You don't have to hide in your room or be afraid to go on adventures, just make a few smart choices.
Also read Common Travel Scams to Watch Out For.
Be Mindful of Your BagKeep a hand on your purse at all times! Strap cutters, bag slashers, and purse grabbers are out there. Don't set your bag down next to you on a bus, and even keep your purse on the non-street side when you're walking.
Watch out for people trying to distract you. They might ask you to read a sign or even spill something on you so their partner can pick-pocket you.
Wear your day pack on your front in crowded areas. I know that sounds stupid, but everyone does it. It stops looking to weird after a while. Men, don't keep anything in your back pockets.
My ex-husband thought he was just too cool to wear his pack on his front and he had items snatched out of his bag more than once. I also talked to a guy who had just had his phone stolen from out of his hand (!) on the Mexico City Metro.
Walk with PurposePretend like you know where you're going and you know exactly what time you need to be there. But don't be in a panicked "I need to get out of here!" hurry! Attitude goes a long way. If' you're not the confused timid foreigner, you will not be as easy of a target.
I was walking to catch a bus in India late at night and had to go down a super dark street that seemed pretty sketchy. I wasn't even sure if that's where the bus office was but I had to find out. So I stood up straight and walked like I had walked it a thousand times and knew right where I was going. I didn't feel like a target and it at least helped ME if nothing else. ;)
Party SmartWhether physically or financially, it's no secret that drunk people are easier to take advantage of.
Stay in groups, party close to home, and don't get so inebriated that you can't take care of yourself.
Being a little older, I don't party hard like I used to so it's pretty easy to just not get drunk while I'm traveling, But if you're really in the mood to cut loose, be smart about when and where.
This particularly goes for drugs. Not only do the punishments in some countries far outweigh any benefit of getting high while traveling, but buying drugs from locals makes you an easy mark for any number of scams.
Some locals will sell you drugs, then threaten to call the cops unless you pay them more money. Or they will give you drugs, then take advantage of you once you're incapacitated.
Don't Carry a Lot of MoneyKeep your main stash of cash in the hotel safe or locked in your bag in your room. Only carry with you what you need for that day or outing.
One trick is to have a fake wallet with some small money and maybe an expired department store card that looks like a credit card. Leave it visible in your room. That way if someone breaks in, they are likely to just take that and leave without looking for your real stash.
Keep Emergency BackupsKeep an emergency stash of your currency hidden in your main bag along with a photocopy of your passport. That way if you're robbed, you have some money to get by and if you (hopefully) don't need it, you don't have to change currencies when your trip is done.
Leave the Valuables at HomeDon't wear any jewelry or watch that looks valuable (whether it is or not). That includes your wedding ring. You do not wan to be wearing a diamond in a developing country. It's just not a good idea.
Lock Your BagsSmall caribeaner type locks can live on your bags and they don't even need to be locked all the time. Keep them on your bags when you're carrying them, throwing them on top of a van or under a bus, or leaving a bag at the hotel for a few days while you trek off with only your daypack.
In your hotel, keep any important items in your main bag (passport, extra money, electronics) and keep a lock on the bag.
Overnight bus or train? Wear your money belt (under your clothes, not around your neck where it's a blinking neon sign asking someone to rob you!), cuddle your purse, and keep your bags locked to the rack with a cable lock.
Women, Watch Those MenMen will always try to chat you up. Sometimes they are just being friendly but unfortunately, men in many countries see foreign women as targets. Try to keep conversations polite, but short and curt. Do not let them know you are traveling without a man or where you are staying (which almost always seem to be the first questions they ask).
Always keep your hotel door locked at night with the deadbolt and chain if you have them. Travel with a simple rubber door stop or something like the Lewis N' Clark door alarm to put in your door while you're sleeping.
Dress appropriately for the area so not to attract extra attention.
When asking directions, ask a woman. I have had quite a few women even walk me to where I'm going if they feel it's not safe for me to go alone.
Listen to the LocalsLocals will usually tell you if an area is unsafe or if there are certain things to watch out for. Believe them and heed their advice. They usually have no reason to lie to you about something like that. Locals are a great resource for safety tips.
I have had all sorts of tips like in Arusha town, don't be out after dark. Once at a bus station I was told under no circumstances should I get off the bus until it departed. A certain hike was prone to robberies so not to bring a camera.
Let People Know Where You're GoingParticularly if I'm traveling alone, I'll text my boyfriend at home where I'm going for the day. There are even apps that track your location throughout the day.
For US citizens, sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and add each trip to the STEP website. This is especially helpful if there is some sort of disaster or and event requiring evacuation and your government needs to know where you are.