Unfortunately, travel does carry some risk. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry about anything when we went abroad, but that just isn’t possible.
Crime, infectious disease, and natural disasters are just some of the factors we risk when we travel. Fortunately though, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the risks and make your trip that bit safer. Here are a few ideas that might work for you!
- Check the gov.uk website
The gov.uk website is a fantastic resource to work out the possible risks associated with travelling to your destination. It has individual pages for every country around the world so that you can prepare yourself for any eventuality, wherever you are going.
Preparation is your number one asset in staying safe abroad. The government website, for British Citizens or anyone else, provides information on local crime, terrorism, diseases, natural disasters, and a multitude of other potential risks.
Use the site to do research on your destination and stay safe!
- Learn some broad strokes of the language
It never hurts to have a few local phrases in your vocabulary.
You can’t possibly know when it might be useful to ask for help from a local, or negotiate with the local law enforcement in their native tongue. Knowing some basics, or at least carrying a pocket phrase book, will definitely help you out!
- Know the local emergency numbers
Emergency numbers aren’t uniform across the globe.
I’d bet that you couldn’t tell you the emergency numbers of 99% of countries in the world, so what if you do have some kind of crisis in one of them? That is why you need the local emergency numbers written down and close to hand. It is not good enough to plug them into your mobile because what if your phone was lost, dead, or stolen?
Have them written down and in your pocket just in case you need to use a payphone or borrow a mobile from someone else. These digits can be crucial in mitigating potential risk in any number of situations and that is why I never travel without them!
- Check out the facts about crime and be prepared
As well as using the government website, also use resources like blogs and travel guides to get specific advice on local patterns of crime.
Knowing the places where crime occurs, and the types of crime that are common, will inform you of when to be alert in-country and, again, mitigate against risk to some extent. Patterns of crime are different from country to country. Some criminals tend to trend towards muggings whilst others use more sophisticated tactics like card cloning.
Being aware of the trends will help you understand which situations to avoid!
- Don’t put yourself on the radar!
If crime is your major concern, there are a few strategies you can employ to lower your risk of being a target.
One such tactic is to avoid flashing your valuables! Try not to be the obvious tourist with a camera hanging off your shoulder, wallet falling out of your back pocket, and mobile phone in the palm of your hand. Unfortunately, you are telegraphing your assets to potential criminals.
Try to fly under the radar instead. Bag up your stuff, wear clothing that is a little inconspicuous, and put your valuables in a belt bag under your top if you’re that way inclined!
- Don’t put too much money in one place!
This one is pretty simple. Don’t carry all your money in your pocket, but don’t leave it all in your room either!
Have multiple ways to get hold of money, or store it in multiple places, so that if your cards or phone are lost or stolen, or something happens to your accommodation, you still have access to some currency.
This is very important for emergencies and to spread your potential risk!
- Be careful with your alcohol
This one might fall on deaf ears, especially if you guys are anything like my friends! Fortunately, they have me to consistently be the designated sober group member.
Not everyone has that luxury though. Don’t leave your drink alone, or around people you don’t trust. You never know what might happen to it when it’s outside your field of vision. Also be wary of drinking beyond the point where you are aware of your surroundings or may significantly compromise your cognitive abilities.
With your wits about you, many situations can be less challenging and dangerous.
- Get your jabs!
I’ve made this mistake. I didn’t pay for my rabies or typhoid shots on a trip to Africa!
Fortunately, I didn’t contract rabies; however, I will tell you that typhoid was up there with the most significantly unpleasant experiences in all my travels!
Getting all the relevant jabs would have put my mind at ease when petting stray dogs, which should probably go on the list as inadvisable in itself, and drinking poor-quality water. Come to think of it, be careful with drinking water in some countries too. I do some really stupid things!
Overall, though, don’t forget to get your vaccinations and, if you’re going to somewhere with malaria, it is advisable to pre-buy some anti-malarial tablets too!
- Travel with friends
If you don’t want to travel solo, finding a buddy to accompany you is a really good option.
Not only will it stop you feeling lonely, it may also help you stay safe. You will have somebody watching your back in a variety of situations and may well ward of people who want to do you harm! Of course, be sure they are your friends because travelling with, and trusting, the wrong person may well ruin your trip.
- Travel insurance
As you’ve probably realised throughout this article, there are plenty of potential problems associated with travelling.
I really don’t like to think too much about the risks though. That’s why I buy myself travel insurance! If my things get stolen, I incur emergency medical expenses, or my trip has to be cut short for an unavoidable reason, travel insurance pays for, or allows me to recuperate the cost of, whatever I needed to splash out on.
It is an absolutely invaluable resource to help put your mind at ease!
- Trust your instincts
No matter the situation, go with your gut and trust your instincts. If something is nagging at you to say, “don’t do that”, then listen to yourself and take a step back. There is no point in taking an unnecessary risk!
I hope this helps you to make a checklist for lowering the risks that are associated with travelling. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ideas, so please feel free to add some extra advice in the comments.
I should also point out that I speak from the perspective of a young western man, so I would also welcome and encourage opinions from a diverse range of people to make the list more comprehensive! Thanks for reading and safe travels guys.