How to sleep in the street while traveling ?

Written by Romain on Sunday, 7 of August 2011 at 12:02

The title of the following post is deliberately extreme, as it is meant to describe some situations you can face when you are traveling and do not have a bed to spend the night. In that case, safety is your most important concern.

I thought of writing this article after spending another night at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. After 11:00pm, it is hard to find something in this airport to entertain yourself (especially compared to the amazing hubs they have in Bangkok or Hong-Kong) and you have to make do.

When traveling, you can be stuck for the night in a train station, an airport or even in the street.

In that situation, you should take precautions to avoid being attacked and/or waking up without your personal belongings. Today, I would like to share some easy safety tips.

While traveling, I ended up sleeping in airports and train stations several times and spent the night in the street (only) 4 times (twice on the beach). In terms of difficulty (freezing cold, danger), I will keep in mind two major events: one night spent in Chicago (USA) with a homeless guy, and one night spent wandering in Yekaterinburg train station (Russia) and the city center, which almost ended very badly.

Whether you choose to do it or do not have any choice at all, you should be extra careful, especially if you carry valuables or more than one piece of luggage.

As far as I am concerned, I try to follow some safety rules to protect myself and my personal belongings. This article is therefore aimed at helping you avoid incidents that could occur in case of “rough camping”. I don’t really like this term, as camping is almost luxury compared to what you are about to experience.But it does not matter!

If you have a roller suitcase, do not hesitate to turn it over (wheels oriented upwards) and to place it right next to you or against something that will need to be moved (restaurant chairs for instance). Potential thieves will be forced to make some noise, unless they carry it or are extremely agile. If you carry a backpack, turn it over and stick your arms through the straps. If you have belly straps, use them to lock the backpack as much as possible. The idea is to make the opening process longer.

It also goes without saying that valuables and important documents (such as your passport) should be kept in one of your bags; if possible, put them in your biggest bag. If you use a money belt, use it instead of the bag!

If you have strong suspicions from the beginning (if you have spotted someone shady that is overly friendly), do not hesitate to discreetly put “obstacles” in your bags. For example, you can place a rolled sweater between the main zipper and the bottom of your bag, to serve as an obstacle.

Empty your pockets. You can easily lose their content, which will be easily picked up by a passerby, when you move during your sleep (especially if you have wide pockets).

When I go to sleep, I always try to keep a physical contact with all my bags. I always keep my smaller bag on me, but when it comes to my big backpack or my suitcase, I always try to keep a significant physical contact with it, in case I move during the night.

It is therefore more complicated for a thief to steal my bag without directly touching me and risking waking me up. What I am about to say is obvious but it is always good to remind it: do not wear earplugs (or worse, take a sleeping pill), no matter how loud the airport can be. Anyway, you are not here to get some restful sleep and you should be able to wake up in case someone tries to rob you.If you are a heavy sleeper, this advice will probably not be of great help. You are in this case and you are carrying valuables? Apart from the airport/train station’s lockers (if available), the cheapest solution is a good Thermos bottle filled with coffee! Finally, when it comes to the street, make sure to sleep in public places with a lot of affluence like train stations or airports, and prefer places that are located close to a police station (for instance, I remember that one time when I was the only foreign guy to sleep at the airport of Kingston, Jamaica. I had officers watching over me to make sure everything was okay).

If you really have to sleep in the street, make sure to choose a spot with a lot of affluence and do not stay in isolated areas.

These tips may help you if you happen to be sleeping “in the street” tomorrow. If you apply them, you should be relatively safe. I use the term “relatively” because, obviously, when you find yourself in such conditions (especially when you are sleeping in the street), you never know who you can/are going to come across. Therefore, you should know that there is no such thing as zero risk and you never will be completely safe.

“Who can do more can do less”

You should apply these safety tips according to where you are. Of course, you are potentially less exposed to “problems” at 3:00am in London Heathrow airport than at the same time in the center of Guatemala city (that being said, if you are stuck in the center of Guatemala city at night, you must really be looking for troubles). However, given that we cannot always choose where we find ourselves, it is better to keep those tips in mind.

Good “night” to all of you!

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Comment by Adil

Commented on Thursday, 24 of November 2011, at 0:04

Nice article. I really enjoyed reading it.

Have you already been stolen during that kind of nights (Can you provide more details about the night in Chicago and in Russia? :P )?. I totally agree with you when you’re saying the risk 0 doesn’t exist.

Comment by Lusitano

Commented on Tuesday, 21 of August 2012, at 4:16

Dude that is Hardcore.
But please give more info about the night in Russia! ^^

Comment by World Traveller

Commented on Saturday, 25 of August 2012, at 15:42

Well I think I would want to plan my stay so as not to end up having to sleep on the street at all. If I know my departure date and know it is in a relatively poor country or a city with a reputation (think Detroit, USA), I also book a room at an airport hotel or a cheap motel so I can foresake the deposit.

Also, it is a very good idea to keep foreign emergency numbers with you - I found a list here for several countries But having said that, if I should ever end up in a situation like this, I will use your advice. Thank you.

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About me

I'm a 28 years old young graduate, living in Lyon, France and who traveled 12 months around the world. The purpose of this travel was to fully comprehend the international environment by looking through different people’s eyes. Together we will be learning about each countries values and beliefs, fears and dreams, worries and concerns through pictures, people’s stories and my experiences. Hopefully, this will bring a new point of view, a new perspective over the world’s view. About me