8 Simple Steps to a Safe Trip, Part Two: After You ArriveHealth & Safety, Leaving & Coming Home, Passports & Visas, Planning — By Candace R on August 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm
By Susmita Baral
LG News Intern
Last week, LG News Intern Susmita Baral shared eight steps to take before getting on a plane and starting your next trip. This week, she focuses on tips and ideas for how to safe after you’ve arrived in a new place:
1. Law & Order
When leaving your home country, learning the local laws and customs is important. Try to use reliable resources (library, travel agent, and embassies) to be warned about any peculiar laws and be aware of the legal drinking age or if drinking is allowed at all—even if you’ve been to the country before, laws change all the time. For instance, India recently increased their legal drinking age from 18 to 25.
2. Pick Up Local Customs
Learn local customs with regards to clothing, PDA and other gestures. For instance, while skimpy clothing may not be prohibited in the Middle East, it is in your best interest to be more covered up and in line with local dressing customs. Similarly, find out if PDA is frowned upon before pecking your significant other.
Hand gestures can vary from culture to culture so make sure you’re not inadvertently offending locals. For example, a typical thumbs up gesture is considered to be a sign of approval in American and European cultures; however, it is an offensive gesture in Islamic and Asian countries.
3. Follow Tradition
Tipping varies from country to country. Learn the tipping etiquette of where you’re going before you head out for dinner. Also, figure out what your hotel’s tipping policy is. Some high-end hotels request that you tip at the end of your stay with your final bill (tips would then be divided with all staffers that served you) while others leave it to you to individually tip whomever you please. Getting acquainted with the currency and exchange rate is also a good idea.
4. Learn the Lingo
Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form in case of an emergency so that you can signal your need for medical help or anything else. Some phrases you should write down or memorize are: What is the price for that?, Where is the bathroom?, Call a doctor, I don’t Speak —, and May I take a photograph?
In many countries you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions (police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities) so ask for permission before taking photographs or find out the rules. Some countries with strict photography rules of government and public buildings include, but are not limited to: Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Costa Rica.
6. Watch Your Pockets
Be wary of pick pocketing no matter where you go and take the necessary precautions such as walking with your bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers. Beware of groups of vagrant children who could create a distraction to pick your pocket and know that most pick pockets work in teams of two: One person picks your pocket while the other distracts you.
In the scenario that you have been robbed or you’ve misplaced your possessions, report missing travelers’ checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company, credit cards to the issuing company, airline tickets to the airline or travel agent, and your passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
7. Money Matters
Be careful in handling your money abroad. Never flash or wave money around when paying and avoid carrying large amounts of cash at any given time. If using a credit card, be extra vigilant to make sure your credit card is returned after each transaction. When exchanging money, only use reliable and authorized agents.
8. Getting Around
Be cautious about public transportation. Only ride in taxis that can be clearly identified with official markings, avoiding those that are unmarked . Buses and trains are often theft hotspots so make sure your possessions are locked securely and that you don’t accept drinks or foods from strangers—they may be drugged.
According to the U.S. State Department, motor vehicle crashes are the top killer of healthy Americans abroad. (The country has one of the highest traffic death rates per person in the world is Belgium.) If the country you’re visiting ranks low on bus/transportation safety, then be extra careful and ask questions about the driver, vehicle being driven and roads being taken.
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