Travel Safety 2, stories and advice

Basic Safety Tips continued…

5) It’s your Bag: Never let go of your shoulder bag. When walking, it goes across your body, resting in front of you, or under your armpit, but not over your shoulder. When sitting, take it off by all means, but put your arm or leg through the strap. The same goes for your camera. When sleeping in a bus, train or vulnerable room, lock your bags up, and then lock them to something immovable. Bag snatchers are not uncommon in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Greece, in addition to more obvious places like Turkey, Peru, Brazil, Jamaica.
*a light bike chain & lock can be handy if doing a lot of train time. On trains make sure you can see your bag the whole time, especially when approaching a station, or have it locked down.
* some backpackers put light chicken wire inside their packs to protect against slash & grab razor merchants found in South America

6) Speak the Language: Apart from making life easier, a small grasp of the language will also help you to develop protective relationships, to earn a degree of respect from lightweight thieves, and to slip into the background more easily. It’s smart to read up on local culture and traditions too.

7) Safety in Numbers: Travel in pairs if possible. If not, be wary but not paranoid, of friendly local people. Most of the time they will be genuine.

8) Calculate it: Ensure that you recognise and understand the values of different local banknotes, especially in areas of high inflation. Work out how much you should get before you go anywhere near the change place. Carry a calculator and be seen to use it when you change money, even at official currency change shops. Beware of sleight-of-hand merchants, especially when changing money on the street. Count the money in your hand, and don’t allow him/her to recount in his hand!

9) Don’t take the Biscuit: Avoid food and drink offerings from strangers. They can be drugged, a growing global habit, though especially prevalent in Latin America and South East Asia.

10) Driving crazy: Beware the flat tyre and the helpful locals who distract you with fast talking assistance while an associate surreptitiously rifles your vehicle. Especially a problem around Barcelona and Madrid, but also known in France and Mexico.
Southern France, on the other hand, specialises in smash and grab robbery, often on motorcycles or scooters. So keep your valuables locked in the glove compartment, check your tyres often, and never stop for anyone except police. If you have to stop do it in a busy well-lit place. And carry a quick (temporary) repair aerosol.

11) Don’t give it away: in some countries, such as Pakistan and the Russian Federation, conmen sometimes pose as secret police, demanding to see passports and other documets, even money. They then either disappear with your valuables or hassle you for a bribe to let you go. Check their documents carefully first, before letting go of your valuables!

12) Log on: Deposit important data (passport/credit card/travellers cheque etc. numbers) onto a secure web site – maybe scans of key pages – so if you are relieved of your kit you can retrieve the data from a local cyber café. Use a Hotmail or Yahoo! account and mail yourself the data.

13) Unlucky for some. . . get insurance! One in seven British travellers on overseas trips don’t have any insurance. This is madness, and I speak as one who has been robbed three times, had bags crushed once, and had to cancel a trip through family illness on another occasion. In every case I was fully reimbursed -less a small excess charge – by my insurers.

Problems and accidents are far, far more frequent abroad, and local assistance may be very costly. For example, a broken leg in the USA may cost up to £10, 000, yet a year’s worldwide insurance with a good company will cost well under £100.

Me, I’d rather skimp on home insurance than travel insurance. Safety first!

14) Lock yourself up! Ensure your bedroom door locks/bolts from the inside, especially in lower level establishments. If not, stick a chair under the door handle or push something heavy in front of it. Always keep it locked when you are asleep.
There are many recent reports of surreptitious nighttime thefts – of all vlauables – in cheap hotels, particularly in Thailand’s island of Ko Chang and some Indian establishments, where staff are clearly in cahoots with the local police and no effective investigations are made.

Young backpackers are especially careless/trusting in this way and vulnerable after a hard night’s bingeing.

15) And for the really paranoid: Carry a card that contains the following information: your blood type, allergies, medical conditions, any medication you must have, your insurance company, who to contact in an emergency and other safety details.

Avoid advertising yourself as an employee of a prominent global company.
Remove identifying tags on your laptop bag etc.
Request a room on the third to sixth floor to keep you out of reach of criminal activity on the street and still be within reach of fire engine ladders.
Register with your home country’s embassy/consulate as soon as possible after arrival at your destination if going into a sensitive political area.
Keep a copy of your passport and/or visa with you at all times and secure the originals. When in a politically sensitive area, carry your passport, return travel tickets and local and home currency in adequate amounts at all times, in case of need to evacuate on an immediate basis.
Avoid wearing religious jewellery (even under your clothing) or carrying any political brochures or publications in areas where such symbols might subject you to harassment. Safety first!

Travel Safety Ranking

1) Usually totally safe:
Austria, Iceland, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Oman, Scandinavia, Singapore, Switzerland, Tunisia.

2) Generally non violent thieving:
Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Europe, Gambia, Greece, Hong Kong, India*, Indonesia*, Israel, Mali, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Russia*, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam

3) Sometimes violent thieving:
Brazil, Cambodia*, Colombia, Ecuador*, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan*, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines*, South Africa*, Sri Lanka*, Tanzania, USA

4) Don’t even consider (unless escorted):
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Burundi, C. A. R, Congo, Chechen Republic, Dagestan, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Venezuela, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zimbabwe

* safety depends on the region of the country you’re in.

The world’s least safe streets

1) Snake Alley, Taipei 2) Khao San Road, Bangkok 3) King’s Cross, Sydney 4) Times Square, New York 5) Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow 6) Bois de Boulogne, Paris 7) Chandni Chowk, Delhi 8) Frenchtown, Shanghai 9) Las Ramblas, Barcelona 10) Stazione Termini, Rome