After an extended trip to Southeast Asia, you are thoroughly within the travel bug’s grasp, and as such, you had begun to search for new region to scour and explore. After some deliberation, Central America has become your new destination, as it contains scores of amazing beaches, food, and people, all at very reasonable prices.
However, in the process of researching this part of the world, you have also come across some very distressing information regarding personal safety in many of the nations that you will be visiting. Unlike Southeast Asia, Central America’s violent crime rates rank among the highest in the world, with muggings, burglaries and murder being a sad daily reality for many parts of this impoverished region of the globe.
You shouldn’t let this dissuade you from visiting these enriching nations however, as with effective pre-planning, vigilance, and a little common sense, the vast majority of travelers will go to and emerge from this corner of the world unscathed and brimming with memorable and positive experiences. To ensure that this happens, let’s go over some tactics that are paramount to staying safe in Central America…
Use Your Hotel Safe
While it can be tempting to make yourself at home and treat your hotel room like your bedroom at home, even suites in established hotels are much less safe. Cleaning staff, making less per month than the value of your camera, laptop, etc, might be tempted to swipe one of these and pawn it off for a quick payday.
Established criminal elements would shock you with how easy it is to break into rooms, leaving few traces of their presence. The most difficult security feature to defeat is the electronic safe contained within many rooms. Use it, or if there isn’t one available, use a safety deposit box at the front desk, or a locker at your guesthouse or hostel.
Never Walk Alone At Night
While you can mostly get away with walking alone at night in many parts of the world, Central America has a sadly deserved reputation for violent muggings. The darkness of the cover of night gives them the element of surprise, adding to the lack of familiarity of your surroundings that is the Achilles Heel of the traveler.
Even if you have mates to walk with to and from the bar at night, downloading a personal security app for your smartphone will add another layer of safety, alerting friends and authorities in case your group encounters criminal activity during your night out.
Never Let Your Drink Leave Your Sight
While drink spiking is problem across the world, it is especially endemic in Central and South America. Here, not only are you facing the threat of Rophynol (roofies), but of a scary new drug called Scopolamine, or Devil’s Breath.
The latter drug makes you lose your memory, but it doesn’t knock you out. You become open to any suggestions spoken to you, making you an unwitting accomplice as robbers clean out your bank accounts and steal every valuable you have on you and back at the hotel. When you come to, you have no memory as to what happened, as memories are blocked from forming (hypnosis won’t help after the fact).
Put Your Wallet In Your Front Pocket
As you walk through markets, most locals are there to trade their goods for some hard-earned cash. However, opportunistic criminals weave through the masses looking for an iPhone bulge or a juicy wallet hanging off the backside of a blissfully unaware gringo. By keeping valuables in the front, you will make it much tougher for them pull off their trickery!
Comply With A Thief’s Demands
Sometimes all the caution in the world will be for not, as some brazen criminal may still stick a gun or a knife in your face in broad daylight in the middle of a tourist district. In this rare scenario, just hand over whatever the thug demands. Material goods can be re-bought, embassies can re-issue passports, but you can’t recover from being dead. Life above all else!
Now That You’re Scared Stiff…
… please don’t be put off traveling to this beautiful part of the globe. The vast majority of people that come to Central America have the time of their lives without incident. By avoiding risky situations and not presenting yourself as a prime target, you’ll very likely come away from this place with a very enriching travel experience!