Staying safe abroad should be simple – read our guide on how to avoid those oh-so-common mistakes…
the UK to spying Tanzania’s reptiles in the wild
Ensuring we’re safe while travelling is something we all think about, no matter the ‘perceived risk’ of the country we’re visiting. However, sometimes it can be hard to know what safety measures to take or what to believe from all the cautionary tales. Read on for our essential safety tips...
Before you go
Research is the best kind of preparation, no matter where you’re heading. “Your first stop should be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO; gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice),” advises Lloyd Figgins, travel risk expert and author of The Travel Survival Guide. “Don’t just rely on one source, though. Mix up your research with local government websites and good old guidebooks, too.”
It’s worth thinking about upgrading your bags if your destination is known for petty crime. Look for one that offers more protection – lots of zips, for example, or slash-proof fabric. Don’t go overboard, though; things like mini padlocks only serve to alert thieves to potential valuables.
You shouldn’t always focus on ‘hard safety’ advice, though. Also, doing your homework on a local culture will reap the benefits.
“Learn about a country’s traditions and quirks,” advises JC Lightcap, author of The Travel Safety Handbook. “It’ll help you interact with locals, but also avoid you getting into any unnecessary trouble.”
Don’t forget the golden rule – always, always take out travel insurance, even when you don’t think you’ll need it.
What to do on your travels
Remember to focus on why you’re visiting in the first place and what you came to see.
“People can spend all their time worrying about the things that are very unlikely to happen,” says Lloyd. “For example, your
chances of getting caught in a terrorist attack are roughly 1 in 20 million.”
Try and act prepared and low key. Nothing screams ‘tourist’ more than walking around aimlessly and digging out a map for directions, and it’ll make you a target for scammers.
“Be vigilant when you’re in a tourist honeypot,” continues JC. “Look to blend in with locals by acting confidently and keeping your valuables hidden from view.”
If you’re nervous about your hotel room not being secure enough, pack a simple door wedge – to use from the inside – so no one is able to enter if you don’t want them to. If travelling with a companion, split your cash between you and divide into different parts of your belongings. That way, in the unlikely event that you’re robbed, you haven’t lost everything. Also, if you’re part of a larger group, keep an eye out for each other – safety in numbers does work.
Being safe also means taking precautions when it comes to hygiene. As Lloyd advises: “Use hand sanitiser and be conscious of how your food’s been prepared and cooked.”
But whatever situation you find yourself in, all experts agree that you should trust your gut instinct. If your senses are tingling, its time to make an exit from that situation.
What not to do...
When you’re travelling, there are things that you can do to avoid un-safe situations. But while it would be easy to be discouraged from taking part in any fun-looking activity that involves an element of risk, that’s not really what travelling is about. Instead, take a closer look at the insurance policy you’ve taken out and see what’s included – and what isn’t. Take out additional insurance if there’s an activity you want to do that isn’t covered by your policy. “Spending a little more money on a good policy will pay dividends if something does go wrong,” says Lloyd. For every activity you want to do, find reputable providers that cover all eventualities. Another surprising area of risk is social media. While you worry about pickpockets, posting your travel snaps online just lets thieves back home know your house is empty. Jealousyprovoking pics can be just as easily posted once you’re back.
What if I find trouble?
Even when the odds are small, you have to be prepared, just in case anything goes awry during a trip. Make sure you carry a good list of suitable contacts with you at all times – things like your insurance company, bank, a trusted contact from home, your credit card company and your embassy.
“Make sure you don’t keep this list in something like your bag or a wallet, which could get stolen,” explains Lloyd. Plug any numbers you need into your phone as well, so you have two sources of emergency contacts.
He also recommends carrying a dummy wallet, too, full of small denomination notes, an expired credit card and other useless items. “By the time the criminals find out they’ve been duped, you should be in a place of safety.”
“Store backup copies of your passport somewhere safe,” adds JC. “Make sure you have a backup plan for money, too, so you can access cash quickly in an emergency.”
However, while it’s good to prepare for any eventuality, remember that you’ll probably never need it. “Most trips take place without incident, but doing the small things can make a big difference,” concludes Lloyd. And he’s right – lay the safety building blocks before you go, then you can concentrate on the all-important bit: your adventure.
‘If you’re nervous about your hotel room not being secure enough, pack a simple door wedge – to use from the inside – so no one is able to enter if you don’t want them to’
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