Don’t want to get robbed on holidays? Don’t dress as a tourist and some other advice.

16 Jan


Very sad news today- a traveller was shot dead in the Honduras yesterday after thieves attacked him for his camera and a backpack full of valuables.

San Pedro is recognized by the Lonely Planet as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, which doesn’t mean travellers should never go there, but it does mean they should take some sensible precautions.  Let’s go over to CNN (although there are only about a million sites that will give you very similar advice) and check out their advice for travellers, shall we?

Some tips to avoid getting robbed while on holidays:

Don’t be drunk.  Kind of an obvious one, no? The vast majority of people in any country you go to are decent and kind and don’t want to hurt you. But some aren’t.  And nothing quite says “prey” like a wasted foreigner, so go easy on the alcohol until you know the lay of the land a little better.


Don’t dress rich.  Flashing your expensive watch or jewellery or electronics, especially in an environment where a lot of people are poor, is gonna get you in a world of trouble.  Another way of expressing this is don’t dress like a tourist.  You may BE a tourist, or even a very experienced traveller, but advertising your status as a non-local is likely to invite a bit of misfortune, so put away your New York Yankees t-shirt and your socks and sandals and try to blend in a bit.

Watch out for kids. The predators won’t necessarily look like what you expect them to look like.  A ten year old kid in Houston isn’t likely to be a huge threat. A ten year old kid in Rio de Janeiro is another story altogether.  Pay attention and don’t assume you know who the thieves are going to be.


Watch the people watching you.  Drugs and alcohol will make would-be predators a little more bold, so keep an eye on who is watching you, and use eye contact to let them know you are not the prey they are hoping for.

Don’t be low-hanging fruit. Use your body language and demeanor to convey that you are not likely to cave in easily and that picking a fight might be a bad idea.  Let would be muggers decide to wait for someone more vulnerable to come along.  Again, it helps it you are sober.

Recognize when a bad situation is happening and get out of there. “Always err on the side of caution and get out of there fast as you can, preferably to a well-lit place with lots of people”.  When you sense you are in danger, it’s not time to ruminate on the particulars of the local criminal code and ponder what is and is not allowed.  When you sense, danger, get the hell out of there!


Does anyone seriously object to this kind of advice?  When you travel (which is an awesome, life-enhancing experience), you need to understand that you can end up in some dangerous situations, and that there are some reasonable safety measures that can and should be exercised.  Keeping your valuables hidden doesn’t condone robbery, it just acknowledges that robbery happens, and it’s best to try and avoid it, if you can.

Sure, people can take all of the above precautions and still get robbed, but that’s hardly a convincing argument for taking no precautions at all!

Now, let’s go back and take a look at this young lady again:


You know who this is?  This is a tourist.  A young traveller exploring a new landscape with which she has very little familiarity and probably zero experience.  She is a voyager to a new world of sexuality and desire, and that land is populated mostly by people who will do her no harm.

And a few people who most certainly will.

What kind of advice should we give her? How about the EXACT SAME ADVICE we would give her if she was heading off for a weekend in Bangkok with her friends?

Pay attention to how you are dressed

Don’t be drunk

Don’t flash your valuables

Keep an eye on who is watching you

Travel with friends

Use your body language to let predators know you are not easy prey

If you sense a problem, get the hell out of there


Oh, but if you give young, inexperienced sojourners that kind of advice you are “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”.  And naturally, by “sojourners”, I mean women, as there is a rather notable cultural  silence when it comes to advising young men how to navigate uncharted waters and avoid falling victim to predatory women.  As we all know, no man has ever been raped by a woman.  No man has ever been drunk and taken advantage of by a woman. No man has ever heard “don’t worry, baby, I’m on the pill” only to face 25 years of child support for a child he didn’t plan and doesn’t want.


Really?  How did we get to the point where suggesting that young women, new to the territory of sexuality, should simply be thrown out into the arena with no preparation and no understanding and no ability to protect themselves?

not asking

See, this is the wrong question.  It’s not “are you asking for it?”, it’s “are you going to get it?”, and the answer, depending on the circumstance, can vary quite a lot.  Surrounded by (mostly male) police officers at a “protest”?  Nope.  You can probably count on those men in blue to protect you.  In the middle of Central Park on a Saturday night, smashed out of your gourd?  Oh, honey, I hope you have a rape kit tucked in those pants, because chances are, you’re gonna need it.

