There are many different ways to travel, some experiences are more authentic than others, seeking to immerse yourself in local culture; while other experiences are tailored to ultimate luxury, crafted to make you feel like you exist outside the reality of the universe. Whichever way you intend to travel, there are some basic rules you need to know. Following these rules will not only keep your safe but also the people around you in your host country and those at home.
Travel rules are not just about safety though, it is also about consideration, respect, and ethics; where and how you travel can greatly impact the local community, hopefully for the better.
10. Bring the Meds
You just never know when you’ll get sick so it’s a good idea to have a small arsenal of over-the-counter (OTC) medications with you to treat a variety of illnesses. Some medications every traveller should take with them are: anti-diarrheals, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines (allergy pills), antacids (tums, pepto bismol), acetaminophen and/or paracetamol.
Obviously, if you take regular medication you should pack those and even bring extra in case you lose or damage your medication en route. Some prescription medications and even OTC meds may be banned in certain countries, for example Benodryl (diphenhydramine) is not allowed in Zambia; you’ll need to check the regulations before bringing any substances into another country. In some cases you will require a doctor's note or your prescription to prove you need the medications.
Having a small first aid kit on hand is not a bad idea either.
9. Don't Look Lost
Ever wandered into a part of town you are unsure about or feel uncomfortable in? Even if you are lost, do not take out your phone or map, instead try to find a private place to check your location. If you don’t have a map or phone (even if you do), walk into a hotel and ask for directions, front desk staff are usually happy to help and often have free maps and wifi. If there are no hotels about and you are feeling uneasy, hail a metered cab and ask them to take you to your destination. Squinting at your phone or looking at a giant paper map will automatically tell an opportunistic soul that you need help and they may use it as a way to take advantage of you.. The best advice is to keep walking confidently until you come across a hotel, a cab, or a safe place to stop and look for directions.
8. Buy Local, Stay Local
This isn’t a safety tip, just a really good rule for travelling. Large scale resorts, cruises, and many major tour companies exploit the land they operate on and give little back. As ethical as any major resort claims to be, the sheer amount of waste is untenable, be it from the space they occupy, to the food they throw out, to the garbage they dispose of. Resorts may offer great benefits to staff and provide a lot of local employment but often don’t put much back into the community and the majority of the money leaves the country and goes back to the country where the head office is located, usually a highly developed country. Major tour companies often don’t pay their tour operators a fair wage because they are looking for a larger cut of the profit. Locally owned companies will usually charge less but pay a fair wage to all those involved in your tour. Booking online will almost always guarantee you get overcharged, so whenever possible, try to book onsite for a better deal.
Just don’t ever take a cruise, it is a grossly inauthentic way to travel, and it is so wasteful, cruise companies should be banned along with single use plastics. According to Forbes.com “A passenger’s carbon footprint triples in size when taking a cruise and the emissions produced can contribute to serious health issues.
When you shop locally, stay at locally owned hotels, and resorts, and take locally owned tours, you contribute positively to the local economy and can often ensure that your carbon footprint is much smaller, which is better for everyone!
7. Heed the Advice of Local Authorities
When travelling in another country, you need to be aware of and respectful of local laws. For example, in the United Arab Emirates, you may not eat or drink anything in public during Ramadan. There are also many countries where alcohol is prohibited. When you are in vacation mode it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that the world is still turning around you, so be aware, take in the local news sources and ask if you don't know.
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this one is particularly important. If you are travelling during an outbreak, be it an epidemic or a pandemic, you’ll need to inform yourself about what safety measures are being taken in your host country and follow them to a tee. Avoid travelling to an area that is experiencing an epidemic so you aren't part of the problem. If you are travelling in an area experiencing an outbreak and you return home, you should quarantine yourself for the duration of the incubation period and disinfect everything you touch in the meantime.
