Following a few safety rules will help you enjoy your adventurous trip
It’s imperative to have a home support system in place. This should include a process whereby you can call home to obtain vital information in case you are unable access it.
This is particularly useful for reporting lost or stolen credit cards, details of your travelers insurance policy, a list of useful phone numbers and a scanned copy of your passport. These documents should be compiled before you set off, so should you lose everything you have duplicates stored at a trusted location back at home. Of course support also includes having someone to call when miss home and just need to hear a friendly voice.
Beware of Your Social Media Posts
Criminals have long used social media to track the movements of their victims. Reduce your chances of becoming a target by only posting updates once you have moved on from a particular activity, event or place. Never post plans of where you are heading next or where you are staying – this will help criminals to target you. You can set up an online photo album that you can share with family friends later in your travels. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that it’s only your family and friends who can see your social media posts. In many cases this is not true. Depending on your security settings, you should also be asking yourself who can see what your family and friends are ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ which allows more of the internet to see your posts. It’s entirely possible that you won’t even know the people who end up reading your fabulous gap year diary and who, more to the point, know where you are.
Buy a Door Stop
One of the simplest yet most effective security devices available for the gap year traveller is a door stop: simply wedge it under the door of your accommodation (from the inside) for added in-room security. Stoppers can be remarkably cheap. There are some really fancy ones available. Some even come fitted with alarms so that a loud sound is emitted when they are displaced. This means that, even when you’re sound asleep, you will be alerted to someone who is attempting to get into your room. Of course, when you have roommates, please discuss this option ahead of time.
Consider carrying a ‘dummy’ or ‘false’ pocketbook or wallet that you can hand over in the event of a robbery. This should contain an expired credit or debit card and a small amount of cash in low-denomination notes. Robbers rarely check the contents thoroughly at the scene of the crime so this should be enough to fool them. At the same time, never display signs of wealth when travelling. Things like cameras slung over shoulders or expensive jewelry and watches on wrists identify you as a potential target. Keep earrings and necklaces on the budget end for your travels. Evan a fancy belt buckle or brand new back pack can draw attention. Wear comfortable shoes and bring worn shoes rather than brand new expensive shoes on your journey. Keep money, purses, wallets and money belts under clothing and not in pockets. Some people make a living from pickpocketing.
Leave Your iPad, iPhone and Laptop at Home
Leave all expensive gadgetry at home. You will see more of a country when you are not viewing it from behind a tablet. It will also make you more aware of what’s going on around you and allow you to identify potential dangers.
Smartphones have obvious pros and are also high-value items in many countries and thus extremely desirable for criminals – and unless you want to pay roaming charges, they are of limited use when abroad. Instead, carry a cheap yet robust phone with nothing fancier than text and call capability. The less complicated phones are often the most reliable and generally have a longer battery life. Also, they’re cheaper and easier to replace should anything happen.
When you get to your destination, purchase a local network sim card and so that you’re only paying local rates for in-country calls and texts. Plan ahead and store all the important numbers you might need for your trip. These would include any local contacts, your accommodations, the emergency services, the embassy or consulate, and emergency contacts back home.
International travel can expose you to new diseases and illness. As always, preparedness is key, and the best way to stay healthy is to do your research before you go. Visit the World Health Organization for up to date information.
When you are unsure about anything, it is well worth seeking medical advice before setting off. Bear in mind that some vaccinations can’t be given to people with certain medical conditions. There are also some diseases which can’t be vaccinated against. In recent times viruses like Ebola and Zika have made headline news, sweeping through certain parts of the world.
It’s therefore vital that you check on the latest advice for your destination with your own physician or the Foreign Office. That said, the most common infectious illness to affect travelers is diarrhea, mainly caused by food and water-borne agents. Make sure you tell your doctor exactly where you are going as in certain regions some bacteria have developed a resistance to antibiotics. Do bear in mind, though, that many stomach upsets are largely preventable by following good personal hygiene practice and taking care of what you eat and drink. Put together a comprehensive first aid kit to take with you and make sure it is tailored to the environments in which you are going to be traveling. That way you will know exactly what’s in it and where to find each item. Should a doctor prescribe medication, be sure to take the full course. Some medicines require that you continue to take them even after returning home. Make sure you do this.
A lot of people think that, simply because they are home, they are safe. This is not the case. Should you become ill once home, make sure that you tell your doctor you have been overseas and list the countries and regions you have visited, even when your illness develops months after your return.
On the First Night
While budget is a major consideration for gap year students, it’s always worth researching and booking a decent room for when you first arrive in a new country or town. Even when this is just for a night, it will allow time to get your bearings and spare the pressure of finding somewhere to sleep when you step off the boat, bus, plane or train – when you will be at your most vulnerable. New time zone, tired, and blurry eyed, you need a good nights rest with no worry.
When you first arrive at your hotel, be sure to keep your luggage with you at all times; don’t rely on hotel staff to keep it safe. Many people have their luggage stolen when checking in or checking out of their hotel. Keep your wits about you and watch out for people standing too close or who appear to be listening in on your conversations. They might be trying to find out which room you are in and whether you are travelling alone. Should they see you later on getting on a bus or into a cab, or in the restaurant or by the pool, they will know your room is unoccupied. Never accept a room on the ground floor, as these are the easiest for criminals from outside to break into.
Pack Half of What You Believe You Need
There are two types of travelers. Those who pack light and those who wish they had. Packing light requires careful thought as well as a fair amount of discipline.
Don’t fall into the trap of packing something because you ‘might need it’.
The chances are that the item will not make it out of your bag until you get back home. To keep clothing down to a minimum, work on the rule of threes: for each item of clothing, take one to wear, one for the wash and one clean set.
Overladen travellers stand out and it’s also hard work carrying heavy weights for any length of time. Many countries do not have elevators, rather they have stairs / steps and you may need to take your luggage with you from place to place on more than one occasion.
Avoid Traveling By Road at Night
You significantly increase your chances of an accident after dark. In developing countries, road lighting may be non-existent and often vehicles either don’t have working lights or don’t use them. Some countries have no road signs, and there are no road dividers. Best you are able to see what is taking place.
Check the News Daily
Often when people are travelling, they are unable to keep up to date with current affairs or hear the news, even when it relates to the country or region they are travelling in.
Make sure you keep up to date with the security and health situation in the countries you are visiting by signing up to the Foreign Office’s Email Alerts. This way should any significant events develop everyone can stay informed.
Make Check In’s for Family Back Home
Arrange to have regular check-in calls with your family. This will allow them to keep up to date with your adventures, and also confirm you are safe and where you are meant to be. FaceTime and Skype are great for this, as are texts or phone calls. Decide ahead of time what will happen should your family not hear from you or be able to reach you as planned.
When Traveling Alone in a Taxi
Always sit directly behind the driver and never in the front seat. Should their intentions not be on the up and up, sitting directly behind them makes you less accessible and gives you a better chance of fleeing the vehicle should that ever be necessary.
Airlineratings.com recently awarded 148 airlines with its top seven-star rating for safety.
They include Aeroflot, Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, ANA, Avianca, BA, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Flybe, Germanwings, Kuwait Airlines, LOT, Qantas, SAS, Saudia, Singapore Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Transavia, United, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Vuelin.