Travelling is meant to be all about fun, discovery, meeting new people, learning, and of course, a bit of relaxation. It’s hard to let the dark cloud of ‘safety’ move in on your travels but, in order to have a successful trip every time, you really need to address it.
Different countries, and even different states, can have a different set of rules and laws than where you live, so it pays to do your research beforehand so you don’t break them when you get there. This applies to traditional customs as well – the last thing you need is to offend locals or draw attention to yourself by not respecting their culture.
Taking steps to play it safe and secure will enrich your trip immeasurably. I’ll never forget the time my passport and bag were stolen in Prague – through my own silly negligence. That tainted my entire trip and I spend most of the rest of my time in this incredible city trying to make police reports, organise an emergency passport and amend the rest of my travel itinerary. I wish I had simply been more careful in the first place and I am sure my memories of that trip would be completely different.
I have spent the bulk of my adult years travelling the world and have learned different tricks and tips along the way to make each trip even better, and safer. Here are my top tips stay safe while travelling.
Yes, this was always going to make the list! I can’t stress it enough. Especially now that I am living as an expat in the USA and finally understand how the ‘for profit’ medical system works here. Whether it is to protect yourself and your travelling companions against medical issues, or to ensure your baggage can be replaced or repaired, travel insurance is your best friend on your travels and the first thing you should organise once you book. Make sure you have read all the fine print and disclosed any details that might affect your coverage. And of course, double check you are covered for the right amounts, dates and destinations. I’ve personally had to claim at least five times in the last ten years, so the chances are good you will need to use it.
Good quality baggage
When you are scraping together enough to travel, sometimes it is tempting to cut corners when it comes to the gear you take. It’s only going to get battered around anyway, right? That’s the whole point. Your luggage WILL get treated roughly, whether it’s by the airline, yourself, porters, or anyone else. You want it to survive, and to protect the things that are inside it. Rather than buy cheap new suitcases for every trip, invest a little more in bags that are not going to break open mid-journey and they will last for years.
It’s also a good idea to buy a colour that is a little more conspicuous than black, making it easy to spot on the baggage carousel or in a crowded luggage room. It also helps airlines to identify and locate them quickly if your bags get lost.
Good health is about prevention
Check with your doctor or a travel clinic before you travel that any necessary vaccinations for your destination are up to date. Research on smartraveller.gov.au and who.int for any health issues to be aware of such as the current Zika Virus.
Check that you can drink the local water and what precautions to take about the local food such as washing/peeling fruits and vegetables or steering clear of meat.
Take extras of any of your regular medication and know that many countries will not be able to fill your prescription from home. Split them up between bags so that if one goes missing, you have supplies in the other.
Take a first aid kit and basic medical supplies such as pain relief, immodium, antiseptic solution and bandages/bandaids. They might be hard to locate in your destination especially if there is a language barrier.
Speaking of language barriers….
Trying to get help in an emergency or asking about current local issues and situations can be tricky when you don’t speak the language.
Take a local phrase book or try using the Google Translate app (you can simply type in your question and show them the translation, to which they can type their response) or there are even translation earpieces than can translate a conversation in real time – they are currently being crowdfunded but hopefully will be available soon for all of us at a good price!
Protect your baggage
There is nothing worse than losing your luggage on your travels. Whether it’s the airline, hotel, or thieves at work – those bags are all you have and can contain some treasured possessions. Firstly, we recommend carrying those extremely important things such as passports, jewellery, laptops and cameras on you at all times when flying or using other transport – this means in your cabin baggage. Also, don’t keep things like wallets and mobile phones in your pocket – things can easily be pick-pocketed anywhere in the world. At your destination, use a hotel safe and always exercise caution.
And in anticipation of anything going missing – we highly recommend using the new Luggage Leash, a Bluetooth tracking device that you place in your luggage and link to your mobile phone. If your luggage is lost or stolen anywhere in the world, set your device to ‘Stolen’ via the app and crowd GPS technology will start searching for your luggage, alerting you when and where it is found.
Tell people where you are going and when
Firstly, register your travel details with the DFAT website smartraveller.gov.au so that in the event of an emergency, authorities know where you are and can offer assistance and contact your family. The website also has a plethora of information on countries around the world for you to read up on before you travel.
Leave copies of your travel itinerary with family and friends back home and check back in with them regularly to let them know you are ok.
Email copies of your travel documents, passport, visas and other important information so that you can always access it from anywhere in the world.
Use common sense and respect
It pretty much goes without saying – but sometimes people actually forget their common sense when they travel – many believing because they are foreigners, the local rules don’t apply to them.
Don’t ever leave belongings unattended. Be careful and aware of the local hygiene issues and make sure it’s ok to drink the local water. Pay heed to cultural sensitivities and local laws and if you are unsure, ask someone local to explain. Guessing can get you into trouble. Be aware of safe neighbourhoods and no so safe ones, and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Finally, embrace the local lifestyle and enjoy the change from your own. This is why we travel after all!
What tips do you have to stay safe while travelling? Tell us below in the comments!