Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 Important Safety and Comfort Tips While Traveling

Whether one travels a lot or only on a one off occasion, your personal safety and the safety of your belongings is very important. Over the years I've taken a lot of caution - especially when I travel alone, nothing raises alarm bells quite like a vulnerable traveler so I've compiled my own list of the 10 most important safety tips whilst traveling.

Here they are:

1. Less is more. While everyone would love to travel with a huge wad of cash in their back pockets, the reality now days is that we simply no longer can. The risk of carrying large amounts of cash is high and if a would-be thief spots that bulge in your pocket he or she will become aroused and excited (not in the way you would imagine), and your hard earned cash will find its way to the big spenders hands.

2. Passports. When traveling abroad, there's not too many times after one has arrived in ones destination that one would need to produce that passport again. With the exception of duty-free shopping, renting a car or checking into a hotel, your passport serves no other purpose, so protect it. There's no need to carry it around with you and if it's not on your person, chances are you won't lose it. Take an extra set of passport photos along with you and a copy of your passports information page in the event that it is lost or stolen, this will make replacement far easier. If possible join up with a Smart Traveler Program.

3. The Safe. Most hotels or motels provide a safe in their rooms for their patrons and if your room isn't equipped with a safe, one can ask the concierge if they have a guest safe in the complex. Use it. It will take no more than 5 minutes to set up the password and this will give you peace of mind that your documents will remain safe while you catch up on some site-seeing.

4. Separation. There is no need to carry all your credit cards, cash and travelers cheques with you wherever you go. If your purse or wallet are stolen, all your money will be stolen too. A friend of mine once saved all his money for a once in a lifetime vacation to the US. Shortly after he arrived, his man bag was stolen along with cash, cards, passport and mobile phone.

To add insult to injury, his itinerary was also in the man bag and he had no idea of where he was going to next. With a rental car booked, he was unable to collect it, pay for it or prove that he had a drivers license. His vacation was booked for two weeks and it took in excess of 10 days to get replacement cards and an authority to travel back to his home country after his passport was stolen. As you can imagine, this was not the vacation he had envisaged for himself and the whole experience left a bad taste in his mouth. When asked what he would have done differently if given the opportunity again, he said he would never have carried all his valuables together at once. He had looked at the safe in his hotel room after he checked in but in a split second had decided that he didn't need it.

5. Personal Behavior. When traveling abroad, there are certain personal rules I adhere to. I never wear all my jewelry, especially not any expensive pieces. Nothing screams "I have money, target me!" quite like a tourist dripping in gold and diamonds, carrying a camera and a map book. Whilst one may feel good in expensive jewelry, it's certainly not worth it in the long run if you are mugged and robbed.

6. Eat and be Merry. When traveling on my own I very seldom go out to a restaurant for a meal and I certainly avoid pubs at night. I find it far safer to have my main meal at lunch time and sometimes fancy restaurants open their doors early enough for me to have a good meal before the crowds arrive. Your safety abroad is important, so work your schedule around the times that best suite you and don't compromise your safety at any time.

7. Lite and Easy. Travel lite. There's nothing worse than carrying a heavy laptop with you wherever you go. It will become a noose around your neck and the bain of your trip. With today's technology and the ability to travel with an iPad, there's no excuse for being uncomfortable. Ditch the heavy cameras too! Unless you are a photographer on a special assignment, a small camera will capture your memories more adequately than having to lug a big camera and all the lenses you might require for a day out.

8. To inoculate or not. It's great not to have to go under the needle, but when traveling to a destination that you've not been to before make sure your inoculations are up to date. If you have not done this, be careful of drinking the local water, I can't emphasize enough how important this is. Drink bottled water and be cautious when ordering coffee or tea or any beverages made with local water. One can hardly claim to have been extremely cautious when one has omitted to think of all the things we take for granted that contain water. Stomach bugs are so easy to pick up when traveling and can completely ruin a good vacation.

9. Medications and Drugs. Drugs? Seriously, are you that stupid? Medications should be kept in their original packaging in the event that customs have any issues with them. If you're intent on taking your recreational drugs on vacation with you, may I suggest you get a letter from you doctor either stating that you are a basket case and need to take them for your sanity or stating that you are aware of the consequences and ready to face the music when you're found out. Honestly, need I say any more?

10. When walking alone at night, avoid dark alleyways and quiet streets. Stay where the crowds are but avoid riots and processions. Use common sense and don't do anything you wouldn't normally do. Take a few minutes to research the safety of the country you are visiting and take heed of the warnings.

Safe and happy travels.

~ Vanessa

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