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Safety Issues – Cities in Foreign Countries

    At home in the U.S., when I come to a busy street without stoplights, I wait and wait until there is a safe opportunity to cross with my kids. (They get very impatient with me). So what happens when we find ourselves confronted with six lanes of traffic in downtown New Delhi, not a street light or traffic cop to be seen, the cars are coming thick and fast? In these situations I wait for some local people, crossing in the same direction, and follow them as they thread their may across the lanes of traffic. The urban scene in a foreign country can be intimidating, but there are ways to get to the other side, safely.
      Foreign cities can conjure up all kinds of fears – fears for personal safety, like muggings and pickpockets, fears of being run over, fears of not wearing seat belts riding in taxis, etc. But before getting carried away about crime and safety in a foreign city, just think about cities close to home. What do you do to feel comfortable with your kids in a city in your own country? Start with that when you travel to an unfamiliar city.
      In Asia, violent crime is much less of a problem than in American cities. In Delhi, you can wander around the city day or night without constant fear of muggings. You might have to lock up your luggage so that things aren't taken from your hotel room, but you don't need to worry about someone threatening you with a knife to take your wallet. A big city in Europe is similar to a big American city, keep a sharp eye out and hold onto your valuables.
      Losing your wallet to a pick pocket is one way to put a damper on a vacation, so be on the alert. Some locales have reputations for pickpockets, such as the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and Old Town in Quito. Airports and train stations are also popular with pickpockets because of the crowds and chaos. If someone comes up to you, asking to "change a dollar bill," hoping to get close to your purse, just quickly walk on by. If you're really concerned, wear a money belt around your waist.
      If you're not familiar with any "bad neighborhoods" in a city, ask at your hotel before you go out for the day. Also, big city parks, like Central Park in New York, can be wonderful family places, but also have less desirable sections. As at your hotel for details about a big park you plan to visit, if you aren't sure.
      A mother traveling on your own with your kids might wonder about personal safety. A friend was in Naples, traveling with her nine year old son. When a thief tried to grab the watch off her wrist, her son tackled the guy to the ground and started hitting him. The thief escaped, without the watch, and no one was hurt. Her attitude was "I'm not glad it happened, but it's a reminder to pay attention."
  In the chaos of a strange city, paying attention to your surroundings is not always easy, but is very worthwhile. If you find yourself in a part of town that makes you uncomfortable, hail a taxi and get out of there. Use maps and guidebooks to get oriented so that you're more familiar with different sections of the city. Ask at your hotel about safety at night. In South America and Spain where people eat at 11:00 o'clock at night, walking around the city at midnight can be fine.
  Our best advice: be prepared. If you are new to a city and are not sure about things, ask lots of questions at your hotel. Your hotel will be happy to steer you in the right direction – they want your visit to be fun. Confidence in your surroundings will help you have a safe and memorable stay in a foreign city.
travel for kids | travel tips | safety issues: foreign cities
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