Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

1/29/2014

Safety on the Streets

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Part of the excitement of traveling is walking into the unknown, but that also presents some danger. I realized this while my family and I were in Rio de Janeiro, which at the time was going through a rough period of protests.

It made me think, "What influences my perception of safety?"

While in Rio, we didn't see any protests, but we were frequently warned not to have our valuables on display. It's a standard warning, but I think what was more telling was the fact that, on the street, even the tourists didn't have their cameras out. Isn't that a warning sign?

I always have my DSLR camera on hand, but in Rio, no one had anything on them. Perhaps it was because the biggest draw in that city was Copacabana and Ipanema, long stretches of beaches where tourists would most likely sunbathe rather than take photographs. Still, it didn't really assuage my family's confidence to walk the streets.

On the other hand, Cusco, Peru seemed a little more approachable. At night, there were always a number of people out on the street. Guards would be posted outside hotels, which helped reassure me that whatever happened, someone would be there to see.

Cusco at night. Photo by: Carren Jao. 
It turns out that my instincts were somewhat confirmed when I took a quick look at the Numbeo's crime index, which estimates the "overall level of crime in a given city or a country. Crime Levels up to 50 are reasonable, and crime index levels more than 100 are too high." It reveals: Rio de Janeiro at 71.97. Lima, Peru at 64.93 (I couldn't find a figure for Cusco). Quezon City, Philippines at 65.57.

In short, my family's gut feeling was right. It is a little more dangerous in Rio, but strangely Lima, Peru and our hometown had similar crime figures. The figure might be more on the dangerous spectrum, but we all live our lives in the Philippines. We could handle it, if we keep our wits about us. The same goes for traveling while in your own neighborhood.

Here are things I've picked up as a woman trying to stay safe in Manila (and around the world).
  1. Check out the territory. Ask guides or concierge attendants about the overall situation in the neighborhood. 
  2. Walk where there are people. The more people, the safer I feel. 
  3. Explore new neighborhoods in the daylight. Travel in groups at night.
  4. Get someone on the phone, if you're walking in a particularly unsafe or unlit neighborhood. Talk to that person as you navigate the streets, so they'll know how to find you should you need some back up. 
  5. Stash your goods. Don't flaunt your valuables and dress NOT to impress. 
So far, so good. I may be paranoid, but it's better to err on the side of safety rather than fall victim in a strange country.


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