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How to be safe on your journey

Safety is often overlooked by the average traveler. Read and print this page, as it contains some easy and yet useful tips that anyone should use.

How to act

Your are, by definition, a tourist when on holiday in a foreign country, but it is sometimes wise to try not to act like one. In large cities where street crimes and robberies are common, it’s a good idea to adhere to these simple rules:

• Don’t bring out a map in public. Standing in a corner looking confused over directions makes you an easy target for fake cops, crooks and robbers. Instead, enter a shop or café and check your map or ask for help.

• Dress appropriately. There is no need to bring jewelry, an expensive watch, or your best jacket or dress when you venture around an unknown city in search for sights and museums. Dress down as much as you can, or do whatever else you can to try to blend in with the crowd. That way you will attract less attention.

• Do not keep money, passport and credit cards together. Before you leave your hotel room, think through what you will need during the day. Don’t bring more cash than necessary. If you plan to withdraw money from an ATM, try to use one close to your hotel or hostel, preferably inside a bank, and then go back to leave your card and some of the cash on your room. Divide your collection of credit cards, cash, documents and passport  and hide it in different places so that you will not lose everything at once.

• Check out hotel safety. Is it safer to bring your valuables with you, or to leave it in your hotel or hostel? Try to figure out  the best alternative for the place you’re at.

• If robbed – hand over to goods! Muggings are quite common in some big cities. You can decrease the risk by not walking alone at night, keep a close watch on the people around you, and by scanning your surroundings. If you get robbed – hand over the goods at once. Report to police (if the police is to be trusted) and/or your embassy, especially if you lose your passport. Block stolen credit cards quickly.

Be prepared

Before you depart, be sure the add these items to your check list:

• Insurance. Check to see if you are properly covered. If in doubt, contact your company. Be sure to pack your travel insurance certificate.

• Passport. Check the expiration date carefully. If expiration does occur within six months, it is time to renew. Copy and print the information page of your passport and bring the copy.

• Vaccination. Check so that your have proper coverage for the areas you aim to visit. Be advised that some countries require vaccination for deceases such as Yellow Fever. Consult your guide book, travel agency or vaccination specialist.

• Check the status of your phone. Especially if you are going off the beaten track, make sure that you have all important numbers to appropriate embassies and consulates in your phone book. Also, make a note of emergency numbers to your insurance company, credit card blocking service, and to relevant alarm services in your country (like SOS International in Copenhagen, if you are from the Nordics).

Some State Departments, like the Swedish, provide web features that allow you to have all important numbers automatically sent to your phone. Check your State Department’s travel web site for info.

• Pack well. By the way, don’t forget to bring your medicine, mosquito repellent and other essentials. Here are a few examples of online pack lists: make your own list (interactive), Traveller’s PointTravelsmith (these two are good to print).

Keep yourself updated

• Look up travel warnings. State Departments issue travel warnings, a steady flow of which we usually report some here on Traveling Reporter. Conditions in some countries can change fast for the worse, as has been the case in Syria. Before you go, review the status for the regions you are heading to.

If your government issues a warning concerning all travels regarding your destination, you should seriously consider your travel plans. Remember, an issued warning makes it easier to have money for tickets back from airlines and travel agencies. These are not just general ideas on where to go or not. If there is a warning issued, your State Department has probably judged that there is little chance to get through with help to citizens in that area.

Here are current travel warnings issued by:

• European Union (http://ec.europa.eu/consularprotection/showMap)

• United Kingdom (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country)

• United States (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html)

• Australia (http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice)

Sweden (in Swedish – http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/3436)

• Read the news. Your should always try to keep an eye on the general news flow when abroad – watch for signs of unrest, strikes, severe weather, large demonstrations, airline failures, closed ports or airports, or any other development that can have you stranded.

Whenever your head to a cyber café to check you emails, or if you do that on your mobile (watch out for high phone bills generated abroad!), it is a good idea to also do a news search on a site like Google News, while you’re at it.

 

More great stuff

→ For hardcore travelers: Info on dangerous places at Comebackalive.

 Need to know more about where you’re going? Alert Net’s Country Profiles

→ Keep track of the world’s conflicts – check out Alert Net’s Conflict Map

→ Useful tips: How to pack your bag