6. Don't Flash Cash
This might seem fairly obvious to some, but it is not just about keeping your wads of cash hidden but also about how you look and what you wear as you tour around different areas. If you are taking part in a large group tour it is still important to remain as inconspicuous as possible however, as the saying goes, there is strength in numbers. If you are a solo traveller or a small group of independent travellers you’re more likely to be targeted. Even if you hide your cash, you can still be singled out based on how you dress, so don’t wear jewelry or a watch, and in certain places and times of day, don’t bring out the fancy camera or phone. Another way to appear like you are not strapped with cash is to dress plainly, you don’t need to wear your brand new sneakers to the local market.
Nowadays, it is fairly easy in most parts of the world to pay by credit card or to have easy access to an atm for cash withdrawals so it is unnecessary to carry large amounts of cash with you. However, there are still many areas where atm’s are hard to come by and are not reliable so it is better to have cash, and depending on how long you plan to stay and what you plan to do, you may need to take out a sizable amount of local currency. In some countries, a $20 bill might be the equivalent of 6 bills in local currency so you can end up with big wads of cash and nowhere to put them. In that case, you need to make sure you have a safe place to carry the bulk of your money and while bras and shoes may seem like safe places, they are also sweaty and occasionally smelly. Keep small bills in your wallet so you can pay for things throughout the day and only take out more bills in a private place.
A simple trick to deter pickpockets is to stuff your pocket with tissue on top of your phone or wallet; you can do the same with a purse or put a scarf on top of your belongings if it is a large purse.
5. Leave No Trace
Buying a bunch of small travel size shampoos, toothbrushes, and other disposable goods may seem like a good idea but too often these items get dumped in your host country who may not have a reliable waste management system. Instead opt for refillable bottles that you can take home with you and use on another trip. You can even get an all in one shampoo/conditioner/soap bar that will save you money and space and leave no trace.
4. Check the Water Safety
There are numerous countries where the water is unsafe for travellers to drink. Most people simply buy bottled water, but given the waste, if you are a habitual traveller it might be time to invest in a water treatment system so you can save the planet and save money. There are water purification tablets and straws, and there are also special water bottles that filter and purify water. Check with your local outdoor outfitters for recommendations.
Don't buy bottled water in a country where the water is safe to drink, you can check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to see where it is safe to drink the water and where you'll need to drink treated water.
3. Wash Your Hands
Just wash your hands; regardless of a pandemic, regardless of where you are, washing your hands will help keep you and others safe.
2. Get The Vaccination
You’ll often need vaccinations that may not be required for your home country but are for your host country. For example, it is recommended that you get a Yellow Fever vaccination if you are travelling to Tanzania; this is not because you will catch Yellow Fever (it is a low risk country) but because it is endemic there and they would like to avoid an outbreak. Officially, they ask that if you are from or have been to a country that has Yellow Fever you need the vaccination but most border guards will ask you for proof regardless of vaccination regardless.
The purpose for getting vaccinations is not only to protect yourself, but also to protect others; there are people who cannot get vaccinated for a variety of health reasons, in addition to young children who have not yet received all their vaccinations. Generally, the larger the percentage of healthy people who get vaccinated, the greater immunity that society will have over all which protects vulnerable people. Even if you don’t need the vaccination at home and you think your risk is low, you should still get the vaccination to avoid sparking an outbreak in your host country.
1. Don't Be Ignorant
If you’ve ever travelled somewhere and known next to nothing about that place, you may be guilty of ignorance, but if you’ve ever travelled to a place that you know little about and don’t try to learn anything then you are definitely guilty of being an ignorant traveller. Travelling to a new country means you will likely encounter different laws and customs, to avoid breaking a law or doing something offensive you should find out what the do’s and don’ts are of where you are going.
Furthermore, a country is not just its attractions, a check on your bucket list, your latest instagram post, or what you take away from it (physically or emotionally); to truly understand and appreciate where you are, you need to lay down your heart. When you inform yourself about your destination, whether before or during, you will be able to see the culture from a more local perspective, travelling ignorantly means that you will often look at things from a perspective of your normal, one might say a “Western Lens.” Travel with an open mind and you will stop thinking of things as normal or right, you won’t call something you are unfamiliar with weird, you’ll just realize that it is different and that is very valuable. This state of mind will help you learn and have a better understanding of the world as a whole.
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