Despite what the media may tell you, the world isn’t actually dangerous or unsafe. Forget what you saw in the movies, and tell your mother to stop referencing Taken, the truth is that you’re generally safe when traveling overseas.
I’ve long been an advocate that common sense is the biggest secret to staying safe abroad. Traveling with street smarts, being aware of your surroundings, and trusting your gut instinct.
BUT there are many common sense safety tips which most travelers take for granted; basic measures for travel safety which are often overlooked.
And in fact, the most serious obstacle to personal safety abroad is an attitude of complacency or fatalism. “It can’t happen to me” and “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen” – this is dangerous thinking.
So the following are some straightforward, basic tips for travel safety, which are frequently brushed off. Often, the most simple advice is the advice we need the most.
Safety Tips Most Travelers Take For Granted – Do You?
Don’t Get Excessively Drunk
Having a social drink is the norm in most parts of the world, although getting drunk abroad has the potential to be a recipe for disaster.
You’re in a foreign country and potentially unfamiliar with its language, customs and laws. You may be with people you may have met briefly, and you likely have no idea where you’re staying. Getting intoxicated puts you in an extremely vulnerable position.
Know your limits and drink within reason. If you’re heading out, travel with a business card of your hotel and hand it to the taxi driver at the end of the night.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
We totally get that you’re a big boy / girl. But no matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you’re going.
I’m 30 years old and I still email my parents with a copy of my itinerary before I take a trip, usually including the contact details for the hotels we will be staying at. Firstly, it allows them to contact you if they truly need to. We were in the middle of an Outback trek in 2012 when Mike’s father passed away. No-one knew how to reach us.
Secondly, it means they know when they should worry if there’s a natural disaster, or act of terrorism, and act accordingly. There are fabulous mobile apps nowadays too, like Kitestring which checks up on you when you’re out and alerts your friends if you don’t respond.
So let someone, anyone, know where you’re going. Even if you only plan to stay in your hotel room. It doesn’t make you any less independent, or any less “cool” – in the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.
Register Your Travel Plans With Your Government
You should also register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a state of emergency or a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest.
Many governments will send out warning notices about any type of potential protest/risk zones that you may want to avoid while traveling, and doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event.
The emergency contact details you register are generally the only way your country can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.
Don’t Leave Anything Unattended in Public
How many times have you heard this at the airport? Funnily enough there’s a reason they play this warning on loop. People leave their stuff unattended all the time!!
When, for instance, do you ever think twice about leaving your bag on the beach? Or at your feet during a lunch with views of the Eiffel Tower?
There are the basic and generic tips of keeping your arm and hand on your handbag at all times and never losing sight of your belongings. Always have at least one body part connected to your belongings by looping a bag strap around an arm or leg, or fasten your bag to something around you.
If an object is loose, it’s a target for theft. Even a minor inconvenience can effectively deter thieves. You don’t have to make your bag impenetrable, just less appealing than the next person’s.
Don’t wear flashy jewellery or clothes than may attract extra attention. In most places where security is a concern you are also likely to stick out regardless, but it is better if you don’t appear like a millionaire.
Be extra careful in crowds and, if possible, avoid finding yourself in the middle of a demonstration or a large group of people where it is impossible to watch all of your belongings.
And you should make your best efforts to dress conservatively … especially if you’re a woman.
Don’t Give to Beggars
In general, it’s a very bad idea when traveling to give money to people on the street.
Leaving aside the fact that you have to pull out your wallet in public, this is encouraging begging, and once you give to one, you’ll be followed and harassed by others the entire way home.
If you want to do good while traveling you should look into volunteer work in the destination or donate some money to a local charity.
Learn Some Basics of the Local Language
Today we have access to a huge range of language translation apps, and I feel as though most Western travelers take it for granted that when they arrive in a new destination, someone will be able to communicate with them in English.
But most translation apps will only work with a connection, and it’s not always the case that locals will speak to you in your language (do you speak Italian when Italians visit your country?).
So learn some basics of the local language. This will help you to communicate with the locals and also know how to ask for help in case if you come across any bad situations.
For Gods Sake, Wear Sunscreen!
The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while traveling. Having been viciously burnt in the past on numerous occasions abroad, I now apply suntan lotion each morning out of routine, and carry it with me everywhere we go.
I was burnt so badly in 2009 while traveling through Europe that it ruined the pigmentation in my nose which is now permanently red. I’ve burnt my feet beyond recognition in the Galapagos Islands, and even come home from Antarctica ridiculously red.
So please, do yourself a favor and remember that you’re not escaping the sun just because you’re in a different country! The intensity of UV Rays differ around the world, so you need to keep that in mind. And remember too that you can easily get sunburned in the snow.
More Common Sense Tips
Above all, use your common sense and listen to your gut instincts. Don’t walk alone into dark alleys at night. Don’t pull huge wads of cash out in public and avoid leaving anything valuable in your back pockets. Download city or street maps before any outdoor excursions.
Research a safety profile of the destination you’re going to, and learn to recognize the uniforms of police officials. Common sense and street smarts are ultimately the biggest keys to staying safe abroad.
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