When travelling internationally one thing is certain and that is that nothing is certain! You can have packed precisely, researched in detail and planned to perfection BUT there is always the potential that everything can be turned upside down. At best I'm talking about delayed flights and lost luggage, at worst, you could be looking at a natural disaster or even an act of terror. I don't say this to be at all alarmist and I certainly don't say it to scare you out of travelling - as you know we are the biggest advocates of travel - but I say it to be realistic and to help you be prepared for whatever your adventures might throw at you.
Just last week we saw Hurricane Matthew wreak havoc across the Caribbean, leaving a trail of destruction in Haiti and claiming at least a thouand lives before causing major flooding in the US in the Carolinas and Florida. While there is certainly no advantage to travelling in fear, there are a few simple tips you can follow to stay safe if you do find yourself in a chaotic situation.
- Register your travel plans with your government body. If chaos breaks out in any form while you're overseas, you want to be as contactable and traceable as possible. ESPECIALLY if you're travelling somewhere prone to conflict or natural disaster, make sure you register your plans with the relevant government body. In Australia, that's the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smart Traveller program. If you don't register, of course they will still have a vague idea of your whereabouts (assuming you have left the country legally on a valid passport!) but the more information you share with them, the faster they will be able to act to locate you and assist if necessary. This could be as basic as informing your family that you are ok, right through to conducting an emergency evacuation.
- Keep some contacts handy. For many of us one of the most beautiful things about travelling can be disconnecting. So I completely understand if you want to switch off and not travel with an operational phone or be contactable by email. I get it. BUT, if you're ditching the phone it is still worthwhile writing down a few key contacts and keeping it in a safe, handy place just in case. Even if there is an accident in the country you're visiting that doesn't even remotely impact you, there's a chance your nervous parents saw it on the news and will be FREAKING OUT so it doesn't hurt to have their number or email address handy just in case so you can send a quick message to let family know you are ok. Trust me, your mum will thank you for it and we all know the more you can keep yo' mumma happy, the less she will harass you about your weird and wonderful adventures.
- Keep some money on you (but not too much). If things turn pear-shaped quickly ATMs can be out of action along with other communication methods. So it's always wise to make sure you keep some cash with you. Not too much or too obviously (like a hideous bum bag for instance - you can still travel in style like repping one of our gorgeous leather fairtrade sling bags), but if you've got hidden pockets in your backpack or any other good hiding spots, it's a good idea to keep a couple of hundred dollars in local currency just in case you need it.
4. Always follow the advice of local emergency workers. When an emergency hits (or is about it hit) most countries have a system of distributing information and instructions to people. Stay abreast of the local news - often emergency information is broadcast on local radio - and always act with caution. If there is a call to evacuate, follow instructions calmly and in a timely manner. Don't wait.
5. If you're travelling somewhere risky, pack a GO bag. If you're travelling in a country renowned for terror situations or chaotic weather, it can be wise to be prepared in advance in case you need to leave in a hurry. A GO bag is a small bag with all the essentials in case you need to leave without any notice. Keep a small back pack handy with a change of clothes, water, a few snacks, some money and of course your passport so you can literally pick it up and ran out the door at any given moment. Now obviously this is a bit extreme if you're holidaying on a safe, tropical island but if you're somewhere where there is a security risk or you have arrived amid warnings of chaotic weather and possible, it can be wise to plan ahead.
Hopefully you won't ever have to use these tips but if ever find yourself in an emergency, hopefully some of these ideas will be helpful.
Happy (and safe!) travels Wanderlusters!