Coming from New Zealand, one of the safest countries in the world, the rest of the world can seem quite daunting. As my sister and I are preparing for our trip to South East Asia, we were discussing how we’ll keep our money, passports and other valuables safe. I told her that her current handbag probably wasn’t a smart choice as it has a flap that is really easy to open. Any prying hands would easily be able to grab whatever they wanted from her bag in as little as a heart beat. She was confused – this is not something we really have to consider on a daily basis. Over my travels, I’ve learned a lot of travel safety tips that I tend to take for granted, but in relaying them to my sister I’m realizing their importance. Here are my top Travel Safety Tips:
1) Get Travel Insurance
This really goes without saying, but get it. I’ve heard stories of people who haven’t bothered to get travel insurance and have found themselves stuck in foreign hospitals, unable to pay the huge medical fee – often for incidents that weren’t their fault – and without insurance coverage they’re unable to afford the medical evacuation fees to get home. Don’t make this mistake. I always choose a local travel insurance provider, such as Southern Cross Travel Insurance, because I know they are reputable and will provide a decent level of coverage. When you’re feeling sick and worried about your own health, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’re going to pay to see the doctor or for whatever you need to get seen to. When I was stabbed in Indonesia I was very grateful I had travel insurance as it paid for the replacement of my backpack that was cut in half, the cost of my doctor visit’s, medication and even the cost of hiring a driver to take me to the nearest town to use the ATM facilities.
2) Minimise The Opportunities
Most cases I’ve heard of friends having bad fortune overseas, could be blamed on the fact they’d set up the opportunities. One of my friends had all of her cards stolen from her wallet on the beach and then was unable to access her money. Thankfully she was traveling with a friend that covered her until she got a replacement card. Another friend had his wallet stolen in Prague and lost his valuable cards. I was attacked in Indonesia because I was traveling by myself in a remote area with a very valuable camera. Do what you can to minimise the opportunities available to someone who might like to take advantage of your carelessness. Don’t take your cards to the beach, carry a small amount of cash and no cards when you go out drinking, don’t go to remote areas with expensive gears alone. Minimise it, then you’ll reduce your risk.
3) Don’t get Sucked In
Along the wonderful road of travel, you’ll meet all kinds of people. Young people setting off on their first Overseas Experience, others who have been on the road for months or years at a time. You’ll meet locals who are captivated by your blond hair or your height. You’ll meet people who will welcome you into their homes, or to a wedding. You’ll meet others that will want to scam you for every cent that you have spare. That’s life. Avoid unsafe situations by simply not allowing yourself to get involved. One of my friends was traveling around India and he was quite well travelled. He met two guys who befriended him for a few days and after there was a great bond between them all – they brought up a business proposition. Gem Trading.
All my friend had to do was front some cash, they could get some cost price gems and on sell them for a great profit. Sounds great? Yeah, it was a scam. Thankfully he didn’t get too involved, but as the saying goes “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Be cautious.
4) Use Common Sense
This might seem too obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t use common sense. Do some research about the places you’re going and find out what’s appropriate or not. Avoid dark alleyways at night time if you’re alone or just a few of you. Don’t rent a scooter to drive in Asia unless you’re already comfortable back home. Don’t take unnecessary risks just because you’re somewhere else with a different area code and language.
5) Trust Your Instincts
Too often we talk ourselves out of worrying. We are the only animals on the planet that routinely ignore our instincts. They’re there for a reason. They might not always be right, but if you have a feeling that someone you met is not worthy of your trust, or dangerous or trying to take advantage of you – don’t talk yourself out of it. Just listen to your gut instinct.
6) Don’t Get Too Drunk or Drugged
Yes, drinking while you’re away is fun and if you’re inclined to indulge in some other substances (legal or otherwise) I’m not here to pass judgement, but be clever about it. Educate yourself on the local laws and what the penalties might be for going against them. If you meet a group of people, don’t get completely wasted until you know them well enough to judge whether they’ll look after you. Avoid taking drinks that aren’t prepared in front of you or that aren’t straight from the bottle.
On the same note, bare in mind that, in Asian countries especially, a number of foreign tourists have died from alcoholic drinks that have been contaminated. Drinking is fun and all – but how crappy would it be for your parents to get a call that you’ve been killed because you drank some contaminated alcohol? Sticking to bottled drinks, such as beer, is the safest way to drink in developing countries.
7) Plan Ahead
Taking a little time to plan *some* things in advance will save you a lot of worries and hassle further down the line.
Ray Calver, someone who inspired me to travel, suggests that if you’re arriving at weird times you should prebook your transportation and accommodation to save worry and stress. The last thing you want is to be stranded at the airport at a crazy hour, forced to pay outrageous prices to sleep somewhere.
8) Be Smart With Your Money
Don’t carry too much at once. Don’t take all of your cards out with you every day.
Another great tip is from To Travel Too who suggest it’s a lot safer to withdraw money from the ATM inside of the bank, rather than outside. That way you can avoid using an ATM that has been affected by skimmers. It also allows you an opportunity to put your cash into your wallet without being so visible to the public.
These are some of my key travel safety tips. Is there anything else you’d like to add?