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2011 is coming to an end in nine short days and with it, the festivities and fun that most of us plan for the entire year. What we don’t (normally) plan for are things that could potentially go wrong; whether it is a little one’s health or getting mugged in a deserted unfamiliar street.

Keeping this post short and simple; lets talk about a few tips that could help you have a fun yet safe year-end holiday.

Travel – General:

  • Research the city/country you will be traveling to and try to get familiar with the most commonly occurring country crimes and health statistics
  • Most people travel with their entire lives in their back pockets (i.e. a wallet). In case your wallet is lost or stolen, make sure you inventory everything in it and print out and email yourself an emergency contact list as well as information to your country’s Embassy/Consulate
  • Change your currency before you leave your country and if the service/target currency is not available to you, try to change it at a secured bank and avoid doing so at the airport as that is where most pick pocketers (I don’t think that is a word) and muggers first spot their targets
  • Avoid counting and/or displaying (foreign) currency in public
  • Make sure you stay at a hotel that has good ratings so as to avoid problems such as identity theft, etc. Before checkout, ask for an itemized billing receipt and see what you are being charged for
  • Make colored copies of your ID cards and passport in case you were to get mugged
  • Let someone back home know where you will be (share your itinerary) in case you are kidnapped/stranded so a general geographical context of your last whereabout could be established
  • You do not have to be vacationing in the Afghanistan caverns to get into a bad situation; things can go wrong anywhere (ask the tourists in NYC when the planes hit the world trade center). Plan ahead and always be vigilant/alert of your surroundings
  • Try and avoid going to ATMs at night time or unfamiliar/deserted parts of town
  • Familiarize yourself by driving to your embassy/consulate in case you have to seek refuge or visit it for any other reason later on
  • If your embassy/consulate has a visitor registration system, make sure you use it so they are aware of your presence in the country

Think before you speak:

  • Cannot stress this point enough; know who you speak to and give out only non-pertinent information – never share personal information with strangers such as where you are staying, what you do back home, what your income is, how long are you in town for, etc.
  • Try to learn the local customs and greetings and try to practice speaking the way they speak at home (learn the accents and slangs) – this gives people the impression that you are not new in the area and makes you a harder target
  • Learn the local driving laws and avoid getting into a traffic accident by exercising patience and driving carefully; you may get away with flipping a cop off in your country but in some, you would get locked away in a heart beat!
  • Never cuss or use foul language – you may think it is funny to sound like Eddie Murphy and throw the ‘F’ word around but the locals may get offended!
  • In case you are in a deserted area faced by a potential aggressor, try to remain calm and speak in a confident tone
  • NEVER engage in religious or political conversations – if confronted by people in a bar who want to know your opinion about the war in Afghanistan, try to tell them what they want to hear and get out of the conversation in one piece

Blend in

  • Again, try to blend in and respect the local culture – going to the Vatican in beach shorts and a tank top will most probably land you in trouble
  • Check for airline dress codes as many are now enforcing them. In order to be able to fly; find out in advance so you do not get denied a seat in transit (happened to me once when I tried to board a PIA flight in shorts and t-shirt)
  • Dress fun if you want to but try to cover up your god given goods a bit so as to not attract too much (unwanted) attention
  • If you are traveling on the road make sure you pack up extra winter clothes, warm blanket, gloves and a first aid kit in case of a break down
  • Find out which airport you may land in for a layover – if it requires you to dress a certain way, make sure you keep something in your carry on for a quick change over for the duration of your stay

Stay Healthy:

  • Fill up on your (and your family’s) prescription medicines before leaving
  • Find out any airline laws which may affect the way you transport certain prescription medicines as they may be considered as controlled drugs (narcotics) – last thing you need is to be arrested for (attempted) smuggling of prescription drugs
  • Make sure you get a pre travel check up done before departing for your holidays and get a clean bill of health – getting stuck at a hospital in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language could be a nightmare and you may end up involuntarily donating your right arm (or maybe I’m just exaggerating now)
  • If you or someone traveling with you has a serious health condition, make sure you notify the airline before purchasing the tickets and ensure all special needs airline requirements can be made available (such as wheelchair, etc) – however this varies by airline
  • Once you arrive at your destination, try to familiarize yourself with the nearest health services so in case of an emergency, you are not wandering aimlessly looking for help

The bottom line of all this jibber jabber is to try and look ahead of your fun-filled holidays and spend a day or two thinking of how you can be prepared for an unnecessary problem while traveling and planning accordingly.

Here is a cute (don’t get used to it) airline safety commercial that you must watch before take off!

Now go on out there, have a Merry Christmas, fantastic new year and come back in one happy piece.

From all of us here at AfterShock-CEM, happy holidays!

In case you would like us at AfterShock-CEM to prepare a pre-departure safety report and city-wise journey safety list, send us an email on travel.safety@aftershock-cem.com along with information on the country and the time of the year you plan on making your trip.