The Single Biggest Thing You Can Do To Stay Safe While Traveling

I’ve been extremely fortunate traveling. In over five years traveling in over 100 countries, I have never been robbed, mugged or even had anything stolen in my hotel room. Cross my fingers, I’ll be able to keep this streak going indefinitely.

That being said, I try not to do anything that will get me in trouble. I attempt to look and act rather innocuous, which means that hopefully some other unlucky traveler will get targeted instead of me.

However, in the course of my travels, I’ve met many people and heard many stories of travelers who weren’t so lucky. In a shockingly large number of them, there was a theme which keeps cropping up. A thing that travelers keep doing, which is putting them at significant risk.

I have heard enough of these stories to be convinced that if you just do this one thing, the odds of bad things happening to you while traveling would be greatly reduced.

What is the secret?


Nothing good happens at nightclubs. Nothing. The best you can hope for is to spend outrageous amounts of money for the same stuff you could buy at a liqueur store.

Don’t believe me? Consider the following:

Nightclubs are prime targets for terrorist attacks. In what was probably the largest terrorist attack against tourists, the 2002 Bali bombings targeted tourists in two Bali nightclubs: Paddy’s Pub and the Sari Club. 202 people from 21 different countries were killed. Why did they target a nightclub? Because is where you will find the highest concentration of people crammed into a single building.

Nightclubs are fire traps. Every few years you will hear a report on the news about dozens of people killed in a nightclub fire. On New Year’s Even 2009 I was in Bangkok and heard sirens go off in the middle of the night. I assumed it was just part of the festivities. In the morning I found out that 61 people were killed in a nightclub fire just a few blocks from where I was staying. Nightclubs are crowded, dark and will often have an over burdened electrical system.

You greatest risk of getting drugged is in a nightclub. I’m sure everyone has heard horror stories of women getting slipped date rape drugs, or of men who wake up in the morning with all their money gone. For this to happen, you will probably have to drink something that someone has slipped a drug into. The odds of this happening are far greater in a nightclub than anywhere else. Most clubs will very loud and crowded with poor lighting conditions.

Nightclubs increase your risk of getting robbed. Pick pockets require confusion and crowds to do their work. Nightclubs provide both in spades. Someone bumping into you is par for the course at a nightclub. Likewise, if you are going to a nightclub you are going to be bringing money with you and it will be dark outside. This makes it a prime target for muggers who are waiting for people outside.

Nightclubs are expensive. Lets assume your visit to the club goes off without a hitch (as I admit, most do). You are still probably paying an outrageous amount for drinks. I know of travelers who have dropped over $500 in one evening at a club. What is the point??? The money you spend on one night at a club could last you several night going to cafes or pubs.

Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I have no idea why people go clubbing. I especially don’t understand doing it when you are traveling.

Nothing good can happen in a nightclub.

Unless you are Jay-Z or Leonardo DiCaprio, you probably wont get much out of going to a club.

If I still haven’t convinced you, I’ll leave you with this:

Before Nightclubs
Before Nightclubs
After Nightclubs
After Nightclubs

There is no reason to go to a nightclub when you are traveling. Go to a pub. Go to a cafe. Go to a restaurant. Go almost anywhere else, but don’t go to a nightclub.

7 thoughts on “The Single Biggest Thing You Can Do To Stay Safe While Traveling”

  1. haha that wasn’t the safety tip I was expecting.. but it is so true!

    I much prefer pubs, bars and cafes. I almost never go to nightclubs when I’m home but I find a lot of other travellers I meet enjoy clubbing and so I tag along sometimes. The thing is, 95% of the time nightclubs are horrible and I spend the next day wishing I didn’t go, but when they are fun, they’re really fun.

  2. Nightclubs can be fun (they’re not my scene anymore), but it’s all about being sensible when you do. When I was in Barcelona, we ended up in a club, we were tipsy but not ‘hammered’ and we watched as this girl started gyrating up against a guy, and two big ol’ units walked either side of him looking to pick pocket while he was distracted. We got him out of there fairly soon but he was so drunk he didn’t know what was going on.

    I wouldn’t say never go to a nightclub, but just be sensible!

  3. There are night clubs and night clubs. If you are in a country where nightclubs aren’t part of local life and are just there for tourists, I agree 100%!
    But if you are in places like Latin America where dancing is such an integral part of the culture then you should go for it, albeit the places where locals go rather than the places geared for tourists which will fleece you.
    In Buenos Aires, you should definitely find a local milongo (a place the locals dance tango), I also went to a trendy gay club and ended up meeting some incredible people including some Uruguayan guys who invited us to stay with them in Uruguay where my friend and I were treated like kings.
    That was an expensive night but $30 (aprox) not $500!! And it turned out to be a great investment (inadvertently!)
    Also went to some other local clubs that were reminiscent of the school disco hall but the dancing was incredible.

    Like everything, use your head, don’t go to the tourist trap clubs (they will be the same everywhere) go to the places the locals recommend, you will meet interesting people, locals, and learn some new dance moves.

  4. Absolutely true. I find that early mornings are some of my favorite times as a traveler, for the good light for photos, and for seeing people start their days…hard to enjoy after a night clubbing. I do enjoy a good pub, mind you, but clubs are a lot like big chain hotels – they seem pretty much the same after a while.

  5. I actually completely agree with you. Nightclubs are a good place to look for someone to hook up with, but other than that it’s over loud music, no lights, and I never seem to enjoy myself. I always prefer going to bars and having conversation. Also, I have never been mugged in my life!! I see a pattern here…

  6. What great advice, and definitely an article to send to a relative who is about to go travelling. Night Clubs however are the flame and kids are the moths. If you HAVE to go, then only drink out of a bottle[beer] that you see opened, and don’t leave it lying around on a table EVER. I got drugged as a 60 year old man travelling with my family in a 5 star Greek hotel by the manager. We had a disagreement, and on our last evening he offered me a gin and tonic as an apology. I said to my wife it must be cheap gin because it didn’t taste right. 2 hours later I was unconscious, and losing fluids from both ends. – lesson learned

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