Heading abroad this half term? Have fun but be safe says Steven Thompson, head of consultancy at security company red24. Here’s how…
Wall to wall sunshine, sandy beaches, bustling cities, breathtaking views; a chance to relax and unwind… it sounds like paradise. But what personal safety risks may be lurking in your chosen overseas holiday destination and are you doing enough to keep yourself and your fellow travellers safe?
Thanks to widespread media coverage, most travellers are aware of the personal safety risks that can be involved in overseas travel from falling victim to violent crime to being stranded as a result of natural disasters or civil unrest.
Nonetheless many travellers fail to thoroughly research the risks associated with their chosen destination, while others unwittingly make themselves a target for criminals because of the way they behave, or even the way they dress.
To help travellers manage personal safety risks, here are a few top tips:
- Research your destination prior to travel to determine if, for example, any political events or protests are expected; the type of criminal activity you could face; areas to avoid; severe weather/natural disasters; what the local infrastructure is like.
- Sign up for travel alerts for your destination and start to receive them four or five days prior to travel.
- Put emergency numbers in your mobile phone and keep a paper copy in a separate location.
- Protect your data and your identity while abroad. For example, only carry a limited number of credit cards and only carry the information that you need for your trip.
- Sign up with your local embassy if you are there for an extended visit (more than 14 nights for example) and familiarise yourself with what they can and cannot do e.g. they cannot get you out of jail or pay your fines.
- Lost or stolen travel documents are the most common personal safety crisis faced by travellers. Ensure you have copies of your travel documents and keep them separate from the originals.
- If your passport is lost or stolen, report it to the police and then you must seek consular assistance so that they can issue you with a new passport. By carrying a copy of your passport photograph page you will help to speed up this process
- Some travellers are cautious when they first arrive at their destination but then get caught out by criminals because they become too complacent – never let your guard down with strangers.
- Do not make yourself easily identifiable as a tourist. For example, keep your camera stowed away in your bag when you are not using it. Do not wear a bum bag – not only does this earmark you as a tourist, it also means your money and other valuables are clearly visible to thieves. If you become lost and need directions the best place to get them is from a hotel reception, they can be trusted and will not hassle you or follow you.
- Remember that countries with depressed economies are more likely to suffer crime. Do not make yourself a victim in these or any other places by wearing expensive looking jewellery or watches or leaving valuables such as mobile phones or laptops unattended.
- Express kidnappings – where tourists are forced to withdraw money from a cash point and held captive until after midnight so that a further sum of money can be withdrawn on what is effectively a new day are rife in places like Mexico City and Nairobi. Conducting pre-trip research to find out where these types of crimes are likely to occur can help to protect you. Staying in a group, rather than travelling alone and only taking taxis that are registered with a proper company recommended by your hotel are also advisable.
- People travelling overseas to attend sporting events or concerts need to ensure that their tickets have been purchased in advance from reputable suppliers. Tourists who inadvertently purchase counterfeit tickets could find themselves detained or arrested.
- Travellers taking part in high risk sports on holiday, such as scuba diving and skiing, need to thoroughly check their equipment prior to travel and investigate the safety record and standard of the company that is facilitating these activities.
- Finally, trust your intuition. If you have a bad feeling about a person or place, do not ignore it and try to remove yourself from potential danger as soon as you can.
For more information on personal security for travellers, visit www.red24.com