Sara Foster - How to travel safe abroad Best selling Australian novelist Sara Foster shares her 20 best secrets for foolproof global travel.

We’ve all heard those cautionary travellers’ tales of mistakes and misadventure. Here are some simple solutions that will help you to avoid similar pitfalls:

1.    When off the beaten track, skip wearing jewellery as it can attract unnecessary attention, or go for costume jewellery and a cheap watch.

2.    Can you get away without your mobile phone/camera etc? Where possible, avoid taking items that are not insured or you’re not prepared to lose. Back up your pictures regularly to another device. You can also safeguard them by uploading them on to a photo website such as Snapfish, or to Facebook.

3.    Use a small valuables pouch that you can hide beneath your clothes, and always put your money away, don’t hold it. You can get waist pouches or those on a long strap that can go round your neck. Waist pouches are better in hot weather.

4.    Don’t carry much more money than you need. A little back-up is always good, but try to limit how much you have with you.

5.    Always keep a small amount of money hidden separately in your luggage or hotel room – it doesn’t have to be much, just enough to cover you in a crisis.

6.    Have a list of emergency numbers easily accessible, e.g. for credit card cancellations, as well as photocopies of documents. A hidden compartment in your case or bag may be useful; as well as keeping additional copies of information with friends or relatives.

7.    When changing travellers’ cheques or currency, banks or hotels are often more reputable than street money-lenders, though the latter may provide better rates. Check commission fees and the final amount you’ll receive before you agree to the deal, to avoid hidden charges once you’ve handed over your money. If using smaller exchanges, always have the currency counted out in front of you, and count it again within sight of the vendor once it’s in your hand. Sleight of hand tricks can be quite common in some regions.

8.    It may be worth finding out whether the countries you are visiting accept US dollars alongside their local currency. Often, having a small amount of dollars available can be useful.

9.    Double-check important information with more than one source – e.g. exchange rates; times and frequency of buses, trains, ferries, etc.; opening times of attractions; a fair price for a taxi, etc. Having a travel guide to hand can often help you out in this respect.

10.    Wherever you are, walk confidently with your head up. Petty thieves are more likely to approach someone who looks timid or distracted.

11.    Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, remove yourself from it.

12.    Always tell someone where you are going and what time you are due back.

13.    Familiarise yourself with an area, even if you plan on taking taxis. Have a rough idea of all the transportation options, and how else you could get back to your hotel if your first option fell through.

14.    Be particularly cautious at airports. In some countries you will find a lot of people desperate to provide you with transport and accommodation options. Be aware that once you accept these offers they are often difficult to back out from. If you’re relaxed about this it’s not necessarily a problem, but if you prefer to retain your autonomy then it’s a good idea to forward plan the first hotel you’d like to go to, and the mode of transport you’ll use to get there – and then stick to it.

15.    If a stranger approaches you, keep alert to your surroundings. Be respectfully cautious. In poorer countries there are often a few who have learned to profit from tourists and see you as a commodity. They are a minority, in no way representative of the general population. In awkward situations you can remain polite but still be firm.

16.    In some countries taxi drivers may be getting commission for taking you to certain shops and hotels. You might not mind this, but be aware of it before accepting a lift on those terms or you may find yourself on a long and costly ‘scenic route’ to your preferred destination.

17.    Put your bag strap over your head so it sits across you, rather than just on your shoulder. Hold your bag in front of you, or get used to keeping your hand on the opening, rather than letting it dangle behind you. Use bags that zip up.

18.    Learn language basics. How to ask a question politely, please and thank you, hello and goodbye, numbers and directions are a great starting point. Build on this as much as you can. Not only will it help you find your way around, but some basic understanding of discussions can help you avoid tricksters, being overcharged or misinformed.

19.    Familiarise yourself with local customs.  For example, a strapless top will be seen as disrespectful and antagonistic by locals in Muslim countries. In Thailand, touching people, particularly on the head, is considered rude – their traditional greeting is not shaking hands, but the wai – where hands are placed together as in prayer and raised up towards the head. (This can also be used as an apologetic gesture.) Neither will locals appreciate you pointing your feet at them, or picking up food with your left hand. A good understanding of local customs such as these can help you avoid difficult and uncomfortable situations.

20.    And finally, relax and enjoy! While negotiating your way around unfamiliar territory can be stressful at times, with a little forward planning and awareness you can minimise many potential risks, put your mind at rest, and really make the most of your travels.

About the Author:

Sara Foster the author of the “20 best secrets to travel safe” is a well know novelist from Australia. You can read more about Sara at http://www.sarafoster.com.au/

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