Don’t get banged-up abroad

Many governments mitigate against their nationals falling victim to crime while abroad by issuing travel advisories. The Australian Government has just warned prospective travellers that, “There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping in many parts of the world”. This took me back a year ago when I found myself chugging along the backstreets of New Delhi in an Auto-rickshaw with two seedy looking characters, totally ignorant of my destination…

It happened while I was walking along DB Gupta Road on my way to India Gate when a stranger approached and kindly warned me to be on my guard as I was entering a ‘dangerous’ area. Fortunately for me, he pointed to an auto-rickshaw a bit further down the road and suggested I drive to my destination.

By now I smelt a rat as far away as Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat!

I thought this a sensible approach, and having agreed upon a price with the auto-rickshaw driver for the trip to India Gate, I hopped aboard. Almost instantly, another person jumped into the front passenger seat, and the rickshaw took off. The new passenger immediately engaged me in conversation, solemnly explaining that India Gate was in fact “closed” today, but I was in luck as they could show me some interesting sights.

By now I smelt a rat as far away as Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat! I had a general idea in which direction we were supposed to be driving, and I knew for a fact that India Gate would not be closed, so I used the mapping function on my iPad to see exactly where we were headed… Unsurprisingly, we were driving away from where I wanted to be. I noticed my erstwhile friend in the front talking earnestly on his phone, which is when I decided to act.

He woke up three days later in the outskirts of New Delhi, beaten and robbed.

Banging the driver on the shoulder, I demanded he pull over instantly. When the flustered driver stopped the rickshaw, I propped the agreed-upon fare into his hand and jumped out, telling them I’d find my own way. The front passenger was still remonstrating loudly as I walked away.

A few weeks later, I read a news report about a businessman who rented an auto-rickshaw from the airport into town. He woke up three days later in the outskirts of New Delhi, beaten and robbed. Police reported he had been drugged while in the rickshaw and driven to an undisclosed location where the robbers dumped him. See also: Share an auto at your own risk.

While this personal experience is not intended as a scare tactic, it is an unfortunate fact that travellers – finding themselves in unfamiliar territory – are often targeted by criminal elements. And while discussing travel safety is akin to the excitement of a debate on funeral policies, safety questions frequently pop up in travel forums. Travellers are concerned about their welfare, and they have a right to be. After all, no one wants to reward the callousness of thieves such as these.

Stay tuned for follow-up reports and tips on how to minimise the risk of being banged-up abroad.

UPDATE: Five top tips to travel safely

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