Leaving home for an unknown location can be exciting. Of course you don’t want your excitement to be of the wrong kind so you want to stay safe, but at the same time, you don’t want to panic with every rumor you hear when choosing your destination.
For instance, every year, reports emerge regarding travel safety in Mexico. Mexican authorities and news media are not as censorship-prone as those in other countries like Cuba or China, so we tend to read more about what is happening in Mexico than what is happening elsewhere. But of course just because you don’t know about the happenings in Cuba it doesn’t follow that they’re not happening. Don’t give in to the media.
Now that we know the wrong way to stay safe, let’s discuss the right way.
- Be insured. Hospitals may or may not give you the time of day without insurance and in many countries. Cuba, for instance, has a host of strange pricing regulations that don’t quite qualify as regulations at all. But when made to deal with a private insurance company from your country of origin, health care providers are forced to comply with reasonable standards.
- Be vaccinated. Be aware of which vaccinations apply to the destination country because viruses and other ailments vary according to location. Find out which immunizations are needed, which are recommended and which are absolutely required. This can save your life and will protect the general population when you return home.
- Don’t use public transportation unless you know it’s official, state-endorsed transportation. You don’t want to get into a private taxi for the same reasons why you don’t get into a car with a stranger in your own city.
- In tropical destinations, there are special dangers to watch out for that you won’t encounter anywhere else. To stay safe and alive, avoid interactions with creatures (like reptiles) whose behavior you aren’t familiar with. If you travel to a jungle or rainforest of any kind, wear long pants and closed shoes that don’t leave your feet exposed. This will also keep you safe from tarantulas, which abound in South America, Africa, Australia and southern Asia.
- Speaking of small creatures, be sure to wear insect repellant and even to spray insecticides in your hotel room.
- Watch your drinking water supply! Drink bottles water whenever possible and boil your water if the option is available. If you’re planning on going to a resort that provides you with tap water, do whatever you can to ensure it is safe by researching recent traveler reviews before you book your trip.
- Health considerations aside, another important aspect of preparation involve communication. If you can’t ask for help, you probably won’t get any. You can’t learn a language every time you visit a new destination, so a translator comes in very handy. Get an Android or other smartphone with a translation program. Many of these use Google as their resource. Make sure that you have Internet access where you are, and voilà! You now speak the language.
Based on all these considerations and more, here are some things you might not have previously thought to pack:
- Insecticide for yourself and your room
- Smartphone for translation and emergencies
- A compact umbrella for tropical locations
- Stronger sunscreen than you’re used to– assume the sun is hotter where you’re going
- Your proof of health insurance
- As a male or female, pack modest clothing in case you need to be in a dangerous location with ‘lurkers’
- Your smile. It will often get you out of tough situations when nothing else can.