Travel Safe for a Trip You’ll Never Forget…
The adventure of a lifetime – that’s not too much to ask for is it? We don’t think so. As far as we’re concerned everybody deserves to experience their travel dreams for real but all too often, those dreams can turn into a nightmare, so here’s how to ensure you have a trip you’ll never forget, but for all the right reasons!
Advice from experience
There are probably tons of useful tips out there for keeping safe while you travel, but these are definitely the main ones we could think of. We were first time travellers and thought we had prepared pretty well for our trip, but still got caught out a few times! Here are just some of the lessons we learned…
(1) Before you go, invest in a money belt and clothing with inside pockets. Rich had some awesome travel trousers with him on our travels which cleverly hid any cash he carried around with him.
(2) Always keep sight (and hold of) your day pack. This will generally be the place you keep your money/camera/ passport and those of you who have taken local buses in countries around the world will know that your bags tend to get thrown onto the roof of the vehicle before it sets off. This is fine and to be honest, you really won’t have much say in the matter, but always insist on keeping your day pack with you. It may be a bit of a squash to hold this on your knees during a long journey but it’s worth it. When walking around cities too, think about wearing your day pack on your front – that way no one can stick their hand into it while your back is turned.
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(3) Listen to advice from locals. If they tell you to avoid a certain area or not to take part in certain activities, please listen to them. Locals really do know best. Some female friends of ours chose to ignore local advice to avoid an area in Agra, India whilst a festival was taking place and to make sure they had a male with them. They headed straight into trouble when their tuk tuk was attacked and the girls were prodded and groped by festival goers. A nasty experience for them and one that was easily avoided.
(4) Keep your common sense and be wary of anything that could be a scam. Scams by tuk tuk drivers are widespread in places like India and Thailand. If your driver tells you that the most famous landmark in the city is “closed for cleaning”, but “don’t worry, I can take you to some very nice jewellery shops for free instead”, it’s time to get out of the tuk tuk! It doesn’t hurt to do some research into the most common scams you are likely to encounter in the places you are going to visit, that way your alarm bells should start ringing before it’s too late!
(4) Don’t keep valuables on show. This doesn’t just mean stuff that you know is valuable, but includes anything that could be considered valuable by another person. Be conscious not to flaunt your smartphone, GPS, SLR camera or shiny netbook and don’t wear jewellery when walking around cities. This may seem extreme, but you have to remember that many parts of the world are still very poor compared to the country you may have come from and you could find yourself becoming a victim of somebody who relies on stealing from tourists to make a living. I found this out the hard way when I was robbed in Saigon – the only piece of jewellery I had on was a tiny silver St Christopher necklace – it’s value was nothing more than sentimental but there was no way for the thief to know that until he ripped it from my neck!
(6) Try not to get complacent. Even if you have been travelling for a while, you never know what can happen. We’d already been on the road for around 3 months when the incident in Saigon happened and were so comfortable wandering around strange cities. The minute you let your guard down is the minute you leave yourself wide open to trouble.
(7) Just like you would in the UK, avoid carrying around wads of hard cash with you – that’s just asking for trouble! Instead, order a currency travel card before you go (we used Caxton FX and Fair FX) and take out money sporadically from ATMs. You can top these cards up online and just take money out when you need to at much lower rates than your normal bankcard. If you’re going to remote areas, do some research beforehand about the availability of ATMs then plan your cash accordingly.
(8) Try to remember to pick up a business card from the hostel you’re staying at – that way if you get lost you can just show it to a taxi, tuk tuk or bus driver who can help you find your way back!
(9) Don’t think “it’ll never happen to me”. Whilst we don’t want you to be paranoid or constantly on edge when you travel just be smart. Of course it can happen to you, and by being more aware of your surroundings you can help to mediate the risk.
(10) Don’t get too drunk – we know it’s difficult not to get carried away after meeting new friends at a bar or on the beach but just remember, you don’t know them and you don’t know your surroundings. Unlike going out on the razz back home where you know you can rely on friends to keep you out of trouble; you’re hanging with strangers on your travels. You don’t want to wake up on a strange street having been relieved of your wallet, passport, room keys or even your shoes!
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(11) Be aware of local customs and stick to them – you don’t want to attract criticism or stick out like a sore thumb. Our guide in Turkey told as about a young lady he was looking after on a tour who refused to tone down her skimpy outfit before visiting a local bazaar and ended up having abuse hurled at her by the locals. One woman even spat on her! Again, an experience that was easily avoidable.
(12) Use Google Maps or whatever type of geo-tagging app you are familiar with to update people back home as to where you are. That way, if anything was to happen, they’ll know where to start looking for you!
(13) The Foreign and Commonwealth office also runs a service called Locate, which you can use to plot your route in case of an emergency where you may require help to be sent out to you.
(14) Make sure that you know who to call if you’re in trouble by looking up the relevant emergency numbers for the region before you set off. Also, keep a note of emergency numbers for your bank in case of card theft as well as the telephone and policy number for your insurance company.
(15) Whatever you do – don’t skip on insurance, again it’s one of those things you hope you never need, but can be extremely handy in case of any problems.
Travelling really can be a life-changing experience and we feel privileged to have been able to visit parts of the world that are very different from our own. I’ve never spoken to anyone who regrets living their travel dreams. It’s a fantastic way to meet new friends, enhance your own skills or change your outlook on life but the last thing you want to do is put those experiences at risk. Just a few simple steps and a bit of common sense is all it takes to safeguard that trip of a lifetime!
All of our tips are based on our own travel experiences – have you got any safety tips of your own you’d like to share? Contact Us or just leave a comment below…