With the start of 2017 and all the ensuing talk of resolutions and self-improvement, we thought it was a great time to ask ten experts for their travel safety resolutions for the coming year. We asked for resolutions they will set for themselves and the best advice that they will be giving friends, family and clients heading off on trips. The responses are relevant to all travellers, no matter how seasoned and experienced. Read on and please feel free to share far and wide…
Buy travel insurance!
The key piece of advice from the Safe Travels team is to always book appropriate travel insurance before you go. If you have a pre-existing condition or are headed off the beaten path, a broker will be able to find you the best package. Read the small print so that you know what is and is not covered, and what you need to do to make a claim. Every week we cover families struggling to pay expensive medical bills or repatriation costs. The right cover can help to prevent, or at least lessen, the heart ache.
If you are headed to a riskier destination, it is now possible to buy crisis support coverage – a team on your side in case of a coup, natural disaster or kidnapping – at a very reasonable price. This is something I will personally be buying and have demanded a best friend buy before his academic research trip to a place with low-level insurgency violence.
Government travel advice
The following are links to each nation’s travel advisories. Click through and search to find out more about your next travel destination. The advisories are updated regularly and, as they represent slightly different viewpoints and interests, we recommend reading a couple to get a decent idea of what your destination is like.
Daniel Wheeler, journalist
Daniel Wheeler is a British journalist, specialising in human and environmental conflict.
Lock your doors – This applies whether you’re travelling in a vehicle or relaxing in your hotel room. If you’re not expecting a visitor, don’t be afraid to question someone before opening the door. Don’t discuss travel plans with other guests where you may be overheard.
Be suspicious – Remember the ABC: Assume nothing, Believe no one, Check everything. Criminals will sometimes take advantage of peoples natural obedience to authority by pretending to be a police officer, or other government official. Ask politely to see their ID before letting them search you or your belongings. Only use official taxis and don’t accept a lift off someone you have just met.
Lara Sierra-Rubia at S-RM
Lara Sierra-Rubia is a Senior Political and Country Risk Analyst at S-RM focussing on Europe and North America. Her main areas of research relate include terrorism, political movements and regional integration. S-RM is a consultancy firm providing risk management, business intelligence and cyber-security services globally.
Make sure people you know are aware of your travel itinerary before you depart, and do not forget to update them if plans change. It is also worthwhile setting up frequent check-ins with family, friends, members of staff. Also let your embassy know that you’re in another country. Other than that, don’t publicise your travel plans.
Take pictures of all your travel documents – such as tickets, passports and IDs – and upload them to a cloud-based platform like DropBox, so you can access from any device. Wherever possible, only carry certified copies of your travel documents.
It is also worthwhile having the numbers of your hotel, embassy and local contacts written down. Carry it with you at all times.
Stay in accommodation with a safe or locker.
Credit cards should only be used in reputable establishments and you should always confirm that the correct amount has been charged.
Only use reputable taxi services, such as those organised through a hotel. Track your cab via Google Maps so you can tell if the cab drive is going off route.
Tim Crockett at Healix International & HX Global
Tim is VP of Security for Healix International and HX Global an industry leader in the provision of Travel Risk Management solutions and a leader in the business of keeping people safe.
Insurance may seem like an ‘necessary evil’ but it’s always better to have it and not need it than the other way around. When selecting a policy think of things beyond just this first trip. Do you travel often, whether for business or leisure? You may get better coverage for less if you look at an annual policy that covers all the areas and activities you plan on doing. Take the time to research your options and be honest with your own personal or group needs.
When it comes to health, prevention is always the better option. Reflect on your travel plans for the year ahead, research and then invest in items that can help keep you safe and healthy throughout your travels regardless of destination. Over the years I have developed, upgraded and expanded my ‘travel tool kit’ with essential items such as a good quality head-torch, a water filter bottle and a multi-tool. If heading to warmer climates with an insect-borne risk get yourself a ‘double’ sized mosquito net and tie 6-8 ft of line to each corner so that no matter where you lay down you’ll be able to provide yourself adequate protection.
Personally this year I will try to ensure I do adequate research on any destination regardless of whether it’s domestic or overseas. It’s far too easy to become complacent, especially when visiting the same location repeatedly. But past events and incidents (or lack thereof) are no indication of the future. It doesn’t matter how seasoned a traveller you may think you are, you can easily become a vulnerable target by letting down your guard. If you’re traveling with a friend or colleague adopt the ‘buddy’ system and look out for each other.
For 2017 I plan to be ‘outside’ more so it’s time to buy a decent set of hiking boots (my old military issue boots have been relegated to working in the backyard). Going ‘lightweight’ is also featuring highly, so it’s time for me to research light-weight options for hammocks, sleeping systems and camp stoves.
My final travel resolution is to bring back more memories so a decent yet compact camera (waterproof) is essential. A smart phone is good for this but I prefer to keep my means of communication charged for staying in touch.
Richard C Pendry, Senior Consultant at RCP International
RCP International has over twelve years of experience in providing secure operational platforms in fragile environments for a variety of International clients. Through accuracy, integrity and building organisational resilience, we ensure that our clients are best equipped to deal with even the most challenging of outcomes.
When you check in ask for a hotel room on a low floor – but never at ground level. Between two and seven is ideal, as the reach of fire ladders normally only goes to the seventh floor.
