There are endless preparedness lists one could make before heading off into the wide world. However, while I am not a fan of unnecessary worrying, I do think that being aware of basic safety rules can in fact result in a more pleasant experience all round. Your rules will vary depending on your own particular needs, but below are the tips that I have found the most useful in the past.
Find out early on if there are any recommended vaccinations for your trip, and get them out of the way. You can use your appointment at your doctor or travel clinic to talk about any other medical needs you might have during your trip.
Find out what your medical options will be once at your destination. You might a have a tour group with its own link to a particular hospital or clinic. Your insurance might also designate your options. If you have the chance, see if you can locate a “tourist’s clinic” or something similar, so you know they’ll speak English. Know where it is and how to get there quickly. The odds of a real emergency are low, but trying to find out where the doctor if after the fact not useful.
Change of Climate?
If you are traveling somewhere with a very different climate to your own, you should be prepared. Your body might react to the sudden change, and it is best to be prepared to help in the adjustments. If you are not used to dressing for extremely cold weather, do some research and make sure your coat and boots are up to the job. Similarly, if your home summers might be politely described as “temperate” and you are traveling somewhere you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, start thinking about how to prepare.
Of course, you should always check whether or not the country you are visiting has drinkable tap water. However, there are those who, even in countries where the water is technically fine, have ended up feeling unwell after drinking it. I think it’s something to do with foreign substances in the water and how your body isn’t used to them and [science science science]. If you have a sensitive digestive system, or you find yourself reacting to what should be safe water, there’s not shame in sticking to bottles.
I am not a germaphobe, not by a long shot. However, there are certain places where I will whip out the hand sanitizer. Travel related buildings such as airports, bus terminals or train stations are all to be treated with sensible caution. If there have been any recent reports of illnesses in the country, be sure to keep your hands clean after going through a public space.
Every country has its ups and downs in term of civil mood. However, sometimes things can come to a point. This is the rarest of the rare, however. I don’t think you’re likely to get swept up in some kind of workers’ protest. However, it is wise to know what is going on. Check out the headlines for a few weeks before you arrive. If nothing else, you’ll be very educated when you get there.
Rules of the Road
I don’t mean the actual rules, the ones everyone learns before passing their test. I mean the way people actually drive. This might mean some hours spent on personal blogs, or simply careful observation once your arrive. You might find that drivers have a very specific way of overtaking (the “third lane” rule, for example, which takes some getting used to). Or, you might discover that pedestrian crossing lights are treated as more of a suggestion than anything else. Road safety is something that might require more attention than normal!
Just because the tourist-targeted rent-a-moped place assures you that you don’t need a license to rent a scooter, that does not mean that you magically now know how to ride a scooter. Especially without a safety helmet. (You might think that this would be too obvious to include in an advice article. And how very dearly I wish you were right.)
Guard Your Property
The first piece of travel advice I ever got was this: guard your passport. It’s how you get home. Of course, that’s not all you should be guarding, but it’s always been my biggest priority. If there’s a safe, I’ll put my passport there. Otherwise, I’ll keep it carefully hidden somewhere safe (not my purse!)
Unless you grew up in a big city, you might be unused to minding your belongings wherever you go. Not that everywhere in the world is filled with potential pick pockets, but traveling and sightseeing are a distracting business. You’re more likely to draw attention when you’re wandering around, snapping pictures, than in your every day life. There are all kinds of small changes you can make to stay as safe as possible. One of my favorites is to loop my bag strap around my arm so it’s kind of tied to me…