The most important thing about safety and security is awareness. I’m not an expert in this realm, but what’s worked for me in the past is to consciously scan and analyze the environment I’m in.
Let’s begin with common sense stuff. Travel as you would in any large metropolitan city in the U.S. Keep your guard up. Conceal your valuables, or don’t carry valuables at all.
The next thing is to develop local allies whenever possible. Making friends not only adds to your experience, but they can also assist you whenever you need them to.
For example, I arrived by train in the middle of the night in Mumbai and had to make my way to the local train. I had no idea how to do it, but locals assisted me as we walked in the dark through some slums to get to the other train.
Another time, I got into a potentially major scuffle with a squad of Indian soldiers on a train. I didn’t have a ticket to the bunk I occupied because I had traded with an Indian woman so she could be with her family. I knew they didn’t have tickets either and were trying to intimidate me with their guns and their numbers so I stood my ground. Thankfully, a friend that I made earlier on the train averted the crisis by explaining my situation to them in Hindi.
There are people out there who you cannot trust and who might try to take advantage of you. For these reasons, I usually target certain groups of individuals to make allies out of. These include people with families, people who look educated and well-to-do based on their clothing and accessories (newspapers, books, briefcases, etc.), students, and females. There’s always going to be risk, but I believe these types of people present the least risk. Also avoid anyone who solicits their company or advice. Those people are usually hustlers.
Just use your head and be smart. Your mind is your best weapon.