I’ve never posted anything that ever discussed the dangers of traveling, mostly because (knock on wood) nothing significant has ever happened to me. I’ve been incredibly lucky.
Before I traveled to Europe for the first time, I spent hours upon hours reading about scams, tourists getting pick-pocketed, and violent robberies in many of the cities I was planning on visiting. I practically drowned myself in this site (Street Scams of Barcelona) when I was debating taking a Spanish class there. I ended up terrifying myself. When I was actually in Europe I did witness multiple pickpocketing incidents. My hostel roommate also got the crap beaten out of him when his taxi dropped him off at the wrong address late at night. It seemed as though everyone had a story, or everyone had a friend who had their wallet/iPhone/camera/entire backpack stolen.
But it never stopped me from traveling, and it never stopped me from returning to these same cities. Most of the time I felt completely safe. I even threw out my money belt.
Now that I’m planning my South America trip, I’ve been doing some research about the dangers so I can be more aware. The things that have been coming up have been really scaring me.
Then the other day, I heard about the gang rape of an American tourist in Rio de Janeiro. Her partner, a French tourist, was severely beaten. Both were robbed and held for 6 hours.
The crime is abhorrent and I can’t fathom what they must have gone through, and what they continue to go through.
I have to be honest (and it’s hard for me to admit this) when I say it’s given me second thoughts about heading to Rio. It doesn’t help that a lot of people have singled out that city as a place I should not visit, especially alone.
Then if I’m really being honest with myself, I’m afraid to visit Quito because of my friend’s bad experience there, and I’m afraid of La Paz because of deadly kidnappings that I’ve read about.
I haven’t scratched anywhere off my list. Crime can happen anywhere. I’m the kind of person who gets pissed off when people say they won’t visit a city or even an entire country because of one bad incident. However, I have to admit that occasionally it gives me second thoughts.
I’m a big proponent of solo travel, but at the same time it’s something I have to consider when making travel plans. When I think about adding a city to my itinerary, I have to decide if it’s a place I would feel safe traveling to by myself. Many crimes aren’t centered around solo travelers–I’ve come across quite a few about couples or friends–but being alone (and being female) definitely makes you more vulnerable.
When people bring up the dangers, I’m usually able to brush them off. But not all the time. Sometimes these dangers are shown to be very real. When that happens, I’m not sure what to do. When is it smart to listen to the warnings, and when is it smart to ignore them and go anyway?