The crime rate varies considerably from country to country and it's important to investigate the level in a particular country, region or city before deciding where to live. Most western European, Middle Eastern, Asian and Australasian countries are very safe places to live and Canada also has relatively little serious crime. However, the crime rate in the USA varies considerably from state to state and city to city, and can be high. Many Central and South American and African countries can be extremely dangerous places in which to live and precautions may need to taken at all times. Major cities have the highest crime rates, some areas of which are best avoided at almost any time of the day or night. Many cities are notorious for 'petty' crime such as handbag snatching, pickpockets and thefts of (and from) vehicles. In contrast, crime in villages and rural areas (away from tourist areas) is virtually unknown in most countries, and windows and doors are often left unlocked.
Staying safe in a large city is largely a matter of common sense (plus a little luck), although you need to develop survival skills in some cities. Most areas are safe most of the time, particularly when there are a lot of people about. At night, stick to brightly lit main streets and avoid secluded areas (best of all, take a cab). Avoid parks at night and keep to a park's main paths or where there are other people during the day. If you find yourself in a deserted area late at night, remain calm and look as though you know where you're going by walking briskly. If you need to wait for a train or bus at night, do so in the main waiting room, a well lit area, or where there's a guard or policeman. If possible, avoid using subways in the late evening or after midnight. Most major cities have 'no-go' areas at night and some have areas that are to be avoided at any time. Women should take particular care and should never hitchhike alone; rape statistics are extremely high in some countries and most go unreported.
Bear in mind that the legal system may differ considerably abroad from what you're used to, particularly if you're from North America or northern Europe and are working in a third world country. Some foreigners find themselves in serious trouble as a result ignorance or negligence stemming from seemingly innocuous actions, particularly regarding religion, 'indecency' and motoring. Take care and ensure you have a good lawyer!
Further information is available in our Living and Working series of books.