Of all the things that can turn your dream trip into a nightmare, being left stranded in a foreign country with nothing except the clothes on your back ranks very highly on the list. Even losing your wallet, ipod or camera with all of those irreplaceable shots on it can be a major problem. Who wants to spend their valuable travelling time giving statements to police or on the phone to the credit card company back home when they could be hiking the Inca trail or sitting on the beach sipping cocktails? Follow this guide and you’ll have a better chance of being able to enjoy — and pay for — those pina coladas.
1. Blending in
Try to blend in with your surroundings as much as possible, aiming for comfortable, slightly worn versions of what you see around you. This doesn’t mean wearing zip-off cargo pants and a stained t-shirt everywhere you go — you’d stand out a mile in downtown Manhattan, for instance — but rather just trying to dress and act like the locals do.
Keep expensive cameras, jewellery and electronics out of sight, or better still, don’t bring them with you in the first place. Carry a plain daypack rather than a leather handbag. While this is easier to do in some places than others, in general if you could pass for a local university student you’ve probably got your look about right.
2. Know where you’re going
Take the time before you set off each day to plan your route and memorise major landmarks or intersections along the way. Keep your maps and guidebooks in your daypack — if you really need to check them while you’re out, duck into a shop or alleyway to do so.Nothing says ‘target’ more than someone blindly walking along the street with their nose buried in a Lonely Planet. Knowing where you’re going and heading there with a purposeful stride is a great way of avoiding unwanted attention.
The most effective defence against thieves is to make yourself an unattractive target. Keep your valuables out of sight and be aware of your surroundings in crowded areas. Using a money belt is one way of securing your money and passports, albeit an irritating one, but in general pockets with zips or buttons are fine.
Ensure that you have a source of funds kept separate to the rest of your valuables, whether it be a credit card in an inside pocket or some cash in a sock at the bottom of your pack.
4. Be prepared
Take the time when preparing for your trip to take physical and electronic copies of all the important documents you need, especially passports, tickets and itineraries. Print out a sheet of paper with contact details for friends, family, bank, insurance company etc. Keep all of this information together in a small plastic bag separate to the original documents, and also email the electronic versions to yourself to access on the road.
If the worst happens, make sure that you still have access to the information you need to get yourself out of trouble. When you’re travelling, let someone know where you are going and what your intentions are, especially when you’re heading off the beaten trail.
5. Travel insurance
It is often said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Believe it. The backpacker trails of the world are littered with those who came before you and thought otherwise, only to find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing except a sense of regret and an expensive bill.
Make sure that your insurance covers you for every country you want to visit and every activity that you might possibly want to do, and that it includes sufficient medical, loss and repatriation cover for your needs. If in any doubt, ask before you leave on your trip, or find another insurer. You don’t want to be paying by the minute to argue with the insurance company from several thousand miles away.
6. Don’t panic!
Once you’ve dealt with all of the above, relax and enjoy your travels. The vast majority of people that you meet are warm, friendly and looking to help you, so trust your instincts and give them the chance to do so.
With a few simple precautions before and during your trip, you can help ensure that you have an incredibly fun, enjoyable and relaxed time on the road. Safe travels!