Travel Planning, Part 2 – Safety
Follow these wise tips and enjoy an stress and injury-free holiday.
Many if us have been there. You’re excitedly talking about your plan to trek in Bolivia then ride a motorbike overland through Southeast Asia, and you get That Look. It’s a mixture of fear, horror and ‘I wouldn’t if I were you,’ and it mainly comes from people who don’t travel.
And maybe they have a point. But a bit of planning can go a long way to ensuring your safety on the road.
Do your research
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the US Bureau of Consular Affairs warn against all travel to the Ivory Coast, Somalia and, right now, Syria. Chances are they weren’t on your list at the moment anyhow, but the FCO also advises against all but essential travel to parts of places like Russia, Thailand and India.
Check what your country is saying about your intended destination. It’s written by diplomats posted in the country in question, and is regularly updated. Being informed is the first step, heeding advice is the second.
Wrong place, wrong time
Sometimes you might appear to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few years ago the British government arrested the former Chilean dictator General Pinochet, causing a wave of angry, flag-burning anti-British protests on the streets of Santiago. I was one of several Brits enjoying an afternoon playing football in a park in the city and the worst thing that happened all afternoon was a football in the groin.
To friends watching at home it was a time of real worry, but on the ground the situation was as relaxed and friendly as Chile always is.
The advice is simple: avoid demonstrations and political arguments, keep in touch with the news, and let people at home know you’re OK.
Don’t leave your common sense at home
If someone approached you on the streets of your home town and suggested a gem-trading deal to you, you’d walk away, wouldn’t you? Then do the same when travelling. It is incredible how many people fall for this dodgy Asian gem scam. Don’t be one of them.
Check your guidebook – it has a section on scams just like this.
You are not invincible
Reliable statistics covering travellers worldwide are hard to find, but a large number of incidents in well-visited countries involve road accidents. Many backpackers hop on scooters with unfamiliar controls and without a helmet and ride on rutted roads alongside speeding traffic. It’s not a good combination.
Protect your head and make sure the vehicle is reliable before venturing onto main roads.
Just like at home, there are some people in Thailand, India, South Africa and Brazil who just see a wallet walking down the street when you arrive in town.
Just like at home, the vast majority of people will be welcoming and friendly. Yes, you need to be careful, but don’t be obsessed with your personal security – not everyone is out to get you.
If you are unlucky enough to have your pocket picked or bag stolen, you’re just that – unlucky. It’s certainly not the end of the world. Dust yourself down and get on the road again.
By staying alert and travelling smartly, you’ll come back with some wonderful stories. Some of which will hopefully involve you receiving that look all over again.
Five Best Safety Tips
- Take out travel insurance. And make sure it covers any activity you’re planning to do when away.
- Avoid scams. Ask yourself, is this too good to be true? If it is, keep your money in your wallet.
- Keep your valuables in a secure wallet under your clothes. Small change can go in pockets.
- Be alert and walk purposefully – if you are lost, aim for a busy street and hail a taxi.
- Use ATMs inside buildings wherever possible.
- When on buses and trains, sit where you can keep an eye on your bags.