Smart moves for safer travel

By Craig Bidois

Return from your holiday in one piece with these security tips, writes Craig Bidois.

Using maps in public areas may attract unwanted attention.
Using maps in public areas may attract unwanted attention.

In my job, I provide security advice for corporate travellers. Corporates often need to take greater care, but many of the principles that we teach and put in place would be of use to every-day travellers. They're also common sense.

Here's a handful of safety tips to keep in mind.

Research - knowledge is power

Before you go on your trip, you'll probably use guidebooks, blogs and travel websites to get an idea of where you'll go, what you'll see and a hundred other details. But make sure you also do some basic research into the current political and security situations for your destinations.

Recent events in Thailand and Greece underline how volatile the world can be. Places that are safe one day can be dangerous the next.

Take a look at the New Zealand Government's travel safety website and make sure you register your travel plans with them.

Visit a travel health professional

Such a person can guide you to what specific health information you will need for your travels. Before any appropriate advice can be given, travel health specialists need to know your full itinerary and for how long you are going to be away. They'll ask you whether you'll be travelling in rural or urban areas, the kind of accommodation you plan to live in and what you are going to do. Give them all the information you can to make your trip more enjoyable and safer.

Get appropriate vaccinations and anti-malarial medication for your intended trip. Find out about those vaccines and medicines that are necessary and those that are optional for your trip.

If you have an international vaccination certificate book, get it updated for international border control.

In general, you are recommended to be up-to-date with all your various childhood immunisations. Your doctor should have these on file, but they include tetanus and diphtheria (now one vaccination) and polio.

Some countries you may wish to travel to may insist on a yellow fever vaccination before you're allowed to enter. Yellow fever is the only vaccination that is compulsory for entry into certain countries - the World Health Organisation insists on it. Though, having said that, some countries insist on other vaccinations at certain times of the year or if there are any disease outbreaks currently in their region. Ask your doctor.

Use social media to keep in touch with friends and family

Those social media sites aren't just for showing off how great your photos are and how wonderful the holiday is going - when your friends and family know where you've been and where you're going, they are better able to help if problems arise.

Cultural awareness

A bit of blending in never hurts. Try to have a basic level of understanding that can help to keep you keep safe. Pay attention to things like dress standards and gestures (verbal and non-verbal).

Take the time to learn basic local greetings and basic phrases, such as "help", "stop" and "checkpoint!". A little bit of local language will help you order food in a cafe, and could help you avoid sticky situations or at least see them coming.

Be street-wise

You're not at Waihi Beach now, Dr Ropata! Strange things happen to people who push the rules just a little too far. Most of these recommendations are common sense, but sometimes our common sense goes on holiday at the same time we do.

Avoid walking after dark by yourself, especially in isolated areas.

Keep a low profile. Be conscious of using maps, cash and guidebooks where you are highly visible - you may get unwanted attention.

If you think something is a threat, it probably is. Trust your instinct and take action. For example, if you think someone is following you, cross the street several times to confirm your suspicion. Go somewhere public, where there are people, and solicit help. Watch out for pickpockets, especially in crowded areas.

Craig Bidois is the managing director of FearFree Travel Security.

- NZ Herald

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