Mugged While Traveling: 6 Safety Tips for Travelers

Mar 05, 2014

Have you ever heard a personal account of a mugging in a foreign country? Well, you’re about to.

Everyone fears the unknown a little but when it comes to travel, people seem to dream up the worst scenarios. “Everyone is armed and blood-thirsty” they’ll say. After reading about a mugging in India they’ll send you the sensationalized article of a rare occurrence and say “Avoid this place at all costs, everyone is mugging tourist here!” While their fears are based in reality, they are blown completely out of proportion by their active imaginations and lack of experience. When it comes to travel and safety, I rarely take advice from these people unless they’ve actually been there. Well, here’s an account from someone who has been there and some useful advice.


Andrea.jpgAndrea Fisher is US citizen traveling through Southeast Asia. She has been roaming for 2 years; this is here account of a mugging which took place in Bangkok, Thailand.

“It happened the first night that I stayed outside of Bangkok to attend Muay Thai camp.  Every Wednesday night there would be Muay Thai fights at the MBK mall in the center of Bangkok.  The whole gym went and I tagged along to check it out.  The camp I stayed at was about a 45-60 minute drive in the suburbs of Bangkok so it was 10:30pm by the time we made it back. I would have been staying at the camp but the dorms at the gym were full as they only had about 15 rooms, so I was staying at a hotel about half of a mile away.  When the taxi dropped me off that night, it was a little beyond the hotel entrance, I'd say about 40 meters or so. Instead of making the taxi driver turn around on the one way street I just decided to walk the short distance. It turned out that was a bad idea given the dark streets and part of town we were in. It was a short distance to walk down a dark street and in the 1 minute walk to the hotel two guys on a motor bike stopped along side of me; one jumped off and grabbed my arms.  I wasn't sure why he was grabbing me but of course I immediately began screaming my head off. I think I was screaming "help" and "fuck you" over and over. All I could think of was that movie "Taken" with Liam Neeson, where his virgin daughter gets sold into the sex slave trade. It’s sad but that’s all I could think about. I was so busy thinking about a van pulling-up and being stuffed inside and driven away that I didn't really fight back. All I could do was wonder “was I being abducted?” or “are they going to drag me into a dark alley and rape me?” As it turned out, he grabbed my arms to spread them apart so he could get the strap of my purse off of my shoulder .As soon as the purse slid free, they were gone as quickly as they had arrived.

Immediately, I ran to the hotel and started yelling "I've been robbed," over and over again to the non-English speaking desk clerk. She didn’t understand me but could tell I was panicked and no doubt called the Muay Thai camp. About 5 minutes later a crew of 12 Muay Thai fighters show up about to kick someone's ass but by that time the thieves were long gone. 

 I filed a police report later that night but nothing happened.  I was told that if I paid "enough money" they would have caught the "suspect" for me (aka some random guy) but no guarantee on the return of my brand new Canon digital camera, Blackberry, NY license, Hong Kong id, credit cards, or the $20 worth in cash. In total it was about $500 USD worth of stuff, which is about half of a year's salary for a poor person in Thailand.

I don't know if you remember or not but Bangkok got hit with a bunch of floods in late 2011.  Lots of people lost their homes and businesses.  The crime was at a high and I think my mugging was a result of that displacement.  I hope they needed that stuff more than I did and it was used for good things.  I saved my passport and an extra credit card back at the hotel so that was safe and was able to cancel my stolen card. Anyway, it was just a stolen purse but the memory has stuck with me. I can’t walk down a street alone with a moped or motorbike behind me without freaking the fuck out.”


Andrea’s story is not a common one but these things do happen. They typically involve a woman walking alone carrying a bag which is likely to have valuables in it. They are crimes of opportunity. Andrea also mentioned an instance where a friend was mugged in a similar fashion and when the girl wouldn’t let go of her purse, she was punched in the face and the muggers ran off with it anyway. So with that in mind, here are a few tips Andrea shared with us about staying safe on the road.

  1. Don’t fight back: You’re much more likely to be hit, stabbed or worse if you resist and no amount of money or belongings is worth one single stab wound. Chances are you’ll lose the battle and your stuff will be taken anyway.
  2. Don’t carry your passport: You rarely need it once you’ve entered a country so leave it at home where it’s safe.
  3. Pay attention to your surroundings: If it feels dodgy, it probably is and you should use caution. A dark street in a poor area of town is a bad place for a walk when you’re on your own.
  4. Leave your gold chains and diamond rings at home: Someone who intends to steel what you have only knows you have it when you show it off. If you plan on bringing expensive jewelry or your $4k one carat diamond ring, you might be handing it over to someone in the near future. Don’t even bring it with you or at least don’t wear it out.
  5. Don’t be dumb: Use common sense. If you wouldn’t stroll around the crime epicenters of your home city with an expensive camera around your neck counting a massive wad of cash you just pulled from the ATM so why would you do it when you’re traveling?
  6. Have copies and always be on the lookout: Travel with everything you have as little as possible. Leave important documents locked up when you can and have copies of them stowed away. Andrea told us of a time where her friend had her passport stolen on the plane from JFK to Hong Kong. On the freakin’ plane!? Luckily she was granted entry but only had here NY driver’s license and needed to order an emergency passport.

The world is a crazy place and people are capable of terrible things but, don’t let your imagination and fears keep you from doing what you love. While Andrea’s story is scary, it should not keep anyone from traveling to Bangkok. Remember, living in fear is not living at all. Just use common sense when you travel and maintain a level of caution when in transit and you’ll be just fine.


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