By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Bad things can happen to anyone in a strange land. Anticipation and preparation can help travelers to avoid misfortune.
Here are some valuable tips from experienced travelers that can help lessen your anxiety during your trip.
If you travel to a country full of pickpocketing, you should not carry bags, which can be targets. Travel guru Rick Steves carries his money in his money belt. My fanny pack holds not only money, but my passport and my credit card as well.
If you carry a backpack, you should wear it in the front, rather than on your back. It may not be a bad idea to wear your purse in front of your chest.
Some women told me that they hide their money in their bras. I usually wear pants and coats with hidden pockets.
When you buy things during your trip, make sure you get the correct change back. Some shop workers might give you less, simply because you are not familiar with a foreign country’s currency.
Be careful when you use an ATM machine. Make sure no one follows you or can peek at your PIN number from behind. My friend told me once that after he withdrew money from the ATM, he realized he needed more. So he re-inserted his card.
Instantly, the machine shut down. One reason could be the machine thought someone was using a stolen card. Make sure you calculate the amount you need to withdraw when you are traveling. If the ATM doesn’t work, you need to have a backup plan. Perhaps, know how to get a hold of your banker.
Also, keep a record of your credit card or ATM card number just in case you lose them. It makes reporting easier.
My husband is great about checking windows, doors, and locks at hotels. It is important to lock your hotel door, especially at night before you go to bed. However, when we were in Iceland, someone stole my money in a boutique hotel. That hotel was fishy. When we closed the door to our room, we assumed it was locked, except it wasn’t. The room had to be locked with a key. The hotel never told us about that.
Within an hour after we left, my money bag was stolen. Always make sure your door is locked tightly before you leave your room.
Make a quick mental map of the hotel. In case there’s a fire, how and where do you escape?
Many cities are infamous for crime. Do you not go there? No, you still tour, but be extra careful and assertive, too. In 2001, I was in Casablanca, Morocco. After a taxi ride, a bunch of young men surrounded the taxi door so we couldn’t get out.
“Back off,” I shouted in English. Those kids quickly moved away. To tell you the truth, I was scared. But I had no choice. Those rascals could have grabbed me and taken my bag. Hey, what I did worked.
When I travel, especially in places where I don’t feel safe, I put on my worst clothes so as not to attract attention. Forget about heels. When you are in a foreign land, no one knows you. Don’t try to impress anybody. Survival is most important. And I always put on my tennis shoes, just in case I have to run for my life.
Pack all the essentials. Harvey Rubinstein, a community volunteer, suggested that a flashlight can make all the difference. Once, his hotel ran out of power. His flashlight saved the day. Nowadays, you can use the flashlight on your phone.
Keep your toiletries in your hand-carried luggage. You might need those on the plane.
If you wear glasses, it might be useful to keep an extra pair when you travel.
Avoid certain foods
Street foods can be unsanitary and thus, can cause food poisoning. Pack with medicine to conquer such hazards. Or find a doctor. Retired attorney Mike Bennett got sick on a trip once and he felt so awful that in hindsight, it would have been better if he had gone to a hospital. Actually, a better plan is to be careful of what you eat when you are overseas. Drink bottled water rather than ice water from restaurants. For me, the best drink is hot water always. It kills most of the germs.
Stay home if you’re sick
We were once on a cruise. One passenger had a heart attack. The cruise ships, which don’t have the right equipment, couldn’t deal with such calamity. A helicopter arrived and picked up the passenger to go to a nearby hospital. The helicopter ride cost $25,000. Another friend said it could cost as much as $80,000, depending on how far the ride is. If you are not well, don’t travel. Wait till you get better. You might end up losing some money since you have already paid for the trip. But when you are sick, you should not take the risk of leaving your hometown.
Another friend’s dad suffered a heart attack after walking a flight of stairs in China, and died later in a hospital. His body was transported back to Seattle. Traveling can be strenuous. Don’t overdo it during your activities.
Brett Catlin, managing director of Alliances & Product at Alaska Airlines, said it is important to keep yourself hydrated. Drink three times the water you think might be necessary and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Secondly, exercise. When you arrive at your destination, reset things with a cardiovascular-centric routine. Thirdly, go light on carbohydrates. Opt for lighter foods and, if possible, try to dine at times that align with your destination.
If you are a woman traveling solo, think of ways to protect yourself. Don’t disclose to strangers that you are alone. Ask yourself if you need to bring any pepper spray or other self-defense accessories. You can find those items online.
If you have more tips for survival while traveling, send them to me.
In the meantime, be bold and adventurous in your journey.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.