Have a safe trip!

Insuring your trip

A trip is like a marriage: you don't go into it thinking you will have trouble. But trouble can occur before your departure date so that you will need to cancel or delay your trip, perhaps with the loss of non-refundable payments. You can become ill and need to return early, or a family member at home may become ill so that you must return early. Bags can be lost or delayed. You may need emergency medical assistance during your trip. Such things happen. A wise traveler prepares for trouble by purchasing trip insurance at the time the first booking is made. Having insurance can save you money and inconvenience and maybe even save your trip.

Note: be sure to buy your insurance within 7 to 14 days of your initial trip purchase to be sure of getting the best possible protection against loss of at-risk payments. Otherwise, you may not be covered for cancellation due to pre-existing conditions. And of course, if something happens to cause you to cancel before you buy travel insurance, you won't be covered. So do not procrastinate. Buy travel insurance immediately when you make your first trip arrangement purchase.

The cost of the premium varies with the insurance company used (they all differ in their costs and benefits), the number and ages of travelers, the trip duration, and the amount of money at-risk of loss in the event of trip cancellation.

Don't forget that travel insurance is useful even if you are using frequent flyer tickets to travel to your destination. Sure, you don't have the high cost of non-refundable tickets to protect, but what about the high cost of getting emergency assistance if you become ill while on your trip? Without insurance you are on your own to pay for emergency medical evacuation, and that can be very, very expensive indeed! Or what happens if your luggage is stolen while you are traveling? Are you prepared to replace the contents and continue enjoying your trip? Travel insurance can help with that, too.

For more information, see What you should know about trip insurance.

When you are ready to book, contact me for a quote on travel insurance.

Some places you might want to avoid

London's Daily Telegraph has published a list of the top ten worst-rated holiday destinations. The list was compiled by Mercer Human Resource Consulting who does an annual Personal Safety Survey. Their survey rates some 215 cities around the world. Cities whose ranking might have been affected by war, terrorism or SARS have not been included. The Daily Telegraph used the list to come up with the worst cities that are considered holiday destinations. Kingston, Jamaica tops the list as the city with the most crimes against tourists followed by Rio de Janeiro. Cape Town came in third followed by Mexico City, St. Petersburg, Russia, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Washington, Rome and Athens. Luxembourg was the safest city and the last place was taken by Gangui in the Central African Republic. (Source: ARTA, June 23, 2003)

Know what you are getting into

If you are forewarned, you can avoid getting into potentially dangerous situations. Good sources of information are the travel warnings issued by the US government and the British government. It can be very enlightening to see the difference between the US and British government warnings; they often are not at all the same. For example, Britain's website may warn about dangers to traveler in the US! A lesson here: take warnings with a grain of salt and exercise common sense and good judgment. There may well be safe places to visit within generally unsafe areas, and vice-versa. Just be sure you know which is which before you go.

Trust your instincts

If a place feels unsafe, don't go there. For example, if a dark alley seems threatening, it could be your instinct for self-preservation warning you of an unseen danger. Go around the alley if possible or pass through it with extra vigilence and be prepared to run if the danger turns out to be real. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Use common sense

Flight is better than fight, so dress so you can flee danger if necessary. Wearing shoes you can run in is good for more than just comfortable sightseeing. Good shoes can help you extricate yourself from a bad situation. Also, don't overload yourself with baggage; hauling a large load will slow you down as well as limit your travel options (e.g., do you really want to take the underground to your hotel in London if you are lugging so many heavy bags that you need a porter to help?).

Don't look like a victim. If you look like an easy mark, you invite the bad guys to try to take advantage of you. Standing on the sidewalk trying to figure out where you are on the map advertises that you are a helpless tourist. There are many kind souls who will see that as a sign to come to your rescue-- and you will meet nice people that way. But it also signals that you may have items on your person, such as credit cards, tickets, and your passport, which would be worth stealing. You don't want to look like a tourist because that makes you look like a victim.

Be aware of your surroundings. It will be harder for a pickpocket to creep up on you if you are watching what is going on around you and who might be lurking nearby.

