Tourist Protection Abroad—Try Common Sense

I’m certainly not against tourism (I’m in the business of writing about it, after all). But I am against tourists acting like tourists, providing undefended targets for assassins literally looking to get the biggest bang for their buck.

Ordinarily, the news that ten tourists were killed and a score of others injured by a suicide bomber in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square, near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, would have been a headline story around the world. Now, it warrants a small inside page reference in your newspaper (if you still read one), or a 15-second bite on the evening news.

Terrorism is rampant. Life is cheap. How do you protect your own?

Certainly you can stop travelling and retire to your cottage in the woods. But then the bad guys win. So don’t stop travelling. But hold on to your common sense. Clearly, certain parts of the world are no-go zones, and it’s easy enough to identify these areas. But bad guys are no longer restricted by geography. What to do?

Use your common sense.

Stay away from the gangs of tourists tightly clustered about a leader or guide explaining the mysteries of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, or the Tower of London, or Old Town Square in Prague. There is no more inviting target for a bomber than a group of thirty or forty undefended foreigners from four or five countries all gawking upwards, attention focused on a lineup of statues.

Visit these sites, maybe with another couple, but do it on your own. Get your own guidebook and be attentive but unobtrusive. Leave your cameras at home, not around your neck. And if you have to resort to a map to find your way, don’t unfurl it in the middle of a public square and advertise how utterly lost and bewildered you really are.

Avoid crowds, as much as that is possible in high density tourist areas. Take your cues from the locals—see how they dress, how they move about, where they have their coffee or glass of wine. And leave your maple leaf–emblazoned hockey jacket or baseball cap at home.

Your smart phone enables you to check in with government travel advisory sites that usually have up‑to‑date warnings about places to avoid and potentially troublesome incidents. Use these advisories.

Furthermore, avoid spontaneous demonstrations, disturbances, and civil disruptions of any kind. If you’re that curious, catch the latest updates on TV or on your smart phone.

In short—blend in with the community. Try not to look or behave differently from the locals around you.

And leave your shorts, sandals, and backpacks either at home or in your hotel when visiting top European destinations this February.

You’ll not only be safer—you’ll enjoy your vacation a whole lot more.


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