December 4, 2011

Traveling abroad..8 Tips for a Safer Trip

Travel is one of many joys of a satisfying retirement. The change in routine and chance to learn something about other cultures and food make travel, especially to international destinations, a dream many of us hope for. But, like anything else, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. Guest author, Isabella Woods, provided me with the following article that highlights important ways to stay safe when traveling abroad. 

With the average life expectancy of a US citizen now reaching almost 84,  there’s more time than ever to enjoy travelling abroad. If you are concerned about health and safety, here are discover 8 tips to help keep you safe wherever your travels take you…

1. If you’re travelling alone, let your family or friends know where you’re going and when. Give them a simple itinerary – it’ll help keep their minds at ease, and if anything does go wrong then they’ll know where you are and who to contact. We understand the whole point of a holiday is getting away from it all, but if you can provide a friend or a family member with details of where you’ll be staying, do so. And we’re sure they won’t bother you unless they need to!

2. Pack a decent first aid kit. Maybe you’re the sort of person who never gets ill, but when you’re travelling abroad in unusual climates, eating food your body isn’t used to, and messing with your internal body clock, it’s much more likely you’ll pick up a bug. Make sure you take these essentials: diarrhea tablets, paracetamol, insect repellent, and bandages. Also, make sure you check with your doctor before travelling in case you need any specific vaccinations – more than half of tetanus cases are in people over the age of 65, so a tetanus booster is sensible pre-vacation practise. However, some vaccines, like the yellow fever vaccine for example, aren’t recommended to people over 60 or if you suffer from a chronic illness. If yellwo fever is a problem at your planned destination that into consideration.

3. So you’ve raided your best savings account and stumped up the cash for a superb holiday and enough spending money so you won’t go short. We’re jealous already! But in terms of that spending money, it’s always best to go for a mixture of cash, travelers’ checks and cards. If you’re going somewhere unusual, make sure you order any currency a few weeks in advance. Also make sure you have some travelers’ checks, too – and write down the numbers of these on a piece of paper and keep that safe – it will help if your checks get stolen. Also, perhaps you’d like to consider pre-paid Canadian credit cards. You basically upload a sum of money to the card and then use it abroad as you would a debit or credit card – withdrawing money at ATMs and using it to pay for your bills. Generally they offer very competitive exchange rates and you won’t feel as vulnerable if you might if you’re carrying a wad of cash around. Also, write down your card number and take down the emergency number just in case you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of theft.

4. Take a bottle of antibacterial hand gel and carry it with you. This little bottle will be a godsend on holiday, as it never means having to find a fresh supply of water and a bar of soap to make sure your hands are clean. Use it before and after a meal to help keep germs at bay and keep your risk of catching a nasty bug to the minimum.

5. Take your cell phone. Or, if you’ve got one that you’d rather not lose or have anything bad happen to, buy a cheap basic model that you can take with you. If you’re staying in one country for a considerable length of time it may prove cheaper to buy a SIM card once you’re out there. However, you can also get SIM cards that you can use internationally. It’s always helpful to know, if you need to, you can get in touch with anyone should something go wrong – and having a cell phone with you is the quickest way of doing this. There are companies that rent cell phones for your use overseas, which may be your best option.

6. It’s highly likely you’ll want to document your holiday. However, it’s advisable to make sure you keep more expensive belongings like cameras out of sight most of the time. Use them only when you need to and make sure you wrap the camera strap around your wrist for added protection from thieves. Once you’ve finished using your camera, pack it away safely and zip up your bag – an open compartment is just asking for someone to dip in and try their luck.

7. Keep the expensive jewelry at home. Even if you’re planning on going out in the evenings and want to wear a fancy outfit, it’s best to take jewelry that doesn’t have stacks of sentimental value and didn’t cost a small fortune. Stick to costume jewelry or simple basics. Even if you’re staying in an upmarket resort, pickpockets and chancers may well be rife – and if you look like you’re a rich picking you’ll be their first port of call.

8. Finally, if you’re travelling across the pond to the UK you’ll be in good company – as Americans make up the second highest proportion of the annual 5.4 million over 55s to this little isle. But you’ll be in for a long plane journey, so make sure you wear your flight socks, walk up and down the aisle every so often, and perform in-flight exercises to help make sure deep vein thrombosis is kept at bay. If you suffer from varicose veins you’ll be more susceptible so be aware of this and make sure you do your best to move your feet and ankles while onboard the flight.

Thanks, Isabella. On a personal note I have rented a cell phone before trips abroad and found them a tremendous plus for safety and keeping in touch. The phone is mailed to your home before you go. Upon your return home, you simply send it back in the prepaid envelope. Since most American cell phones don't work in many other countries, this is a very viable option.

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  1. Haven't heard of renting a cell phone...wonderful !

    If you get the trots- let them run for 24 hours before stopping them. If you got a bug- you want to let it out.
    Never assume that a clinic or hospital uses clean needles (outside of Western Europe or Canada). Ask to see them being taken out of a pack- even if it costs you a bit in bribe money.
    Know the telephone number to the embassy or consulate in your country if it is not in Western Europe. You probably will never need it - but it is good to have if something really goes wrong.
    If you end up in the hospital- be aware that most countries do not supply meals to the ill if they are awake. That is the family's responsibility. If you are aware of that- it will help you even if traveling alone since you will know to ask for help.

    Great hints! Thanks!

  2. I'm going to disagree with a couple of Isabellas ideas, not to be contrary. It is VERY difficult to cash travelers checks in Europe at least, especailly if you choose small local hotels or do not stay in major cities. My sister visited me with travelers checks and I ended up giving her money having them endorsed to me and sending the checks back to my bank.

    not a safety issue but rememer that in europe unless you have travelrs insurance you will pay and then get reimbursed by hour insurance company.

    With the small cameras I have to say the heck with locking it up. wear it on your neck. However, I do encourage women to consider using their pockets as men do or having inside pockets put in coats as men do for valuables/

    For heavens sake, leave your passport locked in the hotel safe if you can and they have one. The chances of it being stolen off your person is about five hundred percent more than from a secret spot in your hotel room.

  3. Janette & Barb,

    Thank you both for adding extra insight. Luckily, during my 3 trips to Europe I never had any problems at all, though I did not take travelers checks. My research said use credit or debit cards which I did without problems.

    I have read about the meals in hospital situation. It is hard for us to understand such a policy but I don't doubt it happens.

    I had a mild stomach issue after returning from a mission trip to Mexico...otherwise no health concerns.

    And, I did leave my passport looked up in most places, or carried it in a zippered waist belt under my shirt if there was a question about security at the B & B we were staying.

  4. Bob. In germany hospitals provide some food. However, they do not provide things like aspirin, you sleep in your own clothing which you bring from home. As to the policy, lets remember that their costs for health care (not talking about insurance, actual costs) are aobut a quarter of ours.

    Not to get off topic but.. my husband had liver cancer. He had surgery, chemotherapy, readiation, an experimental procedure, hospise care and very heavy pain meds. The total billed cost to my insurance company (not my portion) was less than twenty five thousand dollars. That was as someone not in their ehalth care pay system. I paid and was reimbursed by my insurance company. That included a private room, private home care, and being treated by the head of university medical department.

  5. Barb,

    I would be more than willing to sleep in my own clothes and bring in basics like aspirin to help bring the absurd costs of a hospital stay in the U.S, down to a more reasonable level.

    I would guess your husband's bill in the States would have been in the several hundred thousand dollar range. Every time I read examples like yours I continue to marvel at how messed up our system is. Thank you for sharing what must be a painful memory.