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Safety in the City

Mar 21, 2023

Traveling to a big city is an exciting and unique opportunity, but of course, it comes with its own challenges.

Issues like theft, health and keeping track of each other are made more difficult by large crowds and public transport, so it takes a bit of extra preparation to be safe and sound. If it’s been a few years since your student group has managed to make the trip, we’re here to give you a refresher and help you have a safe trip in your metropolis of choice.

Wait to Post on Social Media | While not necessarily the most likely danger, posting photos or live streaming as you travel in the city could potentially tell people exactly where you are and set you up for potential threats. Save posts until the end of the day.

Keep it Public | Students can be relatively easily lured away by a local who seems cool and promises to show them a unique, private location. As adults, we’re not interested, but remind students to always stay in public and never trust a stranger to take them away from the larger group.

Use Communication Apps | Be sure your group uses a communication travel app for faster real-time messaging or updates. You can find your own, or your tour operator might even have their own, but a great travel app will let you easily communicate with the group and give you important information like safety procedures, meeting places, and itinerary changes.

Travel Light | You’ll be doing lots of walking, so don’t bring too much. Take only what you’ll need for the day: Phone, water, ID, cash, debit card, face covering. Leave anything truly irreplaceable somewhere safe like the hotel room or bus to avoid the risk of it slipping out of your pocket or being stolen.

Valuables to the Front | Backpacks are great for school, not so great for being in crowds where people can easily reach in and grab belongings without you noticing. Same goes for back pockets! Stick to front pockets, fanny packs and cross-body bags.

Keep Your Money Hidden | As nice as it is to have spending money from parents, students need to be reminded not to flash it around. Remind them they’re probably better off depositing that cash and then using either a card or payment apps like Apple. At the very least, be discreet with cash.

Stay Safe in the Hotel | While today’s hotels are quite safe, remind students to lock their doors and windows, use a buddy system when navigating the hotel itself, and if necessary, make use of the room safe.

Don’t Flash Your Phone Around | Quite often in big cities, smartphones and tablets are stolen simply by running up, grabbing it out of your outstretched hand and taking off. Remind students not to walk around constantly taking selfies with no attention to their surroundings. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity, especially in big crowds, and remind students that no longer having a phone means they’ll have to rely on group leaders for the rest of the trip.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi | Using public Wi-Fi makes you vulnerable to hackers waiting to swipe your data and personal information, even on places you’d think are safe like airlines. If you are going to use public internet, consider setting up a virtual private network (VPN) on your phone.

Be Vigilant on the Subway | Many students will be new the subway, so be sure to teach them how to safely use it! Keep them away from the platform edges and remind them to keep away from the doors when closing. Also, make sure everyone sticks together and knows the destination, so they can keep an eye out for it. And finally, hold on!

This story originally appeared in Teach & Travel’s March 2023 edition.