Don't be distracted. A clever scheme of pickpockets is to divert your attention while an accomplice cuts open your purse, fannypack, or knapsack or picks your pockets. For example, Roman pickpockets are notorious for having a crying child get your attention while the child's mother or other children snatch your valuables. Don't fall for it. If you are approached by someone who is trying to get your interest, move away and don't let yourself be distracted from taking care of your belongings.

Don't allow strangers to approach you too closely. Pickpockets may look like a well-dressed businessman or other reputable person. If you stop to help them pick up dropped coins (a typical scam), you may end up with your pockets picked for your efforts.

Don't go into neighborhoods where crime is common. Ask the staff at your hotel where to go and where to avoid going.

There is safety in numbers. When you go out at night or into a strange area, go with a friend. If you go alone, go only to places where there are other people who are intent on enjoying themselves. For example, you can be safe walking around the central part of large European cities at night because it is the custom of the residents to walk in their cities at night, to dine late, to enjoy living in their cities. The Centro Storico of Rome is a good example: you can walk the streets and piazzas there at night and feel perfectly secure. When you no longer see couples and families strolling the streets, it's time for you to leave, too.

Don't make it easy to steal from you.

1. Leave valuables at home. Instead of wearing an expensive watch and jewelry, take only a watch and jewelry you can easily afford to lose.

2. Don't carry your valuables in an easily accessible place, such as your purse, fannypack, knapsack, or pockets. Use a money belt or pouch hung around your neck inside your clothes. That won't stop you from losing these items if you are mugged-- relatively uncommon in Europe-- but it will stop pickpockets from taking them.

3. Keep in your pocket, purse, fannypack, or knapsack only your spending money for the day. This is the small denomination bills and coins you intend to use for tips, small purchases, and the like. If you cannot afford to lose it, don't put it in any easily accessible place.

Travel writer Rick Steves suggests you include a cute note to the thief as a way to make yourself feel better in the event that this stash is robbed.

4. Keep your money belt or security pouch on your person when you are sleeping in a place with strangers, such as on a train.

5. Fasten the strap of your bags to a fixture when waiting in terminals or seated on the train. For example, wrap the strap around the leg of your chair or the strut of the overhead bin in your compartment. This prevents thieves from grabbing and running off with your belongings.

6. Carry your day bags in a protected place on your body. Put your purse on the side of your body away from the street so purse snatchers have a harder time grabbing it. Wear your fanny pack in front where you can see who is getting into it (and in case you forget to close it, you will be more likely to see when things fall out).

7. Organize the contents of your knapsack into pouches and individual bags fastened inside; that way, if someone cuts open the bottom of your knapsack, they won't be able to remove all your belongings too easily. This also makes it easier for you to find what you are looking for when you need to retrieve an item from your knapsack.

8. Put a business card marked with your hotel name and phone number into your jacket, coat, and bag. That way, if you leave any of these behind in a restaurant, etc., it will be easier to return the item to you.

9. Use the safe in your hotel or cruise ship to store valuables you won't need for a while, such as your airline ticket home.

10. Don't put your home address on your luggage tags. Don't advertise your empty home to would-be thieves by letting them see your home address on your luggage. If you have an office address, use it instead. Or use a post office box or the address of a friend who is not traveling. Or ask your travel agent if you can use her agency address.

11. Keep your passwords and PINs secure. When you are using an ATM, shield the keypad with your body and your hand so no one else can see the numbers you are inputting. And, of course, do not write your PIN on your debit or credit card.

Laptop Security

You may want to think twice about taking your laptop computer on a trip outside the US. Not only can sensitive data be stolen from your laptop while on the trip—not to mention the risk that the laptop can be stolen—but you risk loss of your laptop to Uncle Sam:

Federal Agents Authorized to Seize Travelers' Laptops - Departmento of Homeland Security policies authorize federal agents to seize laptops and other devices from travelers at the border without any suspicion of wrongdoing. The measures have been in place for a while but have only recently been disclosed by the agency after pressure from civil liberties groups and travel associations. [Washington Post/Reuters article dated 1 Aug 2008]


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