Familiarise yourself with your new accommodation as quickly as you can after checking in. Walk the route to escape exit, keeping track of the turns and any potential obstacles. The human brain has a wonderful way of storing information and calling it forward when needed. But lest hope you never need it.
James Pothecary at Allan & Associates
James Pothecary is a London-based political and security risk analyst specialising in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. James works at Allan & Associates, a security risk management agency, which provides a wide range of protective services from travel risk assessments to crisis management response.
Do some research on your destination before travelling. Know which areas are safe, and which aren’t. Furthermore, a basic knowledge of the culture and legal system in place will minimise the risk of accidentally falling foul of local security forces.
Write down important numbers by hand. Ensure you have the numbers of your country’s embassy, consulate or high commission, the national emergency services and any local contacts you might need. This can save valuable time in any potential crisis, particularly if your phone is lost or stolen.
Your health is your number one priority. Check with a clinic that specializes in foreign travel to determine if any special vaccines or medicines are appropriate before travel.
For business travel, ensure staff are fully briefed on where they are going, and can flag any concerns to management both before and during deployment. Individuals have different risk-tolerances, and employers should be sensitive to this.
Nick Piper, Co-founder at My Travel Risk
My Travel Risk is a web-based platform on which any traveller can find safety information and advice on any destination.
Establish a pre-travel checklist that can be used before every trip. Tick boxes on the list should include checking your passport for correct validity and number of pages, visiting a clinic, getting travel insurance, pre-booking any necessary accommodation, saving and making copies of all relevant information, and finding out as much as you can about your destination so that you feel comfortable during your stay.
|Andre Colling, red24 Analyst Manager & Middle East and North Africa AnalystEmail: email@example.com
Understand the risks in your intended travel area. Many times a holiday to an exotic location is preceded by a failure to appreciate local cultural norms, religious beliefs, health risks and security risks. Doing some basic research, at a minimum, might save you significant cost, both financial and personal.
Business managers sending their employees to high or extreme travel locations should ensure that the traveller is afforded sufficient security and travel information, that regular check-ins are conducted and that accommodation is suitable and near ports of exit.
For seasoned travellers, don’t become blasé about your operating area. Constantly revisit health, security, travel and natural hazard risks, preferably with a company which specialises in identifying trends.
Lloyd Figgins at LFL Global Risk Mitigation
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lloyd is the CEO of LFL Global Risk Mitigation and author of Looking for Lemons – A Travel Survival Guide. He is a former expedition leader, police officer and soldier who has worked in over 80 countries, including some of the world’s more hostile and remote regions.
Do your research and invest in a decent travel insurance policy. If you are doing more than one trip a year, you will probably be better off buying an annual multi-trip policy. Make sure you check the exclusions to the policy, particularly if you are planning some adventurous activities on your travels. Finding out you’re not covered after something goes wrong is just going to add to your pain. Ensure your policy covers you for medical costs, loss and damage, as well as repatriation if you become ill or injured. Cheap or free polices you get with certain offers are cheap for a reason and you don’t want to find out why when you need cover the most.
Check the FCO Advice, but also look at other sources. Remember that the FCO advice is linked to political and diplomatic factors and Britain’s relationship with a particular nation. Check out advice from other governments, such as Australia’s Smart Traveller – http://smartraveller.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
If you (or your offspring) are going on an organised gap year or volunteering programme, ask to see the risk assessment for the project you are going on and don’t be afraid to ask questions about their safety procedures and emergency response plans. They should be more than happy to share these with you and to be open about their safety procedures. If they’re not, you need to question why.
Don’t book the cheapest accommodation, even if you are on a budget. Book a reputable place for your first couple of nights in a new place, at least until you can familiarise yourself with your surroundings. This goes for business managers too. Don’t put your staff up in places that will put them in the way of potential harm, this will only serve to make them less effective in their work.
Take the time to learn something about the culture and customs of the place(s) you are visiting and learn a bit of the local language before you depart. The local people will appreciate the effort you have made and then commit to learning 5 new words of their language each day. Get a local to teach you, you’ll be surprised at the doors this will open.
Andy at beTravelwise
beTravelwise provides training and education to promote safe travel. It has training courses designed to support organisations in their travel risk management programmes. A fully blended approach allows the learner to receive engaging training appropriate to the health, security and travel risks they may face.
Before landing at your destination use your phone’s mapping tools (like Google Maps) to understand the suggested route from the airport to the hotel. This will give you better ground orientation pre-travel and on arrival you can use the mapping tool to be reassured (if at all concerned) your driver is heading in the right direction as well as becoming familiar with landmarks on route for better overall awareness.
The Travel Operative is a website produced by people who have spent many years working behind the scenes in the security domain. Together with their extensive travel experiences, they provide free detailed analysis of location-specific threats and security insights for travellers.
Our number one travel safety resolution for 2017 is to consult with government advice prior to undertaking travel. In 2016 there were two distinct examples where government travel warnings may have saved lives. See our short article on why you should read government travel advice.
A travel safety resolution for businesses is to review staff travel arrangements. This year, organisations should ensure their duty of care obligations are appropriately met. This may involve allocating a larger share of the operating budget towards travel planning, comprehensive insurance, preparation and close protection for staff in locations deemed to be high risk.
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