And that will partly be your fault for being such a fucking idiot.

It doesn’t seem the slightest bit controversial to advise travellers to take some precautions to protect themselves when they are in a new place, unfamiliar with the terrain or the customs or possibly even the language.  Sexual “tourists”, those darling neophytes, the absolute beginners,  are no different.  Until you understand what reactions you provoke, and what the consequences of that might be, and until you have the skills and the knowledge to manage the situation, there is a huge onus on YOU to behave in a way that keeps trouble at bay.

And when you gain that experience, you STILL have some responsibility to protect yourself.  You can travel to the savannah a million times, but a rhino is still a rhino and if you get too close, expect to get gored.


You don’t get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.  So learn how to negotiate.  Or stay home.

Lots of love,




14 Responses to “Don’t want to get robbed on holidays? Don’t dress as a tourist and some other advice.”

  1. happycrow January 16, 2013 at 15:05 #

    I see I’m not going to be alone in the “hateful victim-blamer” camp this week. 🙂
    I’ve got a take here, but I think it’s longer than a comment will support, so I’m going to post-and-link — point-blank, I think your tourist list needs a “how to connect with locals” advice, too. Like when you suddenly realize that you’re not in a country bar, but you’re in a shit-kicker bar, and people really did come here because it’s Friday night and that’s when everybody in this bar fights….. setting yourself up so one of the locals wants to help you out may be the difference between wiser, and sadder, badly-injured, and wiser.


  2. judgybitch January 16, 2013 at 15:24 #

    Sounds great! Post a link, by all means.


  3. Liz January 16, 2013 at 17:08 #

    I’m scratching Honduras off my list of places to travel, and adding it to the list of places never to go (that one is a very long list).


  4. Keen Observer January 17, 2013 at 01:41 #

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Having a penis generally disqualifies me from making the exact same observations, because, you know, penis. But I think it’s something I think that most (all?) guys know instinctively: Be Aware of Your Environment, and Try Not to Be Avoidably Stupid. I just can’t get my head around why having a vagina makes this advice impossible to pass along.

    Oh, right. Because the end goals are general emasculation and not taking responsibility for one’s actions or bad decisions.

    As an aside, it’s also good advice even when not on holidays. Slumming in a dive bar carries similar risks, or even just ending up somewhere you didn’t plan to be, even in your own city/town.


  5. Ter January 17, 2013 at 07:50 #

    On this topic, I’ve had women friends plead “You don’t know what it’s like to be a girl, we can’t even walk around after dark and be safe…”

    The part about not knowing what it’s like to be a girl is probably true – but I’m mystified as to why they assume that I’m somehow bullet-proof, knife-resistant and gangs of delinquents would just bounce off me as if I was The Hulk. I avoid places I know aren’t safe – eg. At night, I don’t walk through parks or alleys, and I’m very vigilant as to who and what is in my environment. Just seems like common sense.


  6. judgybitch January 17, 2013 at 11:56 #

    Exactly. You would take precautions to avoid just plain old assault. Why not take some to avoid sexual assault, too?


  7. aspasialibertine January 19, 2013 at 19:04 #

    I partially already commented on this on Twitter. But, I went to school in high crime areas. They were great schools (magnet schools) but the neighborhoods they were in, not so much. My own neighborhood was okay but we were next door to one of the worst in Chicago. From the age of 13 on, I had to navigate these areas by myself to get to school.

    I was never hurt by some random stranger.

    Not because of luck, but because my parents taught me those very things at the top. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I was pretty and had the body of a grown woman by 13. Neither of my parents ever said, “If you wear that, you’re asking for it” but “When you wear that, you’ll get certain reactions. Some will try to do certain things to you and here are the signs that something is about to go REAL wrong.” That said, they still didn’t let me dress as much like Janet Jackson or Madonna as I would have liked.

    This didn’t hinder how I dressed or where I went or any fun, teenaged misadventures (of which there were many). But I was never hurt.

    Oh and I was in a sorority in university and spent loads of time at frat houses. Never hurt. And my sorority sisters had a code to ALWAYS look out for each other. There were a couple of times when we physically removed a fellow sister from a possible bad situation.

    Yes, shit happens sometimes despite your preparations. But that’s different from seeking out a pile of shit and jumping in the middle.


  8. Kiwi September 13, 2013 at 02:13 #

    In this world, there are women who get slapped for being a bitch

    So don’t be a bitch.



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