Overseas travel can be a fantastic, mind-expanding experience, but it can also be dangerous. An element of complacency creeps into all of our everyday lives when at home as we tend to know our surroundings intimately – we're aware of which roads to avoid alone late at night, how to safely negotiate the streets via private or public transport, and where to go whenever any kind of unexpected situation may arise. It's rare that we'll able to say the same whilst on holiday, however, so what should we be doing to ensure that no ill fortune befalls us while we travel?
Take Out Insurance
We'd hope this is taken as read, but travel insurance is hugely important in keeping your safe abroad. Between the potential for lost or damaged baggage in transit, the possibility of a health concern, or even the risks of theft of your belongings while abroad, travelling without an active insurance policy is a needless risk.
Carry Limited Cash
Would you walk through a seedier quarter of your own city carrying a wallet bulging with £50 notes? Of course you wouldn’t. Equally, there is no reason to do so while abroad – ultimately, waving fistfuls of cash around could be like a red rag to a bull for any unsavoury element. Take a limited amount of local currency to cope with taxis and your first meal or drinks to get you through arrival day.
This does not even take into consideration how easy it can be to misplace things on holiday when stopping to take a snapshot every few paces. The rise in popularity of pre-loaded travel cards ensure that it's no longer necessary to carry all of your currency on your person, and what's more, you'll theoretically be insured for your losses should the worst happen.
Take a Credit Card
In addition to the aforementioned travel cards, just about any country in the world will accept the use of major credit cards. This isn't something that you should use every day, as the handling charges could become astronomical and you run the risk of your account being blocked by a fraud investigation team who deem the sudden burst of spending in foreign climes to be suspicious, but it always pays to have a backup plan to increase your spending power if necessary. Treat credit cards more as an emergency bail-out rather than your sole use for holiday spending. Also, empty your wallet of any unnecessary cards, and rely on one only, to avoid losing everything.
Only carry the card around with you if you know you are going to use it – eliminate the possible theft. The downside of plastic being accepted everywhere is that a pickpocket will have just as much fun spending your money in Barcelona as they would in Birmingham. With the sophisticated methods of thieves these days, your card details could be passed on in a matter of moments.
Know Your Surroundings
Before you set off on your journey, discover the whereabouts of various essential facilities. Where is the closest police station? The nearest hospital? The most accessible bank, or Bureau de Change? Any of these services may become necessary at any moment, and to avoid panic it would be better to be prepared. Always tell somebody where you are going too, or better yet, do not travel anywhere alone until you are extremely comfortable with your surroundings.
Use Your Hotel Safe
There is no need to wander the streets of an overseas city with your passport in your pocket. The risks of losing this vital document considerably outnumber the potential rewards of doing so, and few things sour a holiday faster than a long wait in the local embassy.
Any hotel worthy of your time will provide a secure, lockable safe in your room or in their admin area, so be sure to use it to store your passport, excess cash if you have any, credit cards that need only be used in an emergency, travel documentation such as boarding passes, and maybe even your mobile phone. Having a smartphone with all bells and whistles may come in handy, but it's probably just as sensible to invest in a cheap and basic Pay as You Go model for while out and about, reducing the problems you'll face if it's lost or broken.
Learn How to Get Around
We all like to engulf ourselves in local culture while abroad and using a new city's train and bus services can be a cost-effective and education method of getting around. However, be sure to learn which stations, stops and areas are safe before blindly boarding a public transport system, especially at night.
Also, be sure to plan your journey appropriately. If you are leaving the city limits you may find that services become less frequent or stop altogether, so don’t just assume that all transport is available at all times; memorise timetables, and make sure that you not visiting during a public holiday that you have not factored into consideration.
Equally, it's always advisable to book a taxi in advance if you plan on using such a vehicle – preferably from a service recommended by your hotel – and to agree a price in advance. Unlicensed and unethical chauffeur services are a worldwide concern, and you could find yourself in a sticky situation if you are at the unexpected mercies of such an individual.
Learn Some of the Language
As well as being good manners, speaking a few key phrases of a foreign language could also save your life. If the country you are visiting speaks a different native language to you, do you know how to ask for help or directions? To report an unfortunate situation that may have befallen you? There's no need to be fluent, but a selection of important expressions could be the difference between safety and danger
Written by Bev W