How to Not Get Mugged in A Foreign Country: A Quick Guide to Kinesics and Common Sense

A woman moving away from a would-be mugger in a dimly-lit parking garage

As I’ve alluded to in other posts, body language and conduct speak volumes. As the main components of your outward appearance along with style of dress, these are the first few things passersby notice about you.

And in a foreign country where a different language is spoken, the aura you emit is one of the few things used by outsiders to gauge your character. How you come off to others really is one of, if not the most important determinants of if you will be robbed or not.

Preventitive Measures

Most importantly, you don’t want to be perceived as a target. The most discerning characteristics in this regard are kinesics – nonverbal behavior related to movement – and demeanor.

This involves both being confident but not overly boisterous or obnoxious – and also not appearing fearful. When you exude fear or arrogance, you appear weak or flawed, and stick out like a sore thumb.

On a related note, be cautious of the clothes you wear. Looking too flashy may make you a target. Try to be less conspicuous and blend in more.

Use a Dummy Wallet

Always carry two wallets…a fake one with minimal amounts of money, and your real one. If you do indeed fall victim to a mugging, you can offer up the dummy wallet and the mugger will be none the wiser.

Travel in Packs or Take Private Transportation

Travel in groups whenever possible. If traveling alone, be mindful of your surroundings. And if staying in one place for a while, take different routes to and from your residence.

At night, walk in groups or stick to populated areas. Choose streets that are lit well. After dark, take a taxi home no matter how close you are to your apartment, hotel or AirBnb.

Reactionary Measures

What to Do While Being Robbed

Pull out everything they want and throw it on the ground away from you. It’s not worth losing your life over an iPhone and some money. These things can be replaced, but you cannot.

Have a Backup or Hardcopy of Important Information

Leave a list of important numbers (credit cards and their international phone numbers, loved ones’ phone numbers, etc) on a note so you have access to it. A good idea is to have that info hidden online in your email or other accounts.

Create a Skype account. Making free calls online is a lifesaver when you need to reach out to loved ones.

Own Two Internet-accessible Devices

The first two suggestions don’t really matter much if you don’t have a way to get online if your phone has been stolen. So have two devices with Internet access, or at the bare minimum a backup phone that can make international calls.

For example, have a smartphone and a laptop or tablet. That way, if you lose one, you can go back and use the other to track the other, erase things if needed, and also contact your financial institution or credit card companies.

On a related note, if you have a chance to recover your phone, you can set it in “Lost” Mode, and it will lock it from being used. That way you can still track it and possibly recover it without worrying about the information on it being taken.

If you have an iPhone, make sure you have the Find My iPhone app enabled so you can erase the contents of your phone if needed or want to track where the phone is.

In general, never carry your credit card with you, and bring only as much cash as you think you will need for your activities when you leave your apartment or hotel.

Leave Your Passport at Home

Though this is drawing more scrutiny lately in Mexico, particularly, due to increased regulation of tourists, opting to take a photocopy of your passport with you instead of the actual passport itself is highly advisable.

Though there is a chance not carrying the legitimate version on your person could result in a fine or at worst, land you a stint in jail, which is unlikely, at least you will still have the passport in your possession.

The last thing you want is to be stuck without a passport, preventing mobility and subjecting yourself you the likelihood you end up in jail if you are stopped without one.

Final Advice

Finally, it is important to not let one incident take away your enjoyment of a place. Stay positive, and keep in mind that it was an isolated incident—one bad apple should not ruin the whole bunch.


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