How to Be Street Smart

10 Tips That'll Help Keep You Safe When You're Out

Think you're street smart? Even if you're a wiz at school, you still might be clueless when it comes to getting from point A to point B (and then safely navigating around point B when you get there).

Don't get caught in a strange place without these basic safety tips. It might be the difference between making it home and getting kidnapped (Or, you know, just losing your wallet.)

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Know Where You're Going

Young woman sitting on the floor looking at map on laptop
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Before you set out in an unfamiliar area, go to Google Maps to chart your journey and print it out. (They have directions for driving, walking, taking public transportation - even biking in some cities.) You can also use your phone's GPS to map the route too. Make sure that the location services are turned on on your phone, just in case you do get lost.

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Know Where Your Stuff Is

Woman checking her purse, Paris, Ile-de-France, France
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Never leave your purse, backpack or shopping bags out of your sight.  Carry your wallet in your front pocket (not your back pocket) or in a purse that you keep close to your body. Make a mental note of all of your essentials - like your phone and your wallet - and be sure you've got them at all times. A fun day out can turn into the worst headache ever if you realize you've left something behind (or worse, if a pickpocket scoops it up).

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Always Carry Your Phone

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Never leave home without your cell phone: it's your lifeline if you get lost, and it can connect you with the police in case of an emergency. Also, be sure that your "In Case of Emergency" phone numbers are programmed into your phone with a special "ICE" code indicating that the police should call them if you get hurt. If you don't have a phone, then be sure you're traveling with someone who does.

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Don't Trust (Almost) Anyone

Teenage Girl Sleeping On The Street Being Given Money
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You don't have to be paranoid about every stranger you see, but be aware that there are bad eggs in every city. If a friendly stranger tries to engage you in a boring conversation, their partner might be using the moment to steal your bag. If someone approaches you with a sob story about how they lost their train ticket, they're almost definitely trying to scam you out of your money.

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Pick Your Streets Smart

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If you have the choice between a busy street and a deserted one, always pick the busy one. Muggers are more likely to attack on dark, empty sidewalks than on ones with a crowd. Plus, if something does happen on a busy street, there are open stores to run into and people who can hear your shouts.

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Travel in Packs

Enthusiastic friends taking selfie on bus
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If you can help it, don't go anywhere - especially an unfamiliar place - without a friend or two. If you must go out alone, be sure to tell someone exactly where you're going to be.

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Don't Let Your Music Drown You Out

Hair, Headphones
Sascha Kohlmann/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

There's nothing wrong with listening to your iPod as you walk around town, but keep it at a low enough volume so you can still hear passing cars and pedestrians. Zoning out puts you at risk for accidents, attacks and plain old getting lost. This also goes for texting while walking. Don't do it. Keep your head up and pay attention to the people and things going on around you. 

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Ignore All the Jerks

Troubles in the relationship
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If someone catcalls or shouts something at you, just keep on walking. There's no sense in turning a stupid comment into an argument or worse. If they continue to harass you, or if they follow you, either walk into a store and tell someone or take out your phone and call the police.

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Don't Be a Phone Zombie

Pickpocketing from the bag of a young woman outdoors
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Phone zombies are so engaged in their conversations or super important texts that they don't watch where they're walking. Not only are they easy targets for pickpockets and muggers, they also run the risk of crashing into other phone zombies.

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When in Doubt, Run and Shout

Woman screaming in city
Tara Moore/Getty Images

If you follow the tips on this page, it's pretty unlikely that something awful will happen to you out there. But if someone does try to attack you, your best option is to go into flight mode: run away as fast as you can while screaming your head off, and look for open stores or crowds of people to run into. Your attacker is way more likely to get the heck out of there than to follow you.

Article Updated by Keisha Howard