The Top 7 Health and Safety Tips for Backpackers
There are few activities more life affirming than packing the whole of one’s belonging into a fabric sack and taking off in search of adventure. Leaving behind the trials and tribulations of normal life, backpacking is one of the greatest ways to build self confidence and explore the wider world. Each year, however, through a combination of factors, things go terribly wrong for people whilst they’re travelling. The following list is a simple but effective collection of tips for backpackers to make sure you come back safe and sound from your adventures, ready to take on the world again.
1. Make Sure You’re Appropriately Insured
Running with the bulls in Pamplona, white water rafting in Indonesia, skydiving in Zambia – often people engage in exhilarating, and in many cases more dangerous activities that they would undertake whilst at home. Though no amount of coverage can protect against poor decision making, insurance is the best way to protect your possessions, your luggage and your health from unexpected disasters.
Cancelled flights, stolen property, accidents and illness can all derail a holiday and in many cases be extremely expensive to rectify. Appropriate insurance coverage is a necessary part of any overseas adventure and there are a range of policies available to suit any budget.
Many travel insurance companies don’t cover alpine sports like skiing and snowboarding, and other activities such as scuba diving, so make sure that your coverage is adequate.
2. Let Someone Know Where You Are
Whilst it may seem contrary to the ideals of leaving behind your mundane everyday existence, it is also important to make sure that you keep people in the loop of where you are. Accidents and emergencies can occur to your, and situations may arise back home. In today’s tech-centric environment it’s not too difficult to send someone a text message or a Facebook post, and if you’re feeling especially chatty you can use Viber or Skype to have an actual conversation without blowing your drinking budget.
3. Secure Your Belongings
You know that fancy new camera or laptop that you just bought? It turns out there’s a great number of other people who would like to liberate it from you. Whilst it’s never a good mindset to imagine that everyone is trying to rip you off, being vigilant is an important part of making sure your possessions remain yours.
Simple steps like using the safety deposit box at a hotel, carrying a padlock to put on the lockers at a hostel and not overtly flashing expensive electronics are all important steps in keeping yourself and your belongings safe. Another important tip is to try to sit on the same side as your luggage when travelling on long haul bus trips. That way you can keep an eye on your bags when the bus stops and make sure no one decides to take a souvenir with them.
Whilst it’s not a situation anyone wants to imagine themselves being in, tourists can make perfect targets for criminals. In the case of being mugged it’s the best policy to submit to the demands of the mugger. You can always buy another iPhone so there’s no point in trying to be a hero and getting hurt.
4. Ensure You Have Had Your Shots and Vaccines
There is a dizzying array of diseases and pests that can turn a holiday sideways. From yellow fever, malaria, lyme disease, hepatitis and more, there is no shortage of nasty bugs. The simplest way to avoid the pitfalls of these nasty ailments is to make sure you get immunized before you go on holiday. Beyond the risks to your health of remaining unvaccinated, some countries have strict entry and exit requirements, including compulsory immunizations. If you haven’t had your shots, you run the risk of mandated quarantine before returning to your own country.
5. Check your Government’s Travel Information
Your bags are packed, tickets are booked and your passport is ready for another stamp. The only step left is to monitor your government’s travel advisory and consular assistance website. Most governments advise their citizens of any potential dangers to avoid in a particular country. Generally these websites will err on the side of caution, so it is up to you to decide what to do with this information. But, if your government’s consular website firmly suggests not going to a region, strongly consider sidestepping that particular stop.
6. Respect Local Laws and Customs
It is important to be aware of the local customs and values of the area you’re travelling in.Taking pictures of military or the police can be considered a serious infraction and can land you in real hot water. In some other countries, like Thailand for example, talking about the King as a foreigner can be a serious offence.
Using illicit drugs in foreign countries is often a major infraction that can have disastrous consequences. Just because drugs are offered to you doesn’t mean they won’t land you in serious trouble. In some countries drug dealers actually work in collusion with the police to extort travellers by selling them drugs, with the police then arresting them. The best bet is to always avoid using any illegal substance whilst travelling.
7. Keep Photocopies of Your Important Documents
Nothing can derail a perfectly planned holiday like losing a passport or having a credit card stolen. Whilst an annoyance no matter which way you look at it, one of the best ways to make sure you are able to sort out such a situation quickly is to have a photocopy of your passport, and your credit card. Also have your bank details on hand, or even better, saved digitally. While you’re at it, having all of your flight and itinerary information saved to a single folder in your emails can make life a lot easier too.