has written an article about safety tips based on her real experiences traveling the world.

Some of the most important precautions to take:

  • blend in with locals as much as possible

  • conceal your luxuries (according to local standards, not at-home standards)

  • follow travel advisory warnings

  • know the high crime areas and avoid them

  • maintain a state of awareness, pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you

  • don't be overly trusting, overly friendly, or tell people about all your travel plans

Traveling the world is an exciting, worthwhile endeavour. Don't let fear hold you back from it— instead take common sense safety precautions to ensure you have the time of your life and get home safely!

Girls Who Fight Self Defense Programs:

Written by Gemma Sheehan, founder of

Girls Who Fight. Our mission is to help women and girls lead safe and confident lives.

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