21.02.2016 Travel Insurance
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You've got the pack, the tickets, the cash and the camera; here's some safety tips for travelling to help you make sure it all comes back with you.
1.) Pre-Travel Prep: Map it out
While to some it might be tempting to jump into an epic trip with little but your pack and your passport, it’s worth your time to do some preparation. Know what the weather will be like for that area at that time of the year, what festivals and events are happening that could affect (or enhance) your travels, and any local customs you should be aware of.
Make an itinerary and pass it on to a few people who are staying home - it will give you some security to know that others know where you are. Make sure to update them if your plans change. Google Docs work well for this if you’ll have access to internet - they update as you add to them so you don’t have to worry about out-of-date itineraries.
2.) Pre-travel Prep: Do Your Homework
Study up on scams that are common to the places you’re headed. To help you prepare, AIG has created an infographic about the 8 most common scams in Europe that includes information on some of the biggest scams and how to avoid them. While not all places have “typical” scams, looking up “scams in Paris,” for example, can help you stay a step ahead of people who might take advantage of you being a tourist. Check official advice from the government, too. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs provides updated information about risky areas, natural disasters, and travel advisories, unlike travel blogs and articles that may be out of date.
Those sites will also tell you if you need any vaccinations before you set off. Make sure you’re on top of what vaccinations you need and, depending on where you’re going, bring proof you’ve been vaccinated. Some locations require proof or acknowledgement that you’re covered.
3.) Happy and Healthy: Plan for Good Health and Bad
Take care of yourself. Bring along some supplements to boost your immune system, stay away from sketchy food that looks like it’s been improperly cooked or prepared, and double check that you can drink the water where you’re travelling without needing to boil it or put in iodine tablets. If you have medications, split them between your bags and pockets so if something happens to one, you’ve still got enough to get you by in the meantime. You can’t get anywhere if your body is run down, so make sure you’re keeping it in tip‐top shape.
Whether you think you’ll need it or not, it’s always good to plan for the worst while expecting the best. That’s where travel insurance comes in. No one plans to get ill or have a medical emergency while they’re away, but if something pops up, it’s nice to know you’ve got yourself covered and all you have to worry about is getting back on your feet. Beyond being out of commission, medical bills can cause serious setbacks to your future travel plans if you’re not covered. Pro tip: If you’re planning to do extreme water sports, skydiving, skiing or the like, make sure your policy covers that, too!
4.) Money Matters: Where to Keep Your Money (…and Where Not To)
Keep your mind on your money when you travel. Backpackers in particular swear by money belts or neck pouches, but caution against accessing it in public. It defeats the purpose of hiding money in a belt or pouch! Make sure you’re not carrying your money or wallet in a backpack - you don’t have eyes in the back of your head to see if someone is getting into your pack. If you can’t avoid carrying valuables in your backpack, use twist ties or zip ties to keep your zipper pulls closed. This won’t make your backpack impossible to access, but creates an obstacle that makes it more difficult for thieves, possibly tipping you off that someone’s getting into your bag.
Even if you use a money belt, it’s wise to separate your sources of money. Take only what you need for the day out with you and lock the rest away at the hostel or the location you’re staying. Keep small quantities in easily accessible places like pockets ‐ you don’t want to take out wads of cash whenever you buy a snack or coffee. Keep your emergency cards and cash stashed safely away in case anything happens to your purse or wallet while you’re out. Avoid getting into your main wallet in front of others - you could be showing any potential thief exactly where your cash is.
5.) Keep your Lifelines Close: Credit Cards and Passports
Play it smart with important documents and cards like passports, debit/credit cards, health insurance cards, etc. Carry the copy of your passport with you, but leave the real thing behind. Swap copies with your travel buddy if you have one. A good trick is to leave is at the front desk of the hotel if you’re in one, or lock it up in a security deposit box. You should have hard and soft copies of all your important documents - a hard copy to carry, a soft copy in the cloud you can access if it’s an emergency.
Make sure to have the phone number of your bank in case your credit card is stolen, as well as the number attached to your travel insurance policy.
6.) Be Tech Smart: Laptops, Phones and Tablets
Seasoned travellers will tell you not to take anything along with you that you’re not afraid to lose - especially if you are backpacking or planning on heading off the beaten track at all. However, sometimes that’s just not possible if you’re planning to take photos, blog about your travels, or keep up with loved ones back home. A general rule of thumb is to keep your valuables locked up and hidden whenever possible. Don’t make a thief’s goals easier by advertising you have a phone in your backpack or by keeping your oversized camera around your neck.
Most hostels will have lockers where you can lock your belongings up with a rented lock or one you bring yourself. While most people in hostels pose no threat, it’s always wise to lock up your laptop and other valuables whenever you leave the room, even if it’s just to shower. Travel insurance, such as our specific backpacker travel insurance is always handy if something gets stolen, but save yourself time and the stress of replacing your gadgets by locking them up.
7.) Be Aware-: Keep an Eye on What’s Yours and What’s Around You
Most of being aware is taking on habit-forming behaviours - like checking behind you after you get up from a table or seat, looping the straps of your backpack or bag around your leg when you’re sitting in a high‐traffic area, and carrying your pack or purse in front of you in crowds with your thumb over the zipper if it’s not locked.
When you’re in a new area take out your earphones unless you are in transit or in your room - otherwise, you’re one sense down. Get used to sweeping the room in new places; getting a gauge of what is happening in the room, if there are any risky characters in there (especially if you’re travelling alone), and being prepared to act on what you find. At the end of the day, trust your gut. If you don’t feel safe: get out of there.
From Bangkok to Budapest and beyond, these tips should serve as a solid leaping off point for backpacking safety abroad.
Learn more about how to keep yourself and your belongings safe with AIG’s travel insurance. Happy travels!