I was recently asked by Global TV BC for my advice on travel safety, especially when travelling further afield to places outside Canada – places that you are less familiar with. Here’s the travel advisor that I gave them, the way I ensure my own safe travels:
For the morning news, I kept my advice to the following four tips:
- Check the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory Website (or if living outside of Canada, your government’s equivalent) for travel advisories to the country that you will be visiting. If it says ‘AVOID ALL TRAVEL‘, I highly recommend not going, as most Canadian travel insurance is voided if there is a ‘AVOID ALL TRAVEL‘ alert in that place on the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory Website. Also read each section shared here on the country you are visiting. This will help you to know what to expect and how to avoid getting yourself into trouble.
- Do Your Research and Be Culturally Sensitive to the place you are visiting. By respecting the local customs, you are less likely to make yourself a target of a dangerous situation. This includes respecting the local religion, dress code, laws and being aware as to whether or not public displays of affection are permitted. While some of the local customs may be counter to your own believes and way of thinking or behaving, you are a visitor, and are more likely to be safe and respected if you are respectful of your host country. The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory Website will help you in knowing what is expected of you if you read all the sections on the country you are visiting.
- Ask Your Friends on Social Media if they know people in the country that you are planning on visiting, that they could connect you to, to ask after how safe it is in the country at the moment and what to expect or that you should be aware of in visiting the country. This tends to work better on platforms like Facebook, where they are a bit more targeted to people you actually know in real life and where people are not hiding behind anonymity and fake names.
- Avoid Sharing Where You Are in Your Travels in Real Time on Social Media. While we all love to share our adventures with our family and friends on social media, it doesn’t need to be in real time or geotagged to show your actual location. You can share these photos after you return from your travels or a day or two off when you are in an actual place, so that people can’t actually find you in your travels. This may sound overly cautious, but I speak from experience. A stalker once travelled across a country I was visiting to find me, once he’d heard I was there. I was fine and safe, as I was with friends and this particular stalker was not dangerous, but I did learn from the situation. My social media storytelling can be just as effective without allowing people to actually pinpoint me in the country.
I do have other travel safety tips too, including:
- Don’t Flash Your Money or Valuables. Be discreet when getting your money out to pay for things, and keep the larger amount of it hidden away in a not so obvious spot.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings. While I am a very trusting person and like to think the best of people, I have learned I have to be smart about it. If somewhere or someone feels unsafe – listen to your gut, even if your head is telling you you are being irrational. Politely excuse yourself, and get yourself to somewhere that feels safer. Don’t stay in an unsafe feeling situation to be polite. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or to be more demanding about what you need to feel safe.
- Don’t Over Imbibe – Keep Your Senses About You. The saying of ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ that so many people approach all their travels with is idiotic and sets many a traveller up for a dangerous situation. When you over imbibe in your travels, you can make yourself a target. Have fun, but keep your wits about you, be aware of who is around you, keep an eye on your food and drink, and make sure you have a safe way home.
- Don’t Invite People Back to Your Room, Tell Them Where You Are Staying, or Go Home Alone with a Stranger. If someone you’ve just met wants to leave a bag in your room or come to your room, the answer is “no”. If he or she needs something from you, you can meet them in the public cafe. And yes gentlemen, this is something you need to be aware of too. My brother once ended up in a very scary situation in Rome by accompanying a few men he’d just met to a bar down an alleyway, and then having a women pretend he’d ordered a bottle of champagne for her. Thank goodness he thought quickly on his feet, got out of there safely without losing all his money, and got back to his hostel in time to grab his travelling companion and get them safely out of Rome before his ‘new friends’ found him, after he ran. And no, no matter how charming the stranger you’ve just met is, it isn’t safe to go home alone with him (or her).
Whether we like it or not, women do not share the same respect and expectation of safety everywhere in the world that Canadian women take for granted here at home. In this bent, the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisory Website has shared their advice on Women Travelling Safely and after being asked about dating and travel, our Emme Rogers’s shared her advice with TuGo.
Do you have some travel safety advice of your own? What advice would you give loved ones on staying safe in their travels? We’d love for you to share your travel safety tips in the comments below.