THE RULES OF “SAFE” TRAVEL

Somehow, when we go on vacation, we think danger does, too.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And, in these days of global unrest, the dangers aren’t just the risk of being mugged. There’s still that, too. But nowadays you can add in expert – and amateur – kidnappers who snatch their unwary victims off the street, then spend days or weeks shuttling them from ATM to ATM emptying their bank accounts, or sending pieces of them back to relatives who refuse to ante up the ransom they think their hostage is worth.

Plus, more and more, terrorists – or wannabes trying to make a name for themselves – target tourists. Most often, American tourists. Then the goal isn’t just money, although they might ask for that, too. The ultimate goal is what their name implies – terror. They want to send a message. I’m sure you’ve seen, or heard of, some of the videos of beheadings they post on YouTube.

Sadly, there’s no such thing as “safe” travel anymore. But there are ways to make it “safer.”

First, there’s the obvious: don’t walk down dark alleys, unknown streets, or through iffy neighborhoods. It isn’t “rustic.” It isn’t “scenic.” It’s stupid. You wouldn’t do it in your hometown; why do it here?

Same with strangers. Approach with caution. That nice man offering directions to that “out of the way” restaurant? He may not be so nice.

Don’t flash money. Don’t wear flashy jewelry.

Obvious.

Don’t look lost. Need to check that map or your GPS? Do it in the bathroom, out of sight.

Obvious.

Never – NEVER! – accept a drink from a stranger. Even if the bottle looks like it’s never been opened. Taxi drivers in Moscow have been known to use a syringe to load up a seemingly new bottle of vodka with a knockout drug, then offer a visitor a “welcome drink.”

Nowadays, though, there’s something that might not be so obvious, but it’s critical:

Don’t be the obvious American tourist. At least not publicly, anyway. Don’t be proud and foolish; you’re not an ambassador. Try to blend in and not stand out. Perhaps consider plastering a Canadian flag on your backpack or jacket.

It could save your life.