Traveling and seeing the world can lead to some incredible adventures.
You’ll have some of the best experiences of your life when you’re exploring the planet. The world is not something to be feared. It’s not as dangerous as it may seem at times. Of course, it’s important to do your research before you depart on your big adventure. When you’re visiting new cities and countries, be sure to take the necessary precautions to stay safe when you travel. With a little planning, you’ll be aware of the risks and be prepared for any situations that might threaten your safety. Here are my 10 tips to stay safe when you travel.
MAKE COPIES OF TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
It’s always a good idea to have a back-up, especially when it comes to your important travel documents. Keep copies of your passport and other paperwork separate from the original ones, in case they get stolen. You can photocopy your documents, email them to yourself, upload them to your online storage space (ie. cloud drive), or take a picture of them with the camera on your phone. It never hurts to be too prepared.
Visit your local travel doctor months before you leave for your trip. Your doctor can recommend the appropriate vaccinations that are required to visit certain countries. Before I traveled to Kenya, my travel doctor recommended that I get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. He also wrote a prescription for malaria pills and an antibiotic, just in case. There were other items for sale at his office, such as mosquito netting, bug repellent, a medical safety kit, and ways to purify the drinking water.
RESEARCH COMMON SCAMS
Before you leave for your trip, read articles and travel blogs about common tourist scams. These could vary from place to place. For instance, before traveling to Italy, I read many articles about the ways tourists are robbed or deceived. Think about it – you’re in a new environment and most likely in awe of your surroundings. You might be less guarded than usual and thieves will take advantage of this.
Even though I read about the ways pickpockets prey on tourists, I still got conned on one of my first days in Italy. How did this happen? I was completely distracted. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything too devastating, but I learned my lesson. Later in the trip, I spotted pickpockets on a train and didn’t let them get anywhere near my belongings.
You can’t be completely prepared for every situation, but it does help to learn from the mistakes of other travelers. If in doubt, use your common sense. Trust your own instincts. Don’t put your complete trust in someone you just met. Use the same common sense as you would at home.
REGISTER WITH THE GOVERNMENT
In Canada, you can register with the government before you travel abroad. It’s a very simple process that takes a few seconds. In case of an emergency abroad or at home, the Government of Canada will be able to contact you. You’ll be able to receive important details and information during natural disasters or civil unrest. You can also register at a Canadian embassy abroad.
If you aren’t Canadian, your own government or embassy most likely offers a similar free service. Even if you’re planning a short vacation, it’s a good idea to register in advance.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
Don’t skip this step. Get travel insurance. Trust me! I’ve heard way too many horror stories to realize that you need to buy travel insurance before you go on holiday.
Whether you’re traveling for a week or living abroad, it’s always a good idea to be covered. For Canadians, your own provincial health plan won’t cover any medical bills when you’re out of the country. Even if you’re perfectly healthy, it’s always good to expect the unexpected. It’s possible that you could become sick or injured overseas. I’ve sailed on cruise ships on a few occasions now where a passenger needed to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. Without the proper insurance, these bills can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I really hope that those travelers were insured.
Thankfully, there is a way to compare travel insurance quotes in one place at Kanetix.ca. This is an easy way to save money on your travel insurance costs by up to 66%. There are a variety of travel insurance plans to choose from, whether it’s trip cancellation insurance, medical insurance, snowbird travel insurance, insurance for single trips or multi-trips, or an all-inclusive plan. This is the most cost effective way of comparing and finding the best plan for you.
WATCH YOUR VALUABLES
While it’s best to leave any unnecessary valuables at home (for instance, fancy jewelry), we do tend to travel with some fairly expensive gear in the form of technology. Multiple cameras, a drone, a smartphone, a tablet or laptop…it all adds up. Thieves realize that tourists travel with expensive belongings and will steal items that you leave unattended. It’s always a good idea to keep a close watch on your stuff, especially in transit – on the train, bus, or plane.
If possible, keep your cameras tucked away when you’re not using them and not hanging around your neck. I purchased an insert for my purse to store my DSLR rather than keeping it in a camera bag. We bought a backpack to store our drone rather than a case with the drone company’s logo displayed on it. That way, no one can tell that there is expensive gear on us – at least not by a quick glance, anyway.
SAFELY STORE YOUR CASH
If you’re carrying a lot of cash on you, keep it in multiple places. If you’re visiting areas where you could be robbed, it’s a good idea to store your cash safely in a money belt. Keep only a small amount of cash in your wallet. I’ve even heard of some travelers keeping a “dummy wallet” for pickpockets to steal that doesn’t have anything important inside it. If possible, keep most of your cash stored in your hotel room’s safe. And it’s always a good idea to keep an emergency stash somewhere in your luggage or somewhere safe in case you do get robbed.
And again, use common sense. Don’t use ATMs late at night. Don’t count your money in front of large crowds of people.
Don’t stand out as the obvious tourist. Research how the locals dress and act. Try to blend in as much as possible. Follow the local customs and rules. For example, we read that the locals in Italy don’t tend to wear shorts, even when it’s hot outside. We dressed and acted appropriately, and even got mistaken as locals on a couple occasions!
In traditional countries, it might not be acceptable to wear shorts or tank tops. When entering some religious sites, you must cover your shoulders and knees, so be prepared for that by dressing properly or packing a scarf. Be respectful of the laws and customs of the places you visit.
It’s also much better to use an app on our phone for directions, like Google Maps. This saves you from whipping out a giant city map on the street.
Use your own common sense and trust your gut instincts. If something feels wrong, it most likely is wrong. Don’t drink too much, especially if you’re traveling alone. It’s way easier to encounter harmful situations or have someone take advantage of you if you’re no longer in control.
It also isn’t ever a good idea to wander around at night by yourself, no matter where you are. Be mindful of the good and bad neighbourhoods in a city. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t allow yourself to become easily distracted, and act like you belong where you are. Walk with confidence, even if you don’t know where you’re going.
And please, if you ever find yourself volunteering on a wildlife conservancy in Kenya, be within running distance of your car should you encounter any rampaging buffaloes.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Stay in touch with your friends and family back home. Keep them up to date with your current whereabouts. It’s a good idea to have an emergency contact. These contacts should have a full itinerary of where you’ll be staying and the best ways to get in touch with you. You never know what might happen when you’re away from home. It’s good to have an easy way to communicate with your loved ones, even if you’re thousands of miles away.
By following these few key pieces of advice, you’re bound to stay safe when you travel.