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Safety Abroad: What to know when you hit the ground
 
 
 
Safety Abroad: What to know when you hit the ground

Water Fun, Yangshuo China

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

In recent years, discussion on travel safety has focused on air travel. And while heightened security measures at airports should not be taken lightly, safety on the ground should not be ignored. Especially when venturing off the beaten path with children. Whether you are heading to Rome or Rio de Janeiro or departing on a wildlife safari or high altitude trek consider the following safety tips when lugging the littlies 'round the globe.

Before you depart
Research your family travel destination thoroughly. In addition to determining any health risks, take into account any safety concerns. While perspective is important when reviewing security alerts - You may be surprised to learn what others have to say about travel to your home country! - if your government advises against travel to a particular country or region seriously consider the risks and seek advice from reliable local sources before departing on a family trip.

If you are traveling to, or even transiting through, a city with a high crime rate carefully plan your itinerary. Be sure to arrive at your destination during the day and travel about during daylight hours. Book a hotel in an area that is considered safe and close to the attractions and sights you will be visiting.

Review your insurance coverage carefully. Be sure you have the right coverage for your travel destination as well as your activity and that you fully understand what is covered and what is not. When taking children off the beaten path weigh the safety of an organized tour against the spontaneity of a do-it-yourself family trip. The additional cost of hiring a reputable tour company or guide may be minimal when you consider the risks.

Packing
Make three copies of all travel documents - passports, insurance cards, emergency medical numbers, credit cards and itinerary - pack a copy in your partner's hand luggage, send a scanned copy to your personal email address and leave one with a relative or close friend.

Plan to dress modestly. In other words leave your valuables, such as jewelry, at home. Consider your day pack. If it doesn't have a built in lock or latch, fasten the zippers with a key ring. Pack purses with a shoulder strap as well as a zipper or snap. Open bags invite wandering hands to reach in. Don't pack your world in one bag.

On the road
Secure your valuables before stepping out of your hotel, lodge or vacation home. Do not carry more cash than you will need for one day and pack a copy, rather than the original, of your passport. Leave extra cash, plane tickets, passports, jewelry, iPods and hand held electronic games in the apposite safe. Take precautions when using a hotel rather than in-room safe. Stow credit cards and valuables in a small locked bag and never in a simple envelope. Pack your mobile phone and camera in your day pack; don't wear them on your belt.

When you are out and about follow your instincts and use your common sense. If you are unsure about an area's safety inquire at reception first. Never leave your things unattended in a public place. Finders may be keepers. Don't carry your camera around your neck on public transport or when walking in the street. Repack it after each picture. Don't become agitated when approached by a local soliciting services, asking for money or wishing to help clean a stain. Be polite but be firm and be aware of a second or third person lingering near your bag.

At outdoor caf├ęs, restaurants and bars don't sling your handbag or day pack over the back of the chair. Instead wear your purse over your head so that the strap crosses your body and hold it on your lap or wedge it firmly between you and the chair. Put your day pack on the ground, between your legs, and slip a strap under the leg of the table or chair.

Don't assume pedestrian rights are analogous everywhere. In many countries a zebra crossing (crosswalk) is merely an opportunity. Don't step off the curb until you are sure the traffic will stop.

Keep a close eye on your children at all times. Hold their hands in crowded markets, squares and streets and don't let them wander about alone. Carry a recent picture of each child and equip each kid with an identification card, a document with the child's name and parents name as well as the name, address and telephone number of your hotel.

Particular attention is warranted when traveling by bus, train, metro and taxi. Most travelers are pick-pocketed on crowded public transport. Hold your day pack where you can see it and wear your purse over your head so that the strap crosses your body and rest your arm over your purse. Never leave small unlocked bags unattended in a luggage rack. When traveling by taxi carry small bills. Feigning a lack of change is more common than you may think. Don't pay for the taxi until all of your luggage is out of the car. Never pull out your wallet on the street; transfer the exact fare to a pocket before getting out. If you are hassled by the driver take down their name as well as the number of the cab and, with the help of your hotel, report it to the relevant authorities.

On final tip, don't assume the above applies to travel to developing countries only. You may be surprised how many travelers are robbed daily in tourist trodden destinations. Rome is a perfect example.

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