Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Advice on travelling to hotspots

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In less than a month I'm due to head down the ancient trade route that carried silk from China to Europe, along the way passing through Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan. I have to admit I didn't know much about Kyrgyzstan - and I suspect most of the world was in the same position - until a couple of weeks ago the place erupted in violent revolution.

What should I do? Will it be safe to go? How would I cope if something happened while I was there?

As it happens, I don't have to worry too much, because I'm making this particular trip with World Expeditions. The first reports of revolution had barely appeared when the company was on the phone advising that the Kyrgyzstan leg of the trip was being reviewed and, if necessary, we would fly over the trouble from Kashgar in China to Almaty in Kazakhstan.

But what if that wasn't the case? What precautions can the mildly adventurous traveller take if there isn't a good tour company to fall back on? I put that question to Craig Bidois, a former police sergeant and United Nations security adviser, who now works for local company FearFree offering travel safety and personal security training.

Craig's top 10 tips if you're visiting high risk countries (and the Government's travel websites lists 33 countries as extreme risk and a further 38 as high risk) are:

1. Check travel advisories from several Government websites such as our own SafeTravel.govt.nz, Australia's SmartTraveller.gov.au and Canada's voyage.gc.ca.

2. Consider having a formal security briefing from a specialist travel safety company, like FearFree, especially if you're on corporate business.

3. Make sure your insurance covers high risk countries.

4. Learn the cultural dos and don'ts to avoid giving unintentional offence.

5. Memorise key words such as police, stop, hospital and help.

6. Have copies made of all important papers (passport, visa, medical information), carry them on you, leave hard copies with someone at home and digital copies at an easily accessible web address.

7. Make sure someone knows your itinerary, stay in touch as best you can and register with the Government through the SafeTravel website.

8. Never take anything across the border for someone else.

9. If the security situation deteriorates, stay in your hotel, do not go out to get the feel of the situation and evacuate sooner rather than later.

10. Avoid assistance from people you do not know, especially new best friends you meet at places like airports, markets or hotel foyers.

All good advice which I'll follow carefully if I still get to Kyrgyzstan ... and I hope I do.

- NZ Herald

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