Traveling to foreign countries can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling things youíll ever do. The chance to explore other cultures, meet new people, try new foods, and immerse yourself in cities and natural spaces different than your own is something many people wait their entire lives to do. While this can be an amazing experience, there are also some risks to traveling that are worth taking into account. While traveling to many places around the world is safe, taking a few precautions can save you a lot of trouble later on if something goes wrong. Here are some strategies for staying safe wherever your journey takes you.
Understand Your Options for Medical Care
Many people travel for work or vacation; in either case, hopefully you wonít need medical attention while traveling. However, complications happen when we least expect them ó from foodborne illnesses, to traffic accidents, to issues with recurring medical conditions and medications.
The first thing you should do before you travel is assess your current medical needs. This includes planning for any medications and conditions youíll need to manage. Itís best not to assume youíll be able to fill prescriptions or get other necessary products in foreign countries. Bringing certain medications into different countries could also pose a problem. Itís worth researching local laws in order to avoid having necessary medications confiscated by customs.
Ensuring you have proper insurance is also a crucial step. General travel insurance usually only covers cancellations and other disruptions to your travel plans, not medical emergencies. Many people assume that their primary medical insurance will cover them in other countries. Unfortunately, this usually isnít the case as most insurance plans are limited to specific areas, like your home state or city. In case of emergencies, itís a good idea to invest in medical travel insurance that will cover you in the areas you plan to visit. If youíre going on an extended trip and plan to visit many countries, be sure whatever insurance you choose will cover you in each destination.
Research Local Health Risks
Depending on where youíre traveling, some countries may present particular health risks, even surrounding basic necessities. For example, many countries lack sanitary drinking water, which can cause illnesses like diarrhea, giardia, hepatitis A, typhoid, and cholera. Itís worth your time to look into which countries might not have safe drinking water and plan to source bottled water instead. In some countries, like Mexico, the water may not have any negative effects on locals, but consistently causes issues with travelers.
Some health risks associated with other countries can be prevented by ensuring you have the right vaccinations. For most countries, itís easy to access information about the recommended vaccinations you should get before traveling there. Itís important to plan to get these well in advance, as much as 6 weeks before you plan to travel. It may take this long to complete a vaccine series and give your body time to build immunity. Aside from doing your own research, simply communicating with your healthcare provider as soon as you begin making plans to travel can help you to prepare for health risks in foreign countries.
From mountains, to jungles, to winding trails that lead to hot springs, many countries offer a variety of beautiful natural locales that might send you beyond the relative safety of the city. If youíre planning to spend a lot of time in the wilderness during your travels, itís essential to research and prepare for the weather, terrain, and wildlife you might face. Investing in the right shoes, adequate layers of clothing, and plenty of water and emergency food supplies could save your life if things go wrong. In addition to bringing the right gear, refreshing your first-aid skills and traveling with a friend or a professional guide can ensure you're prepared for emergencies in the wilderness.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Although many populated areas around the world are generally safe, some individuals will take advantage of tourists. Even if you feel safe, you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep a watch for suspicious behavior. If possible, avoid walking alone at night, or if you have to do so, try to stick to active areas and walk near other groups of people. Avoid dark, non-tourist areas at night. If you suspect youíre being followed, itís best to find a nearby security officer, a hotel, or even a restaurant and ask for help. Seeking help in a public place is often safer than leading someone directly to where youíre staying.
To avoid being stranded without any money, donít keep all your cash and bank cards in one place. Instead, divide these between a few places like your wallet, a covert money belt, and your hotel safe. Even if your hotel seems like a nice enough place, you could still be the victim of a burglary while youíre out and about, so itís best to store important documents in your hotel safe when youíre out traveling. You should also scan and make copies of important documents like your passport, and make sure a family member back home has a copy of these as well. This way, if your bag is stolen, youíll still have access to the materials you need to get home.
As a general precaution, itís best not to draw attention to the fact that youíre a tourist as this can make you an easier target. Similar to how you should act at home, never leave your drink unattended, and donít get too drunk. While you should feel free to have fun on your trip, you might be less able to see through someone who would scam or hurt you when youíre drunk. Trying to find your way back to your hotel in a strange city could prove troublesome as well, especially if you arenít fluent in the local language. Be sure to write down the name and address of where youíre staying in case you need to ask for help.
Keep a list of phone numbers for the local police, a nearby hospital or medical center, a local cab company, and the nearest embassy of your home country if possible. Though you might be able to find this information while sightseeing, having these numbers readily available could save you a lot of trouble in case of an emergency. Finally ó though it may seem obvious ó be sure to tell people back home where youíre going, and provide them with an itinerary if possible. At the very least, this will allow them to appreciate your journey from afar, and if something should go wrong and you lose contact, it will make the task of locating you much easier.
Fears concerning medical conditions, emergencies, health standards, and crime can prevent people from enjoying the wonders of traveling. However, if you do some research and follow these strategies, you can take care of yourself while abroad and have a safe and enjoyable time wherever your travels lead you.