safety

safetyThe rules for keeping yourself safe when traveling is not much different than when you’re at home, the problem is – what you don’t know.  You don’t know the good neighborhoods from the bad and all the cultural differences will make identifying good food and safe places more difficult. At home you lock your car door, avoid walking in dark alleys, steer away of suspicious crowds, keep your front door locked and carry car and medical insurance.  You should do all the same things when traveling.Of course being from out of town will make you an immediate mark for potential scams or crime.   So what can you do?  Be prepared.  Blend in. Learn about your environment.  Be cautious.

Blend in

touristI believe the number one safety rule when traveling is to blend in.  Somehow our culture promotes passive bragging through name brand clothing with labels prominently displayed for everyone to see – but when you’re traveling, especially to economically challenged regions, these kinds of displays make you a target.

Blending in also requires you to understand the culture and people you are visiting – you’re small gestures at blending can show respect and admiration for region.

  • Wear muted clothes. Muted clothing is almost always the way to go when traveling. Sticking with colors that don’t make you stand out and colors that don’t show the wear and dirt as easily.
  • Shop en route.  I don’t always pack everything, purchasing a new shirt or scarf is a treat and souvenir of my trip.  Just be care not to get something too touristy – or exaggerating the look, a ushanka (a Russian fur hat) in downtown Moscow might be too much and counterproductive.
  • Know the money.  Understanding the local currency, the various denominations and carry it in a wallet or purse, instead of digging in your bag or money belt.
  • Minimize the camera. To blend it in – tone down the camera a bit. Bring it along, of course, but keep it under wraps unless you are using it.  I love to take pictures on my journeys; but I find hiding behind a camera limits my ability to interact and enjoy the experience.
  • Act like a local. In my opinion there is no better way to get a sense of a place than shopping for groceries, taking in a movie or stopping by the local library.
  • Plan your day. Knowing where you’re going will give you confidence and keep you from looking lost.

There are also a few DON’Ts 

  • Avoid religiously immodest clothing
    You should always cover your shoulders and knees when entering any church or holy site to avoid unwanted stares or being denied entry. You should also keep your feet and ankles covered. When in doubt, stick to long sleeves.  In the Middle East, women should avoid miniskirts, tank tops, bra tops, short-sleeved shirts, shorts and sometimes even Capri-styled pants. Revealing dresses and cleavage-bearing necklines are also huge no-nos. Men should avoid shorts and sleeveless tops in many Middle Eastern countries or when entering a church or other holy place.  Pants and long skirts are always good, and women should carry a shawl in their bag just in case.
  • touristbackpacksShorts
    Although here in Southern California I can go out dinner on a Friday night wearing khaki short – in most places in the world folks don’t understand our need to dress down.  Wear shorts at the beach and out hiking, but when wondering about town; dress it up a bit.
  • Jeans
    Jeans like shorts are not common place in most parts of the world.  If you do wear them be sure they are dark blue or black and in good shape.  Avoid baggy, ripped and faded jeans.
  • Backpacks
    You may have a backpack for your trip.  I use one in place of a typical rolling suit case.   But for everyday take along a regular purse or tote bag.  Backpacks are red flag indicators that you are a tourist.

Research

In addition to researching the sights and activities available at your destination, take a few minutes to look into the following:

  • Entry requirements
  • Local currency
  • Health conditions (vaccination requirements)
  • Laws and customs
  • Driving and road conditions
  • Medical care available
  • Addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates.
  • Any special security situations or warnings.

The U.S. Department of State provide consular information sheets for every country in the world. These sheets can provide most of the needed information.  Take the time to research your destination before leaving.  These details can be helpful in preparing and packing for your trip.

Travel Insurance

Not everyone purchases travel insurance – if you are going on a short trip, to a relatively safe location and your health insurance covers you abroad, then you may not need extra insurance. Typically I like the added security and I opt for purchasing the insurance.

Medical

You medical insurance may cover you abroad, but if you have a deductible you may be required to pay that first – and there may be challenges if you have to use an “out-of-network” provider.

Emergency Evacuation

This a big one; some people only think you need type of insurance if you are not doing high-risk activities like mountain climbing or parasailing, but a bus accident could easily require evacuation.  An emergency evacuation on your trip could cost anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000.

Travel Protection

You can purchase some travel protection for delayed or canceled flights when you purchase your airline tickets, but travel insurance can cover – at least partially for pre-paid reservations and provide $50 – $100 per day for travel delays.

Baggage Protection

Even though your airline may reimburse you if your bag is lost or damage during transit, travel insurance can cover expenses incurred because your bag was delayed.   Travel insurance will also cover you if your bag is lost or damage anytime during your trip.  You have to use reasonable care with your things – most insurance companies won’t reimburse you if leave your bag unattended.  But that’s not different that your car insurance company not coving you if you leave the keys in the car.

I use World Nomads for my travel insurance – they cater to long-term and adventurous travelers.

STEP

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Government for those who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.  I always register before leaving the country.  I know some folks have concerns about the government tracking them – but I am more concerned about being lost in another of country.  This service does tell the government where you are going, when and how to contact you.  Seems like good information for the government to know if there was a situation where you would need the government’s assistance.  I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

If your family needs to reach you, the local embassy would be able to reach you, if the area you are staying becomes unstable or there is a natural disaster, the US would be able assist in helping you return.  They would also help your family locate you if you went missing, they can help you with replacing your passport – having your information ahead of time can expedite things.

Safe & Wellredcross

Have access to the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site.  This web site is designed to help family members locate loved ones in the event of a major disaster.

I have the Safe and Well web site bookmarked on my tablet and on my phone.  As soon as internet service is available I can “List Myself as Safe and Well” – which enables my family and friends to search for me in the event of a disaster.

2 thoughts on “safety

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