Whether at home or away, personal safety is often something we pay scant attention to. It may be a dangerous world out there but there are a number of things we can do to avoid a highly anticipated trip turning pear-shaped.
When Laura Laffitte of thefrenchladyevents.com.au told me never to wear a dress on the Paris Metro, I thought it was a bit of a paranoia. Apparently not according to a report in The Age on a survey taken by France’s High Council for Equality between women and men. They found an astonishing 100% of 600 women surveyed had reported being sexually harassed while riding the Metro. Many are changing their daily routes, transport options and clothing choices to avoid confrontation (much as Kati advises below in Mexico) while the Government has pledged to address the problem.
HEALTHY, WEALTHY AND WISE
Consult a travel medical specialist at least six weeks before departure for vaccinations and stay away from stray animals should they cross your path! Whatever the destination, pack a small medical kit and if taking prescription drugs, carry a letter of authorisation from your doctor.
Don’t even consider traveling without insurance. It’s easy to compare policy covers on the internet and any outlay is better than taking out a second mortgage later to cover unexpected hospital bills.
If traveling solo, book the first couple of nights’ accommodation in advance rather than arriving jet-lagged in a foreign city and check with the hotel concierge where the no-go zones are.
Consider how you’ll carry your cash. Passports, airline tickets and excess money should always be secured in a hotel safe taking just small amounts of cash with you each day. Avoid big crowds particularly on public holidays when pick-pocketing becomes a competitive sport, never put wallets or cash in your back pocket and never lose sight of your credit card – anywhere!
ATMs have changed the accessibility of travel money but beware of scammers and scan copies of all travel documents onto a device. If carrying a bag, strap it firmly across the inside of the body away from the street, never dangling from one shoulder.
When it comes to safe destinations, parts of Mexico have enjoyed a dubious reputation so we asked Kati Ezard of Kolourful Kati Shoes what precautions she takes
Travel Under the Radar
Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing any jewellery that looks luxurious – even imitation – it can be misunderstood.
Wear a simple wedding band so you’re not perceived as “looking for a partner….” In cities, always call a registered taxi company and don’t take taxis on the streets. Record the number of the taxi when you get in and don’t announce to the world that you are a tourist and that you have “never been here before!”
Change It Up
If you’re spending some time in a place, give a backward glance to check if anyone is watching your movements. It might just be curiosity but counteract it by changing up your routine. Never walk the same route or do the same things every day, regardless of how inconsequential they may be. Always carry lots of small change – 5 and 10 peso coins (less than $A1), 20 and 50 (less than $A5) peso notes – especially when shopping in the markets and the street.
In High Spirits
Make time to rest when you first arrive, particularly in a high altitude destination. The difference is very subtle, you hardly notice it, but you will tire quicker and when you are tired, you’re not as aware or as agile should you need to move quickly.
Ordering a Margarita? Ask for the tequila by a brand name eg Traditional Don Julio. There are some very cheap but high alcohol spirits bought by bars that when used in Margaritas will wipe you out. The bar staff think they are doing you a favour helping you to enjoy yourself even more…. but they are very dangerous.
What are your personal safety tips when travelling?
Pamela T writes:
Take a card from the hotel where you are staying so you can always hand it to a taxi driver when you want to return to your hotel. When leaving the hotel (in a country where English is not readily understood by taxi drivers) get the concierge to write where you wish to go in the local language.
Look confident where ever you are – stopping and consulting a map/i phone on a busy street is a dead giveaway you are a newly landed tourist ripe for the picking.
Don’t become so paranoid about safety to the extent that you forget to enjoy yourself which is, after all, the reason you travel……